UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- The sight of Southlake Carroll receiver Peyton Williams on the sidelines in a wheelchair for three-fourths of the Dragons' 5A Division I state semifinal was a hard one for the Southlake faithful to endure.
Williams, one of Carroll’s top receivers, went down in the first quarter and had to be carried off the field after injuring his left knee.
“It just kind of gave out on me,” Williams said.
All Williams could do for the remainder of the game was sit bundled up on the sidelines in a wheelchair and scream at the top of his lungs in support of his team.
“I was just telling the guys, ‘Lets go,’ and I kept praying,” Williams said.
With Williams out, Carroll had to rely on Sabian Holmes to carry the weight of Carroll’s receiving game.
Williams' absence was evident in the stats, as Carroll spread 13 completions among a committee of receivers for just 98 yards, with no pass over 14 yards from the line of scrimmage. Skyline held Carroll, which averages 200 yards per game passing, to its second-lowest total through the air this season.
However, William’s absence allowed sophomore running back A.J. Ezzard to step into the spotlight and run around a very athletic Skyline defense for 140 yards and a touchdown in the 28-24 win.
“Obviously, when we lost Peyton that hurt us, and you hate that for a great player like Peyton Williams," Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. "But we challenged our team that someone else would have to step up and play, and they did that.”
And in the final minutes of the game, when Southlake had to have a touchdown to stay alive, quarterback Kenny Hill heard the cries of his fallen teammate and answered the call with a 35-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in the game.
“He was screaming and getting loud for all of us,” Hill said. “He’s a great team player and we love him.”
After the game, Williams was still unsure what was wrong with his knee, but he was there celebrating with his teammates on the field on crutches and with tears in his eyes.
The uncertainty of the damage leaves his availability for Saturday's state title game up in the air.
So Williams may have to do what he did on Saturday: be the best leader he can be on the sidelines this week during practice.
When forced to think about the possibility of not playing in his final high school football game in the 5A Division I state championship, Williams took a moment to think through his response and gather his emotions.
“We’re going to win,” he simply said.