Beaumont High School held a “Military Appreciation Night” night on Sept. 3 as it hosted Summit. Then the Cougars marched — er-um — flew to a 32-22 victory.
But it was a game both coaches felt good about, with the SkyHawks turning in a valiant comeback effort after Beaumont used its spread offense to seize a 19-0 lead.
Beaumont quarterback Christopher Cooper released the ball quickly to either junior receiver Solomon German or senior birthday boys Gabriel Nunez and Anson Kraut, and the receivers did the rest.
Nunez took a pass over the middle fewer than four minutes into the game, then weaved his way to the end zone for 6-0.
Six minutes later with Beaumont on the Summit 14, Cooper delivered to Nunez again. He broke one tackle and sped into the end zone for 13-0.
Then came what looked like the clincher, a strike up the middle with 11:18 left in the first half to Nunez.
“I love all my receivers,” said Cooper, who threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns, both school records. “I got (Dylan) Bledsoe, I got
Solomon, I got Ashton, I got Gabe and I got (Elijah) Cervantes, and I love them all.”
Summit was frustrated and felt it was leaving points out on the field. For instance, SkyHawk QB Payton Clark completed a pass to the Beaumont 19 with just under six minutes left, but the ball was fumbled and Beaumont recovered.
Plays like that vexed Summit coach Nick Matheny for the moment, but in a strange way offered hope.
“I think if we convert those drives in the first half when we had the ball in the red zone it would be a much different game,” he said.
“I’ve lost games before where I’ve walked away and said, ‘I don’t know how to fix this team.’ I don’t feel like that now.”
Beaumont scored on its first possession of the second half. A key play came from the Cougar 36, when Cooper sidestepped a potential sack and then connected with Nunez for 30 yards down the left sideline. Facing fourth-and-goal at the 3, Nunez ran a slant and Cooper hit him square in the number (9) and it was 26-0 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
Summit did not quit.
Frustrated for so long, the SkyHawks finally scored on a 29-yard pass from Clark to Jeremiah Beck, who tumbled in the end zone. Now it was 26-7 with 11:24 left in the game.
The SkyHawks got the ball back and quickly drove for another touchdown. This one came on a 14-yard pass from Clark to Devean
James. But the big play was a 9-yard run on a fake punt by Sitani Mikaele.
Now Summit trailed just 26-15 with 5:10 left and had the momentum. For 50 seconds.
Beaumont recovered an onside kick. Then Armando Cuellar ran for two yards. The Cougars could have kept it on the ground.
Instead, Nunez split out to the right at the Cougar 46 and noticed single coverage. He gestured to Cooper.
The senior ran a hitch and grabbed Cooper’s spiral as a Summit defender flew by. Nunez juked one SkyHawk at the Summit 48, then sped goalward. Teammates raised their arms and Cougar fans screamed as Nunez cruised into the end zone.
His 16 catches and five touchdowns were school records. Impressive but not a school record were his 257 receiving yards.
“It was a blessing,” Nunez said of the night. “It was like the best birthday present I could ever ask for.”
Amazingly, Summit was not done. The SkyHawks scored quickly on a 7-yard run by Mikaele to pull within 10.
“We had a tough first half, but we came out in the second half with a different mindset,” Summit QB Clark said. “We wanted to forget the
first half and go out and win the second half.”
Beaumont then picked up one first down on a 17-yard pass to German to run out most of the clock.
Clark finished with 13 completions in 21 pass attempts for 135 yards. De’Marri Owens rushed 8 times for 53 yards and also threw a 37-yard pass. Beck caught 8 passes for 109 yards, Aiden Hall had 4 receptions for 33 yards, and James had 2 catches for 20 yards.
On defense, James led the way for Summit with 10 solo tackles and 3 assists. Kennazehe Purifoy supplied 8 solo tackles.
Summit (1-1) will host North at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10.