ABILENE Permian had one last chance.
One last chance to capitalize, to turn a game full of missed opportunities into a win.
But Abilene Cooper, the team on the other side of the ball, has already developed a penchant for making big plays in crunch time.
Cougars nose guard Joe Dillard sacked Landry Serrano to force the game-sealing fumble Friday in Permian’s 34-27 loss to Abilene Cooper in District 3-5A action at P.E. Shotwell Stadium.
“I thought we had the game,” Panthers defensive end Tra Fay said. “We had the ball in the last minute, I thought we were going to score.”
Jamar Renfro picked up the fumble and returned it 67 yards to the Permian 6-yard line, but by that time the damage had already been done. Dillard’s sack came on fourth-and-6 at the Abilene Cooper 11. When Dillard got his arms around Serrano, the Cougars (7-0, 2-0) had already sealed the game.
Permian (4-3, 0-2) now faces an uphill climb to the playoffs in a notoriously tough district.
Making matters worse, the Panthers had plenty of chances to take control of the game.
“We had a couple of turnovers in the red zone,” Permian head coach Gary Gaines said. “We had some chances that we didn’t capitalize on.”
Cougars running back Alford Cooper set the tone for Abilene Cooper with a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but the Panthers came roaring back to score 20 straight points.
Coming off of a tough week against Midland High, Permian quarterback Landry Serrano hit Van Powell for a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes, the second coming on a ball that Serrano laid into Powell’s hands on the run for a 65-yard scoring burst.
DeAnthony Fay finished off the Panthers’ blitz with a 2-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to capitalize on a big-time fourth-down stop by inside linebacker Craig Wesson.
But that’s when the Cougars turned the ball over to the running game.
“We didn’t stop the run very well,” Gaines said. “They had too many long gains.”
Gashing the Permian defense by breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and bouncing to the outside, Abilene Cooper running back Davon Riddick broke free for touchdown runs that covered 46 yards and 5 yards to give the Cougars a 21-20 halftime lead.
“We weren’t wrapping up as good as we should have on defense,” Fay said.
Riddick and Cooper kept the onslaught coming in the second half. A 45-yard scoring run by Cooper and a 17-yard burst by Riddick gave Abilene Cooper a 34-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Riddick, a Colorado State recruit, finished with 217 yards on 20 carries, and Cooper added 178 yards on 14 carries to lead Abilene Cooper to 408 rushing yards.
Permian had plenty of opportunities to outscore the Cougars. At the end of the first half, a 47-yard toss from Serrano to Smith, who had 11 catches for 193 yards, was wiped out when an Abilene Cooper defensive back punched the ball out of Smith’s arms and into the end zone for a touchback.
The Panthers drove deep into the red zone to start the second half, but Abilene Cooper linebacker Josh Robinson stopped DeAnthony Fay on fourth down. And on the next drive, Josh Bowman picked off Serrano inside the end zone.
Serrano kept fighting back, completing 20 of 35 passes for a school-record 359 yards and one more touchdown to Powell, who had 132 yards on six catches.
But that last drive came up short when Dillard sent Serrano to the turf.
“We fought as hard as we could, to the last play,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t come out with a win.”>> Abilene Cooper 34, Permian 27
Permian 14 6 0 7 — 27
Abilene Cooper 7 14 13 0 — 34
Abilene Cooper: Alford Cooper 74 run (Justin Lehr kick), 11:43. Drive: 1 play, 74 yards, 0:11.
Permian: Van Powell 13 pass from Landry Serrano (Barrett Brown kick), 8:06. Drive: 12 plays, 80 yards, 3:37. Key plays: Talon Smith 15 pass from Landry Serrano on 3rd-and-10 at the Permian 20. Landry Serrano 17 run on 3rd-and-0 at the Permian 36.
Permian: Van Powell 65 pass from Landry Serrano (Barrett Brown kick), 4:41. Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards, 1:54. Key play: Talon Smith 4 pass on 2nd-and-3 at the Permian 27.
Permian: DeAnthony Fay 2 run (kick blocked), 10:35. Drive: 7 plays, 62 yards, 3:14. Key play: Landry Serrano 37 run on first play of drive.
Abilene Cooper: Davon Riddick 46 run (Justin Lehr kick), 8:01. Drive: 5 plays, 76 yards, 2:30. Key plays: Davon Riddick 15 run on 2nd-and-4 at the Abilene Cooper 30.
Abilene Cooper: Davon Riddick 5 run (Justin Lehr kick), 4:39. Drive: 6 plays, 53 yards, 2:20. Key plays: Davon Riddick 22 run on 2nd-and-10 at the Abilene Cooper 47. Davon Riddick 22 run on 2nd-and-10 at the Permian 19.
Abilene Cooper: Alford Cooper 45 run (kick failed), 6:22. Drive: 6 plays, 83 yards, 2:16. Key play: Davon Riddick 17 run on 3rd-and-10 at the Abilene Cooper 38.
Abilene Cooper: Davon Riddick 17 run (Justin Lehr kick), 0:18. Drive: 11 plays, 86 yards, 4:25. Key play: Dillian Stille 26 pass from Clayton Nicholas on first play of drive.
Permian: Van Powell 11 pass from Landry Serrano (Barrett Brown kick), 8:40. Drive: 10 plays, 72 yards, 3:31. Key play: Talon Smith 41 pass from Landry Serrano on 3rd-and-21 at the Permian 29.
First Downs 24 17
Total Yards 518 482
Rushes-Yards 34-159 41-408
Passing Yards 359 74
Att-Comp-Int 20-35-1 7-13-0
Sacks-Yards 2-27 0-0
Punts-Avg. 1-35.0 2-38.5
PR-Yards 0-0 1-4
KR-Yards 4-92 5-54
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-30 4-50
Landry Serrano 15-61, DeAnthony Fay 8-59, Greg George 9-39, Talon Smith 2-0.
Davon Riddick 20-217, Alford Cooper 14-178, Clayton Nicholas 3-16, Khole Jackson 1-3.
Landry Serrano 20-35-0-359.
Clayton Nicholas 7-13-0-74.
Talon Smith 11-193, Van Powell 6-132, Austin Reynolds 2-22, Jalen Loud 1-12.
Dillian Stille 1-26, Khole Jackson 1-18, Caleb Price 1-14, Khaeer Sonnier 1-12, Navonte Wall-Williams 2-7, Alford Cooper 1-(-3).
Josh Bowman 1-0