MELISSA — Ja’Bray Young rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and safety Cole McCraw grabbed two interceptions to boost Melissa past Celina, 35-14, in a pivotal District 5-4A (II) battle at Cardinal Stadium on Friday.
Melissa (7-1, 3-0), which clinched a playoff spot and remained in a first-place tie with Aubrey, led 14-0 after quarterback Brendon Lewis capped the Cardinals’ first two possessions with touchdown runs of 35 and 5 yards.
Lewis finished with 121 yards rushing and 136 yards through the air, and his 27-yard fourth-quarter scoring strike to a diving Kennedy Lewis gave Melissa its final margin of victory.
Celina (5-3, 2-1) was held to 153 yards, all on the ground. Logan Point led the Bobcats with 104 yards on 13 carries. Celina tied the game at 14 in the second quarter on two 1-yard touchdown runs by quarterback Noah Ross but the Cards pitched a shutout in the second half.
“I think there were a lot a people waiting for this one,” Melissa head coach Seth Stinton said. “These guys set a goal. They want to win a district championship. We can’t do that without beating [Celina]. … I know everybody thought this was going to be a big game, and it was. I couldn’t lie — I’ve been waiting to play this one. Celina is a great program, a great team, and anytime you can figure out how to beat those guys it’s a big win.
The Cards went ahead again on their first possession of the second half with a 61-yard, five-play drive crowned by Young’s 12-yard scamper off the left side. Brendon Lewis sparked the march with a 36-yard run on the drive’s first play.
Celina’s first two possessions of the second half ended on fourth-down stops in Cards’ territory.
“I know we struggled a little bit there in the first half, but I can’t say enough about the way our kids played,” Stinton said. “Defensively, that was probably the best game we’ve ever played — ever, since I’ve been here. I was extremely proud of them and proud of our coaches.”
With Melissa still up, 21-14, near the end of the third quarter the game turned dramatically. The Cards faced third-and-5 from their own 7 when Young found running room and appeared to have first-down yardage but was stripped of the ball and Celina took over at Melissa’s 14.
Two plays later, an all-out Cardinal blitz led by Young and Collin O’Neal sacked Ross for a big loss and on 4th-and-15 from the 20, Ross’s throw was picked off at the goal line by McCraw and returned to 38 yards. Four plays later, Young stormed up the middle for 48 yards and a touchdown to put Melissa up 28-14 with 9:24 left to play.
“The linemen, they gave me about four yards and I just did what I had to do,” Young said.
Celina’s second-quarter rally was fueled by interceptions from Skyler Bohall and Travis Radtke and a 59-yard run by Point.
“I was a little down [after the interceptions],” Brendon Lewis said, “but I’m the QB. Everybody looks up to me so I’ve got to do my job, keep my composure. We went out there and got the ‘dub’. The linemen did great. I love this team.”
Melissa all-district linebacker Payton Wallace was assisted off the field in the second quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury and did not return.