All images copyrighted Mission Jeremy Duran walks in dejection after their overtime loss to Laredo United South during the area round high school football game at Laredo Student Union Sports Complex on Friday, Dec.18,2020 in Laredo. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

MISSION — When Mission High got the ball in overtime, there was no doubt what would happen next.

The Eagles took over at the 25-yard line, one play after Laredo United South senior running back Brian Benavides scored a go-ahead rushing touchdown on the first play of the extra period.

After a slow methodical march down to the 2-yard line, junior quarterback Jeremy Duran faked a handoff, rolled out to the left and charged into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the evening.

An extra-point would have tied the game, but the Eagles had already made up their minds: they were going for two and the win.

Duran was flushed out of the pocket, rolled out right and fired a laser toward the back corner of the end zone that was deflected off the hands of a defender, as the Laredo United South Panthers held on by the skin of their teeth to beat the Mission Eagles 42-41 in overtime of the Class 6A Division I area playoffs and The Monitor’s Game of the Week on Friday night at SAC Stadium.

“We played our hearts out,” Duran said. “It was just a shootout kind of game. Our coach believed in us and we believed in ourselves to go win it at the last second. We just came up a little bit short. … I was waiting for (a game) like this all season to show how we respond to adversity.

“Coach told us if we score, we’re going to go for two and try to win it. We came up just 2 yards short and that’s how our season ended.”

All images copyrighted Mission Jeremy Duran (3) fights for yardage against Laredo United South Allan Gutierrez(20 during the area round high school football game in overtime at Laredo Student Union Sports Complex on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Laredo. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

“It was a great game,” Mission High head coach Koy Detmer said. “Our kids played hard and they played tough. Unfortunately, we came up one point short. … But it doesn’t take away from the way our kids played tonight. We played outstanding and we had a great season. I’m proud of these seniors and the way they led this team.

“This (Mission High) team stacks up with the very best of them.”

It was an appropriate conclusion for a wild back-and-forth game that featured five ties and four lead changes. Neither team led by more than a touchdown for the entire game.

The contest started off as an offensive barrage, as both the Eagles and Panthers traded touchdowns early and often throughout the first half.

Duran connected with tight end Jose Ortiz on a quick 2-yard slant for the game’s first touchdown, but Laredo United South responded with a 68-yard touchdown pass on its opening drive.

All images copyrighted Mission Jeremy Duran (3) fights for yardage against Laredo United South during the area round high school football game in overtime at Laredo Student Union Sports Complex on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Laredo. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

Mission answered right back, as Duran fired a deep ball to senior wideout Joe Louis Cortez, District 31-6A’s leading receiver, from 55 yards out. Duran added a rushing touchdown before the half to make it a tied game at 21 entering the break.

Duran added three more rushing touchdowns in the second half and overtime to give him six total trips to the end zone through the air and on the ground.

The Eagles came firing out of the gates to start the second half, intercepting a pass at the goal line that was returned 59 yards downfield and ultimately set up one of Duran’s two second-half touchdown scrambles.

But Benavides provided all the offense Laredo United South needed. The Panthers’ workhorse back helped the team score its final three touchdowns of the night, starting with an 80-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt on fourth and long.

Benavides then scored the game-tying touchdown on a 12-yard run with 33 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime before scoring again on the first play of the extra period.

Duran, though, kept the Eagles alive until the very final play.

All images copyrighted Mission Jeremy Duran (3) runs in for the touchdown against Laredo United South in overtime during the area round high school football game in overtime at Laredo Student Union Sports Complex on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Laredo. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

The Eagles’ signal-caller delivered in the clutch time and again, converting six of seven fourth-down conversion attempts, including one in overtime that set up Mission’s final touchdown.

“They have a crazy running back over there, shoutout to him, but our team held our own. We just kept battling all night,” Duran said. “You can see that hard work pays off. We came in last spring and then got shut down for almost a whole year. … I feel like we should have won this game, but it sucks and it happens.”

“This is a different season than anyone has had to go through with guidelines and protocols and delays and having to do things virtually,” Detmer said. “They did it and they did it well. They came out and they performed well. I’m very proud of our senior leadership and our team and the way they handled all the ups and downs off the field. Those things are way tougher than anything that happens on the field. I’m very proud of the way that they were able to play through those tough situations.”

Laredo United South advances to face Cibolo Steele in the 6A DI regional semifinals next week.

All images copyrighted Mission Nikolas Mann(55) and David Ortiz (52) try and console their teammate Ramon Rodriguez (32) after their loss to Laredo United South during the area round high school football game in overtime at Laredo Student Union Sports Complex on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Laredo. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

The loss drops Mission to 5-2 overall on the year and ends a season that the Eagles had to petition and protest to make a reality. Mission had dedicated its season to Ram Garcia, a senior linebacker who has been battling Leukemia, as well as Sonny Detmer and Omar Trujillo, the late fathers of the Eagles’ head coach and quarterback, respectively, who died before the season began.

“This will be one to remember; it should go down in history books. The COVID era is not something funny and shouldn’t be laughed at,” Duran said. “It’s serious and people have died and family members are gone. Ram, it’s an unfortunate situation with him. He’d love to be out here to play with us. We did it for him, Coach Detmer, my dad and (injured safety) Luis (Briseño).

“We had to play for somebody else and I hope we made them proud.”

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Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch