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Belief on the rise after last-minute wins for Merkel, Stamford

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MERKEL, Texas - During the most important moments of the biggest games the best players step up for their teams. That's what happened for Merkel and Stamford in the second round of the high school football playoffs.

Both teams rallied for thrilling, last-minute victories last Friday.

Trailing Muleshoe 27-22 with two minutes to go, Badger senior Brady Bilbrey scored an eight-yard rushing touchdown to put Merkel ahead.

"I didn't know if that was the game-winner or not because we still had two minutes left in the game," said Bilbrey. "It was a good feeling. It definitely put some faith in the team I feel like."

Muleshoe then drove down to the Merkel three-yard line. A false start backed the Mules to the eight and they set up for a 25-yard field goal.

"I called a timeout and we talked about it in the huddle, 'Hey, we've got to block this thing or our season's over,'" Merkle head coach John Cornelius said.

Jonah White ran around the left edge of the line and got a hand on the ball to end the game with a Merkel win.

"After that game I don't ever think there's going to be a moment that we don't believe we can win," said Cornelius.

Stamford was down 14-13 against Sundown with nearly five minutes remaining.

The Roughnecks decided to go for it on 4th and 2 at their own 25 yardline to try to keep the ball away from the Bulldogs, but junior linebacker Bonner Voss stopped the Sundown running back cold for a turnover on downs.

"That was probably the biggest tackle of the season," Stamford head coach Ronnie Casey said.

But, the Bulldog offense stalled, and on 4th and 14 quarterback Peyton Bevel scrambled to his left and launched the ball into the endzone. The pass was tipped by a Sundown defender and Zack Duran made a diving grab for the game-winning touchdown.

"The Magnificent Catch is what we call it around here now," said Casey.

On Sundown's final chance quarterback Christian Huey lost his grip on the ball while throwing and Voss snatched the ball out of the air to seal the win.

"Getting to play December football is exciting for us in Stamford, and it's exciting for any kid in high school football in the nation," said Casey.

The Bulldogs and Badgers advanced to the regional semi-finals of their respective brackets.

Merkel will next square off with Comanche for the second time this season. The two are in the same district, and the Indians won the regular season meeting 31-14.

They will kick-off at 7 p.m. Friday at Clyde's Bulldog Stadium.

Stamford's third round playoff game is against Panhandle on Saturday afternoon at 4 at Lubbock's Lowrey Field.

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