By DAVID CLAYBOURN
Talk about a heartbreaker.
The Greenville Lions had a great opportunity to snap one of the state’s longest current losing streaks during Friday night’s home football opener but after rallying from 22 points down lost 56-49 in double overtime to the Frisco Heritage Coyotes. The loss left several of the Lions lying on the T.A. “Cotton” Ford Stadium field, exhausted and saddened after giving every ounce of energy and still coming up short.
“Tough one to lose,” said Lions coach Marvin Sedberry. “But the ol’ kids showed a lot of fight. When it gets overtime, it’s anybody’s game.”
Tyler Matthews gave the Lions a really big lift when he returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, when the Lions were trailing 36-14.
Greenville went on to outscore Heritage 28-0 in the third quarter to take a 42-36 lead after sophomore quarterback Spencer Gilbert II ran for touchdowns of 36 and 3 yards and Matthews ran for a 12-yarder. Gilbert then dashed in for the two-point conversion.
The visiting Coyotes rallied to tie it at 42-42 with 10:02 remaining on a 81-yard, eight-play drive topped off by a 10-yard keeper by quarterback Malik Walker, who finished with 309 yards of total offense. The Coyotes missed a chance to go back in front on a missed conversion kick.
Greenville had two opportunities to go back ahead in the fourth quarter, driving twice to the Heritage 28-yard line but missed field goals from 45 and 47 yards and the two teams went into overtime tied at 42-42.
Greenville lost the coin flip to start the first overtime and had to go first. Gilbert, who finished with 126 yards rushing on 22 carries, led the Lions on the scoring drive from the Heritage 25, dashing in from the 7. T.J. Hughes converted to put Greenville up 49-42.
But the Coyotes converted a fourth-and-three from the Greenville eight on the Coyotes’ first overtime possession as Walker fired an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jack Reagor. Bryce Crawford’s kick sent the game to a second overtime.
“We had them right there on the fourth down in overtime,” said Sedberry. “You need a stop.”
The Coyotes started with the ball from the Greenville 25 for the second overtime and scored immediately on a 25-yard pass from Walker to Chris Baez. Crawford converted.
Greenville got as close as the Heritage 18 on its second possession of the overtime but the Coyote defense turned back the Lions for two losses on the final two plays as Heritage snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season to go 1-2 for the season.
The Lions dropped to 0-3 with their 33rd straight loss.
“These are the toughest ones to lose,” said Sedberry. “When you know you just gave everything you had to win it. The effort was there but if we made some plays earlier it wouldn’t have been overtime.”
Greenville finished with 448 yards of total offense, including 331 yards rushing. Matthews ran for 148 yards on 22 carries, scoring on a 2-yard run in the second quarter.
Greenville quarterback Treveon Heard, who was 4-of-9 passing for 70 yards, fired a 51-yard touchdown pass to D’erren Wilson in the first quarter. Wilson led the Lions with seven catches for 98 yards.