With the band having already cleared out of the stands, the Trinity Valley Community College Cardettes took up the banner and belted out the school song a capella moments after the final buzzer Saturday.
For the first time in blurry collection of weeks, there was sweet music at Bruce Field.
The Cardinals — needing a victory to stay alive in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoff race — took care of business with a 24-9 homecoming win over the Blinn College Buccaneers (2-4, 1-3 in SWJCFC). It snapped the Cards’ five-game losing streak during which time the team went from the sixth-ranked team in the nation to battling just to get out of the conference cellar.
Most importantly, it ensured next week’s regular-season finale against Tyler Junior College — which will be played at Lindale High School — will be meaningful. Tyler, the owner of the conference’s most powerful offense, was an 84-28 winner over Cisco on Saturday.
“This was do-or-die — that was our mentality,” said safety Josh Scroggins, who had one of the Cardinals’ four interceptions. “We knew we had to get our focus back. We fell off after losing to Iowa Western (in Week 3), and we had to get our focus back.”
The Cardinal defense rose to the occasion in a big way, holding Blinn and its dual-threat quarterback, Garry Kimble, to a single touchdown and coming up with five takeaways. That, combined with three Hunter McCoy touchdown passes to Drew Hellreigel and a Saul Martinez field goal, was more than enough to extend the season.
For the first time since their season-opening 79-0 win over Southeast Prep, the Cardinals (3-5, 1-4) led a game wire-to-wire. They opened the scoring on Hellreigel’s 37-yard touchdown catch from McCoy late in the first quarter. The drive was made possible by a defensive stand near midfield when the Bucs failed to convert on third-and-two and fourth-and-one — with stops coming from linebacker Davonte McMillian and defensive tackle Quincy Russell.
The Bucs kept the game to within one point at 10-9 as late as the 2:19 mark of the second quarter, when McCoy executed a solid-gold play fake and hit Hellreigel on a 66-yard score. Hellreigel, not to be outdone, leaped to catch the underthrown ball and made a great juke inside the 10 to reach the end zone.
The final connection between McCoy and Hellreigel came from 22 yards out about six minutes into the fourth quarter. The three-play scoring drive was preceded by defensive end Lawrence Henderson’s interception of a batted ball at the Blinn 26.
In addition to playing another must-win game next week, the Cardinals will be doing quite a bit of scoreboard watching over the next 14 days. TVCC will be rooting for Navarro to beat Blinn and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M to close out the regular season, and for Blinn to then knock off Cisco when the Cards observe an open week on Oct. 27.
“For the first time ever,” Smiley said, “I’m a Navarro fan.”
TVCC 24, Blinn 9
Blinn 6 3 0 0 — 9
TVCC 7 10 0 7 — 24
T — Drew Hellreigel 37 pass from Hunter McCoy (Saul Martinez kick), 4:56
B — Garry Kimble 9 run (kick fails), 0:04
T — Martinez 38 FG, 11:30
B — Kurt Walker 21 FG, 6:10
T — Hellreigel 66 pass from McCoy (Martinez kick), 2:19
T — Hellreigel 22 pass from McCoy (Martinez kick), 9:37
First downs 22 11
Rush-yards 49-153 37-109
Passing yards 181 210
C-A-I 14-33-4 12-21-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-avg. 4-40.7 8-40.8
Penalties-yards 12-67 12-135
Rushing — BC: Garry Kimble 14-72; Klartel Claridy 17-53; Donavan Williams 6-14; Bright Ashaka 2-4; Andrew Fletcher 7-39; team 3-(-29). TVCC: Andrew Robinson 16-52; Hunter McCoy 4-(-7); Gary Owens 9-36; Vedial Johnson 2-1; Buddy Nunn 2-13; Shakeem Jefferson 2-14; team 2-0.
Passing — BC: Garry Kimble 14-33-4-181. TVCC: Hunter McCoy 12-21-1-210.
Receiving — BC: Jeremy Johnson 1-9; Vasquez Haynes 6-65; Christopher Loving 4-61; Donavan Williams 1-4; Bright Ashaka 2-42. TVCC: Andrew Robinson 3-22; Adrian Henderson 2-11; Drew Hellreigel 3-125; Gary Owens 2-32; Trent Momon 1-16; Cade Carter 1-4.