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Martin's electric state title comeback falls short, readies him for Tech

When you're down 21-3 with more than half of the second quarter left to play, it can be pretty easy to make a mental decision to shut it down. It can be pretty easy to call it a day, realizing "Well, this one's over." It can be easy to give up.

That's the predicament that Cibolo Steele and quarterback Xavier Martin found themselves in on Saturday night under the bright lights at AT&T Stadium in the 6A Division 2 state title game.

The Steele offense, led by Martin, had been largely ineffective up until that point while the DeSoto offense was humming along with precision, marching up and down the field.

It was 28-10 DeSoto at the half, but Steele head coach Scott Lenhoff had a message for his team.

"We were down 28-10 there at the half, let up the touchdown to end the half, and for most ball clubs - maybe even us at times - that's a back breaker. And, tough hole to dig ourselves out of, but we talked at halftime about the character of this ball club, the heart of this team, and the things we preach in our program from day one, asked them to come out and fight, forget the scoreboard, and just play football."

And fight they did, and it all started with Martin as the catalyst.

The QB came out swinging in the second half, tossing a 45 yard bomb down the middle of the field to CJ Williamson, the lightning rod play the Knights needed.

And if Martin was anything, he was the lightning. Coach Lenhoff noted as much.

"Xavier made some plays to help us stay in it and to help us try to win it, and the defense got some stops and put us in some positions we would've liked to score a couple more times. Like I said, (Shawn) Robinson did it with his feet, and Xavier did it with his feet and his arm as well, scrambling and making some plays and finding some guys open down the field. Had a great night tonight."

The most electric of those plays came via a highlight haymaker for the ages, Martin mustering up a how-did-he-throw-that ball to Brenden Brady on a how-did-he-grab-that catch.

It's one of those moments when everyone in the stadium, including everyone on the DeSoto sideline, had the thought creep up into their head, even if only momentarily, that Steele was going to pull this off.

They were going to have a Texas state title comeback for the ages, coming back from down 28-10 for a moment of triumph that would go down in the history books as a game folks talked about for years to come.

And with just under five minutes left to play, Xavier Martin and the Steele offense had their chance to materialize those hopes. Down just 35-29, the soon-to-be Texas Tech quarterback had a chance to out-duel Shawn Robinson, the soon-to-be TCU quarterback in a story book finish between two signal callers that could have a rivalry that bleeds over to college football for years to come.

But fate wasn't having it.

Martin, scrambling and looking for time to throw or a lane to run, fumbled the ball at the 26 at the tail end of a spin. And that sealed the deal. There would be no magic comeback. That was it.

Like anyone else in that stadium, down just 35-29 with the ball in his hands, the QB thought they were going to do the thing.

But they didn't. And he's at peace with that.



"I thought we were going to come out with the win," said Martin. "It's just tough with the mental mistakes. I should've held on to the ball longer, should've went down, but you can't beat yourself up for - our coach always tells us it's just football. So, you've just got to move on to bigger and better things right now."

That doesn't mean he didn't care. Of course he did, and his face said as much after the contest came to a close as he and his teammates processed the last three hours and sat in front of the flock of post-game media.

The solace for Martin lies in the fact that there's more football on the horizon for him, a horizon that begins in a matter of weeks at Texas Tech. The QB will now head to Lubbock to begin his career as a Red Raider signal caller, but he'll take his state title game loss with him as fuel for the future.

"I'm going to always remember this, and it's going to strive me to work harder than I have in the past. It's losses like this that motivate you to be better and a better person in general. I know that's gonna happen with everyone, especially knowing the men on this football team and how they work, but it's just things you have to get over to - this is a little building block for great things down the road."