For most of Thursday night, the Rockport-Fulton defense took away the middle of the field.

The Pirates dropped a safety back in coverage to prevent anything deep down the middle, but with the game on the line and the Coyotes staring at what could have been their second loss in three games, Alice attacked.

The Coyotes sent a receiver underneath to draw in the Pirates’ secondary, opening the opportunity they needed for a big-time play. Receiver Waylon Moore sprinted downfield past the Rockport-Fulton defense and hauled in a 26-yard strike by quarterback Isaiah Aguilar for a go-ahead touchdown with 54 seconds left to play.

The score put the Coyotes up, 20-15, and led to a win in the final non-district game of the season. Alice has a bye next week before beginning District 15-5A, Div. II play against Tuloso-Midway in two weeks.

Alice coach Kyle Atwood said getting to the end zone in the last possession was a matter of getting a receiver past the Pirates’ secondary.

“(Rockport-Fulton) really tried not to let us behind them,” Atwood said. “Waylon did a great job of stemming the cornerback outside and sticking his foot in the ground and getting open. When you have kids on the edge line Waylon Moore and Devyn Orta, who can, one, get up and make plays, and two, have great speed —  4.5, 4.6 speed — and they’re really sure-handed; that’s kind of where we wanted to go with the ball towards the end of the game. Isaiah sat in the pocket and our line protected well. (Isaiah) delivered a great ball and Waylon made a great catch.”

Aguilar had already thrown for 213 yards before the game-winning completion, but the Pirates had intercepted him twice, robbing the Coyotes of two would-be touchdowns.

“The whole game, we had troubles on offense,” Aguilar said. “We weren’t able to finish a lot of drives, but going into that last possession, we came out and we knew we had to complete and execute in everything that we did… running, passing… everything. We’re young on offense, so we had to stay calm, cool and collective. I saw that route open up, and I was confident the whole game that I could hit it, but I guess it came down to the last one. We ended up hitting it and got it in.”

The Coyote defense also had a hand in the preserving the win inside the last minute of the game. Following Alice's touchdown, their kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Pirates, who had already scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the ball at their own 43-yard line. On their second play from scrimmage, running back Chase Rios took an inside handoff on an inside reverse and raced through the Alice defense before being pushed out of bounds by defensive back R.J. Salas at the 37-yard line. The Pirates made a push, but the drive stalled and the ball was turned over.

With its Slot-T offense, Rockport-Fulton had a big rushing night against Alice. The Pirates totaled 388 yards, including 376 in rushing. They also had 17 first downs to Alice’s 12. Rios led the Pirates with 18 carries for 139 yards. Will Smith had nine carries for 97 yards.

Aguilar completed nine of 19 attempts for 239 yards. Moore had three catches for 91 yards and Orta had 2 catches for 93 yards. Sophomore Jacob Guzman had three catches for 41 yards.

It was a pass to Guzman deep in the Pirates' end of the field which set up Alice’s first score, a three-yard touchdown run by Aguilar with 3:14 remaining in the first quarter.

The Coyotes added to their lead on their first possession of the second half. Aguilar connected with Moore to move the ball to the Pirates’ 42-yard line. That set up a 42-yard touchdown pass to Orta.

The Pirates seemingly came to life offensively in the fourth quarter. After halting an Alice drive with an interception in the end zone, Rockport-Fulton put together a time-consuming 13-play drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Garrett Loudermilk. He then took the ball in on a two-point conversion to cut Alice’s lead fo 14-8 with 5:18 left in the game.

Alice’s ensuing drive lasted only four plays and took less than a minute, setting up another lengthy drive by the Pirates. This time, Rockport-Fulton moved the ball with another big gain by Rios and a penalty called against the Coyotes. Loudermilk ended the drive with a one-yard plunge. With the extra point kick, the Pirates went ahead, 15-14.

The Coyotes’ last possession began at their own 34-yard line with 2:03 left to play. The drive appeared to stall, but Aguilar kept the ball to convert a fourth down and 6 at midfield. Aguilar then connected with Guzman. This time, a late-hit penalty was called against the Pirates, moving the ball to the 25-yard line and setting up the eventual game-winning touchdown.