SAN ANTONIO — Kyler Meschi said he could have made a field goal from more than 50 yards out if he needed to.
Instead, Flour Bluff's junior kicker needed to convert from 23 yards to send the Hornets back to the regional final.
Meschi split the uprights capping a thrilling back-and-forth contest worthy of a third-round playoff game as Flour Bluff held off Gregory-Portland 47-44 in the Alamodome in the Class 5A Division I regional semifinals.
"This is round three," Flour Bluff head coach Chris Steinbruck said. "You can't hold anything back. They are a really good football team and they have a great coaching staff. But we have a great coaching staff too.
"With two good teams, it was just who was going to make that last play. I'm proud of our guys."
Flour Bluff looked in control numerous times on Friday, but when Khalid Gholsby blocked a punt and Gabriel Juarez returned it 11 yards for a Gregory-Portland touchdown with 2:45 to play, the Wildcats pulled even for the fourth time, this time at 44.
Hornets quarterback Nash Villegas said the offense knew what it had to do coming off the sideline.
"We are going to come out and we are going to battle," Villegas said. "No matter what, our team is always going to come out. We did that. No one got down even though we had adversity all game and we came out on top."
After a pass interference penalty gave Flour Bluff a first down at the 30, the Hornets dialed up a hook and lateral play that set up the game winner.
The Hornets turned to their "Hitch and Pitch" call and Villegas hit Christopher Gisewhite at the line of scrimmage, who then lateraled to Isaac McElroy, who turned on the jets and carried the ball all the way to the G-P 9.
Steinbruck said it actually helped the Hornets that he was caught, allowing them to milk the clock to 2 seconds to set up Meschi's 23-yard try.
The junior nailed the kick to send the Hornets sideline into a frenzy, as the team earned its second consecutive regional final berth, against the same team that knocked it out last year, district rival Veterans Memorial.
"We still felt confident, because our 2-minute offense is really good," Meschi said. "We tried to keep our intensity up, our confidence and those things happen. We just had to bounce back and hit them in the mouth."
The kick, just longer than an extra point was the final play in a thrilling game that saw a safety, a defensive touchdown, a blocked punt for a score and five touchdowns that went for more than 30 yards.
The Hornets avenged a 37-27 regular season defeat to G-P that propelled the Wildcats to a shared district championship with Veterans Memorial in Brent Davis' first season.
"The good start was huge," Steinbruck said. "They understood we came out flat and didn't play well. It wasn't that we couldn't play with them, we just didn't execute in the first game.
"It gave us confidence and we were able to weather the storm."
Bluff got out to a faster start than in the first meeting, scoring on the second play of the game as Connor Tyler broke from for an 88-yard touchdown run. The Hornets scored twice in their first four offensive snaps, building a 23-14 halftime lead.
G-P erased a nine-point deficit in less than three minutes with a safety on a bad snap on a Flour Bluff punt and a 20-yard Dalvin Batts run.
After the running lanes were clogged early, Batts broke through in the second half finishing with 26 carries for 170 yards, at one point scoring three touchdowns in a span of five carries as the game was back-and-forth for much of the second half.
"We couldn't get them off the field on third down," Davis said. "That quarterback did a great job against us. Even when you are up on him, he can make plays with people all over him. I thought our kids played well, fought hard.
"We got down in the first quarter and had to fight out of it. I can't say enough about this season and how hard they worked to be where they are at. It was a great football game and someone had to lose it. Came right down to the end."
Flour Bluff looked as if it had thrown a knockout punch late in the third quarter on fourth down when the Hornets capitalized on an interception from Marcus Jones, lining up Virginia Tech offensive line commit Johnny Dickson to take a direct snap on fourth-and-short.
Dickson took two steps toward the line and lofted a short pass to a wide-open Maurice Alcorn for a 21-yard touchdown.
G-P fought back with another Batts score and the blocked punt before Meschi's game-winning heroics.
"We are excited," Davis said. "We have a lot of young kids. Getting a taste like this and having the success will go a long way toward the future."
The Wildcats finished the season 9-4 after snapping a six-year playoff drought. Brandon Redden finished 15 of 26 for 253 yards passing and one touchdown for G-P.
David Karl was the game's leading receiver with eight catches for 158 yards, moving the sticks time and again for the Wildcats.
Flour Bluff limited Redden on the ground as the junior finished with seven yards rushing on 10 carries.
The Wildcats limited the Hornets stout running game to 133 yards, with 88 yards coming on one play, but Villegas had a successful night with the vertical passing game, finishing with 321 yards and two touchdowns.
McElroy (106) and Gisewhite (117) each went for more than 100 yards receiving for the Hornets, who booked a rematch with Veterans Memorial with the win.
"We fought through the good and the bad," Steinbruck said. "We stayed up and we stayed together and believed in the plan and got a huge win for our program."
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
CLASS 5A DIVISION I REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
FLOUR BLUFF 47, GREGORY-PORTLAND 44
What this game means: Flour Bluff returns to the Class 5A Division I regional final for a rematch with Veterans Memorial. The Hornets avenged a regular-season loss to the Wildcats with big plays at the Alamodome as Kyler Meschi hit a 23-yard game-winning field as time expired.
Friday's highlights: Big plays ruled the day for both teams. Flour Bluff had them early and G-P had them late. The Wildcats rallied from double-digit deficits to tie the game on a punt block returned for a touchdown by Gabriel Juarez with 2:45 remaining, but that was enough for Nash Villegas to drive the Hornets down the field for the game-winning field goal by Meschi. The drive was aided by a pass interference call on the Wildcats before Flour Bluff called a hook and lateral for a 61-yard gain that ultimately put the Hornets in field goal range, as Villegas hit Christopher Gisewhite, who lateraled to Isaac McElroy and rumbled 61 yards down to the 9-yard line.
Friday's stars: Dalvin Batts ended his season with 26 carries for 170 yards and three touchdowns for G-P. Brandon Redden was 15 of 26 for 253 yards and one touchdown passing as David Karl (8-158, 1 TD receiving) was his go-to target to move the sticks. Connor Tyler led the Hornets rushing attack with 17 carries for 125 yards and an 88-yard touchdown run. Villegas was 15 of 31 passing for 322 yards and two touchdowns. Gisewhite (4-117) and McElroy (3-106) each topped 100 yards receiving.
Up next: Veterans Memorial (12-1) at Flour Bluff (11-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Flour Bluff tops Gregory-Portland with last second field goal