MELISSA — With a District 5-4A championship on the line and playing on the road, Aubrey knew it had make the most of every opportunity Friday night against Melissa.
Instead, the Chaparrals squandered two scoring opportunities in the first half and could not contain the quick-strike Melissa offense as the Cardinals clinched at least a share of the district title with a 43-17 victory.
Brendon Lewis threw for 320 yards and five touchdowns, and Tate Whittington caught three passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals (8-1, 4-0), who need a win next week against Nevada Community in the regular season finale to win the title outright.
Melissa led 14-3 at halftime before erupting for 29 points in the second half, but things might have been different if Aubrey (7-2, 3-1) had been able to capitalize on a pair drives inside the Melissa 10-yard line in the first half that resulted in only one field goal.
"We just didn't play real well," Aubrey coach Keith Ivy said. "We had too many self-inflicted wounds. We didn't execute and take care of business. Those two missed opportunities in the first half were big. Then in the third quarter, it just kind of snowballed on us."
Lewis tossed a 38-yard scoring pass to Kennedy Lewis on the opening drive of the second half to push the Melissa lead to 22-3. Aubrey went three-and-out, and Lewis needed only one play, a 75-yard scoring strike to Junior Castleberry, and the Cardinals were up 29-3.
After another three-and-out by Aubrey, Lewis again made quick work, hitting Whittington on the sideline, and the senior receiver ran 60 yards after the catch to complete an 89-yard scoring play to extend Melissa's lead to 33 points.
Aubrey scored twice in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Pablo Vera and a 35-yard pass from Taylor Swarbrick to Caden Britten. But it was too little, too late for the Chaparrals, who now must prepare for a regular-season finale at home against Celina. The Chaparrals have been playing outstanding football despite losing two Division I prospects — Gatlin Grisso and Jordan Redfearn, both of whom suffered torn ACLs ealier this season.
"It's going to be a big role in [playoff] seeding," Ivy said of the matchup with Celina. "I'm proud of our guys; they kept fighting. We've just got to learn from our mistakes. We'll rebound next week. There's a lot of seniors on this team that want to go out at home on a good note."
Aubrey's running game was effective Friday, finishing with 287 yards. But the Chaparrals were stung by the missing scoring opportunities in the first half and not being able to contain the Cardinals' passing attack, which finished with 320 yards.
Aubrey took the game's opening drive deep inside Melissa territory, and the Chaparrals had first-and-goal at the 6. A penalty moved the ball back 15 yards, followed by two negative rushes and another penalty, leaving Aubrey with fourth-and-goal from the 32. Swarbrick threw incomplete, and Melissa took over on downs.
The Cardinals wasted little time, going 68 yards in four plays with Lewis tossing a 32-yard scoring pass to Whittington with 2:23 left in the first quarter.
Melissa's next scoring drive was sparked by a 43-yard pass to Castleberry for 43 yards, and Chance Mapps capped the 91-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Aubrey threatened to score a touchdown late in the first half as the Chaparrals drove to a first-and-10 at the Melissa 11. Brody Bounds rushed the ball to the 5, but again, Aubrey started went backward, losing 4 yards on second down and then throwing incomplete, forcing the Chaparrals to settle for a 26-yard Landon Stewart field goal.