For about 16 minutes of game time, Taylor hung with perennial state power Austin Westlake. But eventually, the Chaparrals’ passing prowess proved too much to extend the Mustangs’ magical season another game.
WACO — For about 16 minutes of game time, Taylor hung with perennial state power Austin Westlake. But eventually, the Chaparrals’ passing prowess proved too much to extend the Mustangs’ magical season another game.
History came to an unceremonious end for Taylor on Saturday, Dec. 14, as it fell to Westlake, 63-3, in their Class 6A-Division II state semifinal at McLane Stadium. The Mustangs, playing into December for the first time, struggled containing Westlake senior quarterback Kirkland Michaux, a 6-foot-5, physical gunslinger who lit up Taylor’s dynamic playmaking defense for 230 passing yards and five touchdowns en route to a 35-3 halftime lead.
“He was moving faster than everybody else,” said senior safety Braden Hay, who added the Chaps’ pace of play was a challenge. “He used a lot of his second reads; he didn’t throw it to his first guy all the time. There was one touchdown with three receivers on one side. He looked their way, they were covered, and then another guy opens on the other side. They had a good offensive scheme for us.”
Michaux finished 15-of-20 passing for 304 yards and seven touchdowns to book the Chaps’ trip to this week’s state championship game. While Westlake, which improved to 14-1, got its electric passing game going, Taylor could not establish its running game.
The Mustangs had one rushing yard on 15 first-half carries, and totaled 34 yards on 26 carries in the game.
“They did something we hadn’t seen them do all season, as far as read cues,” junior offensive lineman Hayden Conner said. “If they saw something, they’d attack it, mid-play. It was something pretty advanced that we hadn’t seen. Props to them.”
Taylor only trailed 7-3 with 8:10 left in the second quarter, scoring on Renan Baeta’s 38-yard field goal. But Westlake found its groove, showing off Michaux’s arm and a wealth of talent at receiver.
Over the final seven minutes of the first half, Westlake scored four touchdowns as Michaux found four different receivers in the end zone: Jackson Coker on a 60-yard pass, Jake Misch from a yard out, Jaden Greathouse from six yards away, and Mason Mangum from 38 yards out.
In a matter of 34 seconds late in the second quarter, Westlake sandwiched a Ford Dickerson fumble recovery of a Taylor muffed kickoff return with a pair of backbreaking touchdowns.
During one stretch, Westlake scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions.
Overall, Westlake outgained Taylor 490-92 in total yards. The Mustangs’ most productive offensive player was junior quarterback J. Jensen III, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 58 yards with an interception.
“They read stuff, and they read our line and the halfbacks and brought the edges and everybody,” said Jensen, who was pressured consistently and was forced to often rush throws. “They threw everything at us.”
One game, however, did not take away from a remarkably impressive season for the Mustangs, who finished 9-6.
Prior to the game, school principal Chris Morgan marveled at the spirit and community feel at Taylor High during the previous few weeks.
“It’s amazing to walk down the hallways,” Morgan said. “It makes school a lot more fun in December, that’s for sure.”
The Mustangs did that.
Players talked proudly about being the last team from Katy ISD standing, falling one win shy of playing in the season’s penultimate game. It was a team that went 5-5 in the regular season and needed help on the final week to secure its playoff berth.
From there, madness.
Taylor cruised to a Region III championship in dominant fashion, blowing away Cypress Creek 58-20 to earn its trip to Waco. In the school’s 40 years, the football program had never been past the regional semifinals, and only three times had it been that far.
“I loved every single second of it,” senior running back Gavin Belue said. “We were counted out ever since the beginning of the season. Everybody told us we couldn’t and we tried to prove everybody wrong that we could.”
Taylor was the only team in the state that finished fourth in its district to surpass the regional finals.
“Winning four playoff games and getting to the fifth round sets the bar a little higher,” coach Chad Simmons said. “It’s a great staff and great kids with great work ethic and buy-in. We’ll continue to build on that.”
And Taylor could be back. Of the 22 players that started the state semifinal, only 10 graduate. Five on each side of the ball.
“I am nothing but proud of this team,” Hay said. “This team has been everything to me. I bought in as a freshman and I’ve been on varsity for three years, and this team is amazing. From the backups to the top guys, everybody just works, works, works. Everybody fought for the purpose of winning.
“I don’t want them to do anything but build on what we’ve done. I’d like for them to do their thing. Win a state championship next year.”