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Chapel Hill edges Alvarado in 3A D-I state final

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trick plays gave Alvarado a chance to beat Tyler Chapel Hill in the Class 3A Division I state championship game.

Every end around, hand-back draw and pitch-back pass was working to perfection for the Indians.

But a failed trick-play two-point conversion in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in Chapel Hill’s 20-19 victory over Alvarado on Friday night before 22,748 at Cowboys Stadium.

“It has worked all year,’’ said Alvarado coach Jeff Dixon of the goal-line trickery. “We were looking to win the game right there.’’

Alvarado (14-1) had pulled to within 20-19 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Wayne Onderdonk with 10:38 to play in the fourth quarter. Rather than kick the extra point (Alvarado had already missed one), Dixon rolled the dice one more time.

The set is called “Polecat,’’ a version of the Swinging Gate that calls for most of the Alvarado players to station themselves near the sideline, leaving a snapper, a quarterback, a receiver and a running back.

But the play never got off the ground because the snap came back too soon according to Dixon. All Tyler Bates, the quarterback on the play, could do was fall on the loose ball.

“We had seen them use that play before,’’ Thomas Sitton, coach of 15-0 Chapel Hill, said, “but I was surprised they called it. They hurt us with the trick plays tonight, but they didn’t get the one they really needed.’’

Alvarado still had chances, but turnovers ended three fourth-quarter possessions, including a fumble at the Chapel Hill 15 with 2:04 to play.

Chapel Hill nailed down the win by tackling Bates at midfield on a punt return on the game’s final play.

“It was an even game,’’ said Onderdonck, who rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. “They just made a few more big plays than we did. Little things got us. But I’m proud of my guys. We kept fighting until the end.’’

Chapel Hill quarterback Avery Saenz was named the offensive most valuable player after throwing for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including the 55-yard game-winner to Nelson Onwuzu in the final minute of the third quarter.

“Coach Sitton drew up a few things at halftime based on what they were doing on defense and it worked perfectly,’’ said Saenz, who missed six games this season with a broken ankle. “I didn’t want to let my teammates down that worked so hard while I was out.’’

Although stopped a win shy of its first state championship, Alvarado still finished with its best season in school history.

“There’s no shame in 14-1,’’ said Dixon. “That was a good football team that beat us. Our kids' effort was superb. Life goes on, we’ll be OK.’’

The state title for Chapel Hill was its second. It won a Class 4A state title in 1989.

It was sweet satisfaction for the Bulldogs after losing in the 2010 state final to Henderson, 28-21.

“After last year, we weren’t going to celebrate until this was over,’’ Saenz said.