BRYAN — Defensively, it was a masterpiece. Offensively, it was a struggle.
Cedar Park exited the playoffs before the regional semifinals for the first time since 2009 Friday night, falling to undefeated Shadow Creek 21-14 at Merrill Green Stadium.
The Timberwolves held the Sharks, which averaged 40.9 points per game to three touchdowns. It was just the second time Shadow Creek has been held to three touchdowns this season.
“They’re fighters,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “We didn’t have things go our way, a couple busts early. Our defense played unbelievably. That’s a credit to our kids and our defensive staff. But our kids fought, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach. I’m really proud of them.”
Quarterback Ryder Hernandez finished 13-of-43 passing for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception and ran for 24 yards and a score.
Carson Neel caught six passes for 63 yards and sophomore receiver Josh Cameron caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, all of which came in the second half. The Timberwolves combined for 54 rushing yards, with Majeston Haverda finishing with 15 yards and Jonathan Stockwell added 13 yards.
The Cedar Park offense struggled to find a consistent tempo for most of the game. Other than the final drive, the longest drive for the Timberwolves was their first, which lasted seven plays and ended with a turnover.
They went 3-and-out 10 times.
“Offensively, we just kept banging our head,” Abseck said. “We were little concerned about protecting the quarterback, so we added a few extra bodies up front because their front is really talented. We found ourselves behind the sticks early and so it is hard to get a rhythm. We just put ourselves in long yardage situations.”
Shadow Creek stormed out of the gates. Sharks quarterback Jamarian George connected with Greg Hancock for a 56-yard touchdown on the third play of the game. Running back Marquez Huland scampered for a 13-yard score on the next offensive possession to extend the lead to two scores.
Tammer Alzer came down with his second interception of the game early in the second half, but the Timberwolves gave the ball right back with a fumble on the very next play. The ‘Black Rain’ defense played lights out in the second half especially, holding the Sharks to a pair of first downs.
“They played their butts off,” Abseck said. “There were three bigs plays and other than that, we stymied a very good offensive team. I felt like they would give us a chance and they did and offensively, we did some things, it just wasn’t enough to get it done.”
Hernandez somehow stayed on his feet and scored on a 17-yard run with just over five minutes left in the third quarter and threw a 37-yard touchdown to Cameron with about six minutes left in the fourth.
George made a perfect throw on the next Shadow Creek drive and hit receiver C.J. Guidry in stride for a 32-yard touchdown to take the lead for good.
Cedar Park loses plenty of talent via graduation, as does every school across the state, including three players on the defensive line and the top two receivers.
But for the returning players, Friday night was a lesson learned.
“We have a young team in some ways,” Abseck said. “But we’re losing some really talented seniors. Like always, you’ve got some rebuilding to do. For the young kids out here experience this, they understand that it goes fast.”