PATTONVILLE — The team was the same, the location was the same and the stakes were the same but the outcome was very different.
It was different because Tioga found a way to avenge its loss against Union Hill and it did so in the most dramatic of fashions — after Union Hill’s furious comeback rally that looked like it would force overtime, Javier Rivera kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2.6 seconds left to give Tioga a 44-40 victory in the Class 1A Division I Region IV final on Friday night at Prairiland.
Tioga (11-1) matched the 1934 team for most victories in a season and advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history, where it will face last year’s runner-up Jonesboro (12-1) at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Springtown.
Union Hill (12-1) was the defending region champ after its 60-12 win against Tioga. This time it turned into a different ending as Tioga raced out to the half-time lead.
Union Hill started by recovering an onside kick but both teams traded possessions before an eight-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Nelson to River Scudday gave Union Hill an 8-0 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter. That ended up being the only time Union Hill found the end zone in the first half.
Tioga then scored four times to take a 32-8 lead at the break.
As the first quarter was coming to a close, Tioga drove to the one and Kaleb Scott, who totaled 82 yards on 14 carries, scored from there to tie the game at eight.
There were three touchdowns by Tioga in the second quarter and they came about after recovering an onside kick and then two fumble recoveries.
Cade Kimbrell, who led the team with 27 carries for 155 yards, scored on a three-yard run with 8:33 left in the frame and then Scott followed with a four-yard TD run.
Right before the half ended Kimbrell had a seven-yard touchdown pass to Josiah DeLeon to widen the gap. Kimbrell was 7-of-8 passing for 75 yards and DeLeon had five catches for 36 yards.
Union Hill had an early change to trim its deficit but fumbled again. Tioga was unable to cash in that turnover and Union Hill came back with a touchdown on Nelson’s five-yard run with 3:11 left in the third.
Tioga didn’t recover the onside kick and Nelson found Omar Aquillon for a 17-yard touchdown to pull Union Hill within 32-24 going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, Tioga fired up their offense and went ahead 40-24 with Marshall Lease connecting with Seth DeLeon from the 29-yard-line for the touchdown.
Nelson, who had 21 carries for 221 yards, put the deficit back at a single score when he had a 29-yard touchdown run with 9:09 left.
Union Hill tied the game at 40 with 2:49 remaining on Nelson’s 27-yard touchdown run.
Tioga had a final chance to win the game and it used almost all of the time remaining to get into field goal range and Rivera notching the winning point.
Union Hill’s last gasp attempt to pull out the win involved five laterals before Tioga clinched its spot in the final four.