Pearland wins season opener 45-41 in a nail-biter

"THE JET" TAKES OFF - Pearland WR Jordan "The Jet" Hernandez (15) takes off on a 65-yard scoring jaunt after catching a pass from QB Cole Morkovsky against Clear Falls. The Oilers won their season opener 45-41. Hernandez caught two TD passes in the non-district win. The Oilers face Spring Branch Memorial on Saturday, September 2 at 6:00 p.m. (Photo by Lloyd Hendricks)

If you wanted a close game that would be decided at the very end, then you would not have been disappointed in the non-district season opener for the Pearland Oilers and the Clear Falls Knights.

Trailing 41-36 with 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, Pearland senior quarterback Cole Morkovsky found Jordan “the Jet” Hernandez open down the right sideline and the speedster outran the coverage to score the winning points. With the score tied 41-41, senior kicker Jackson Stagg calmly booted the extra point for a 42-41 Pearland lead.

Stagg would later step up with 1:53 remaining in the game and seal the contest with a clutch 39-yard field goal to post the 45-41 final score in favor of the Oilers.

The win avenges last year’s loss to the Knights 20-17 when Pearland missed a late game field goal and the Knights ran out the clock to preserve the win.

“I told the kids after the game one of the things that made me most proud was the fact that there were plenty of opportunities for them to hang their heads,” Gotte said. “Instead, they kept battling and that type of persistence, focus and belief in one another paid off.”

Pearland got on the scoreboard first as senior defensive back Lazarus Range intercepted a pass on the fourth play of the game for Clear Falls.

The Oilers set up at the Falls 38 and took only three plays to find paydirt as Morkovsky hit senior WR Patrick Bridges, who made a sensational 41-yard catch to score the first touchdown of the game. Stagg kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 10:03 left in the opening quarter.

The Knights would waste no time in finding the pay station as QB Landon Vessel found WR Jude Edwards on a 75-yard scoring bomb to tie up the game 7-7 with 9:53 remaining in the first stanza.

Clear Falls would score on their next three possessions on the ground including one scoring drive of 75-yards and 14-plays. The Knights would miss a PAT for their 27 points.

However, Pearland would match the Knights with three scores of their own in the first half as junior RB LaDamion McDowell would score twice on runs of 1 and 29 yards while Morkovsky would hook up with Bridges with a perfectly thrown 6-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. Stagg would hit all three of the extra points to give the Oilers a 28-27 lead at intermission after trailing 27-14 with 7:18 remaining in the second period.

The second Pearland score was highlighted by a pass from Morkovsky to Bridges who made another acrobatic catch covering 42-yards to set up the 1-yard plunge by McDowell.

“We knew coming into the game there was going to be a bit of an adjustment period due to our lack of experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Gotte said. “I felt that once our kids settled down, we started playing better football.”

The Oilers opened up the second half with a 70-yard, 10-play scoring drive capped off by a 4-yard scoring toss from Morkovsky to Hernandez at the 8:14 mark of the third quarter. Stagg hit the PAT giving the Oilers a 35-27 advantage.

But Falls wasn’t going away as they scored on their next two possessions to make the score 41-35 with 9:55 left in the game.

That’s when Morkovsky would hit “The Jet” for a crowd-pleasing 65-yard scoring strike that would give the Oilers a 42-41 lead for good.

Morkovsky was 14-of-19 passing for 292 yards and four scores.

“Cole did a great job in his first varsity start at quarterback. I am excited to see how much he is going to grow as the season progresses,” said Gotte.

Bridges caught eight passes for 158 yards and two TDs while Hernandez grabbed four passes for 120 yards and a pair of scores.

McDowell led the ground attack with 14 carries for 98 yards and two TDs.

Stagg hit 5-of-6 PATs and had a 39-yard field goal.

“There is still a lot of work to be done in all three phases of the game and we are looking forward to getting back to work this next week,” Gotte added.

Pearland will travel to Tully Stadium to face Spring Branch Memorial on Saturday, September 2 at 6:00 p.m.