WICHITA FALLS -- The Callisburg Wildcats proved a lot this postseason. To themselves and their opponents, including undefeated and No. 2-ranked Bushland on Saturday.
And they certainly proved there's not one ounce of quit in them.
Down 14 points in the first quarter, no problem. Buried again by 14 at halftime and still no reason to panic as the Wildcats rallied with three third-quarter touchdowns to take a 34-28 lead before falling 42-34 in a Class 2A Division II state semifinal thriller at Memorial Stadium.
It was the first time all year that 14-0 Bushland had trailed in the second half. A bunch of big plays by Bobby Dorman, both as a quarterback and a defensive back, helped the Wildcats make that history as the third-place team from District 10-2A nearly took down its second previously undefeated club in as many weeks.
Dorman rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Langston Jones added 106 yards and one touchdown.
Bushland ended Callisburg's state title dream with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Crockett Gillmore, a physical 6-foot-6 receiver caught his third TD pass of the night on an 8-yard fade route from Bret Wilhelm in the first minute of the fourth quarter to give the Falcons a 35-34 lead. Michael Matthews added another TD on a 17-yard run with 2:55 left in the game.
Callisburg (12-3) had one final shot, but Dorman was intercepted by Mason Harris to seal the game and put Bushland into the state finals against Daingerfield.
Wildcats coach Jerry Bomar could not have been prouder of his team.
"They had a great team, but I'll tell you what, I've been a head coach for 28 years and I've never seen a team show more guts than we did tonight," Bomar said. "We were down 14-0 in the first quarter and then down 28-14 in the third and coming back and going ahead. I tip my hat to our kids.
"Bushland is a great team -- we were a 20-point underdog in this game -- and our kids came back and came back. You have to give our kids a lot of credit. I've never seen a gutsier performance in a bigger game in all my life."
Callisburg had already showed Bushland it knew the comeback trail in the first half, but it really got the Falcons' attention in the third. The Wildcats took the second-half kickoff and drove 62 yards for a touchdown, keyed by a 31-yard completion to Kevin Bartley, and capped off by a 1-yard sneak by Dorman behind left guard.
Dorman then made a huge defensive play with an interception at midfield. A penalty brought back most of the return, but three plays later fullback Seth Wolfe sprinted 28 yards up the middle for a touchdown. A two-point try for a tie failed, leaving Callisburg down 28-26.
But the Wildcats didn't slow down a bit. Chase McCage made a key tackle on a fake field goal by Bushland to give Callisburg the ball at the Falcons' 39.
Langston Jones scored on a 13-yard touchdown run, his second straight 13-yard gain to give Callisburg a 32-28 lead. The lead expanded to 34-28 on a two-point conversion by Wolfe after the Falcons had roughed the kicker on the first PAT.
But Bushland, which has a season low of 35 points, answered the call with 73-yard touchdown drive with four big completions by Wilhelm, who threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns. He converted a second-and-19, a second-and-12 and a second-and-11. And on third-and-goal from the 8, Wilhelm lobbed a fade route to Gillmore.
Callisburg had three more possessions, but totaled just three first downs in the final quarter. A potential big play on the last drive, a pass down the middle to Bartley, was broken up by a big hit by Bushland's Lewis. On the next play the ball was picked off.
In the first half, Callisburg fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to tie the game 14-14 after a wild first quarter.
Bushland had landed the first blows with a 77-yard drive to open the game, scoring on a 20-yard pass when Callisburg jumped offsides and reacted slowly as Gillmore caught a ball in the end zone. Then a poor snap over the punter's head resulted in a negative punt and gave the Falcons the ball at the Wildcats' 35-yard line.
Bushland turned that fortune into a 2-yard touchdown on Wilhelm's quarterback sneak.
Callisburg bounced right back with 29 and 16 yards on consecutive runs by Langston Jones followed by a 26-yard sprint for a score around right end by Dorman.
The Wildcats got a quick stop and then Dorman scored again, this time from a yard out, with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bushland scored twice more in the second quarter to build a 28-14 halftime lead on two TD passes by Wilhelm. The junior, a backup the first 11 games of the season, connected with Travis Latham from 7 yards out and then just before the half he found Gillmore again for an 12-yard touchdown.
BY ANDY NEWBERRY, SPECIAL TO THE HERALD DEMOCRAT