High School Football

Paetow outlasts Morton Ranch in thrilling 1st rivalry game

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/2/20

In a much-anticipated game for bragging rights between two Katy ISD schools in Morton Ranch and Paetow that are hungry to establish a fruitful, competitive rivalry, the Panthers made certain they are regarded as much more than just the new kid on the block.

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High School Football

Paetow outlasts Morton Ranch in thrilling 1st rivalry game

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In a much-anticipated game for bragging rights between two Katy ISD schools in Morton Ranch and Paetow that are hungry to establish a fruitful, competitive rivalry, the Panthers made certain they are regarded as much more than just the new kid on the block.

For the second straight game, Paetow rallied from a two-score deficit in the second half to upend Morton Ranch, 38-35, on Anthony Fuentes’ 23-yard game-winning field goal as the buzzer expired at Legacy Stadium.

“It was pretty important,” Fuentes said with a huge smile on his face. “I wanted to show all my friends who were talking smack over there that we could win.”

When Paetow High opened as Katy ISD’s eighth high school in 2017, it took with it a split of Katy High and Morton Ranch kids to build its enrollment. Since then, Panthers and Mavericks football players have been looking forward to the day they’d play each other.

That day came Friday, Oct. 2, and it did not disappoint. The two teams combined for 73 points and 817 yards of total offense. There were only two turnovers in all, and none after the first quarter. The second half featured seven touchdowns—four from Paetow and three from Morton Ranch.

But no score was bigger than Fuentes’ sailing kick.

“It was crazy,” Fuentes said. “There was a lot of pressure on me. I just had to clear my mind and kick through. I was pretty nervous. When I got out there, my leg started to shake, but in my head, I just started believing.”

Paetow improved to 2-0 this season. Morton Ranch dropped to 1-1.

Each team showed off electric running attacks. Morton Ranch boasts a quartet of dazzling playmakers in the backfield that totaled 305 yards on 51 carries. Senior quarterback Jaymarcus Wilson led the way with 116 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Karsten Christopher Jr. had 88 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Santana Scott had 52 yards and a touchdown, and senior Jermichael Johnson had 49 yards.

Mavs coach Ron Counter said he has the best skill kids he’s ever had in his four years at the helm of the program. It showed. It also helps that he has a returning starting quarterback for the first time in Wilson, who also completed 2 of 5 passes for 100 yards and a breakaway 89-yard touchdown to Jaelon Davis.

The Panthers, too, were dominant on the run, compiling 247 yards on 30 carries. Senior Damon Bankston played up to his great standards with 192 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jacob Brown added 54 yards and a score on two carries.

For a while, though, it seemed none of that prolific production would matter for Paetow as Morton Ranch had its way early and often against a very good defensive Panthers unit.

That is, until the fourth quarter.

“I just told our kids we didn’t finish,” Counter said. “We didn’t make some stops on defense in the fourth quarter when we needed to, and we didn’t get first downs on offense that we needed to. But you have to give Paetow a lot of credit.”

Paetow trailed 35-21 going into the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback C.J. Dumas Jr. had a quarterback sneak with 7:58 remaining to pull the Panthers within a score. After a Mavericks three-and-out, Dumas hooked up with junior receiver Kole Wilson on an acrobatic 26-yard score with 5:28 left to tie things.

It was déjà vu. The two connected for the go-ahead game-winning touchdown the previous week against Barbers Hill.

“We just kept going,” Paetow coach B.J. Gotte said. “We started off a little slow on offense; we started off a little slow the last game on offense. But guys got into a rhythm. C.J. got into a rhythm. Guys got going. Damon got going. The offensive line kept working. We made a couple of adjustments on how we were attacking them in the second half. We just executed better.”

After another Morton Ranch three-and-out, Dumas methodically drove down the field for another game-winning drive, just as he did against Barbers Hill.

“We kept our composure,” Bankston said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. We never got down. In the first half, they were everywhere, flying to the ball. But as we kept going, we kind of wore them down. We knew they’d get tired, which they did, and that’s when we got our offense to full-go and just started pounding away.”

Bankston had a big 35-yard run on the final drive. Dumas found sophomore Dez Myers on a terrific 15-yard catch. Bankston added an 11-yard run. It was all enough to set the stage for Fuentes, whose extra point on the Dumas-Wilson late touchdown against Barbers Hill gave the Panthers that 21-20 win.

“He’s a great kid,” Gotte said. “His demeanor is perfect for a kicker. He’s even-keel. You can’t get him too high and you can’t get him too low. I’m so proud of him. He executed it when it mattered.”

For a rivalry game, Gotte said he was taken aback by his team’s slow start.

“At halftime, I told our kids I thought they were going to be more intense and more emotional from everything I’d heard,” Gotte said. “I thought, early on, we were lethargic. So, it was kind of surprising. But, obviously, in the second half, things picked up and it was kind of fun.”

Counter said the game did not have as much meaning because it was a non-district affair.

“It’s a devastating, tough loss, but at the end of the day it’s a non-district game,” Counter said. “Yes, they’re a Katy ISD school, but they’re not in our district right now, so we’ve got to get ready for district (next) week.”

There were no on-field scuffles or shoves. No verbal altercations. Perhaps the two teams were too exhausted from all the back-and-forth scoring to worry about any unnecessary shenanigans.

It was exciting, yes, and history will always highlight the winner of the first rivalry game between Morton Ranch and Paetow. But the play on the field was more enthralling than any theatrics leading up to or during the game, which was appropriate.

“You can say it’s a rivalry, but all that matters is we play to our best and get a win,” Bankston said. “I still have a whole bunch of friends over there, so it’s nothing but love, to be honest with you.”

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