AUSTIN (KXAN) — Why not dial up a trick play on third down and long? Well, there are plenty of reasons, but for the McNeil Mavericks, the gamble eventually changed the outcome of the game.

The Mavericks scored on a 26-yard hook and lateral in the first half for the game’s only touchdown, and their defense came up big with three interceptions to hang on for a 7-6 win over Vista Ridge on Thursday at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.

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On third-and-11 with 3:24 left in the second quarter, McNeil quarterback Jadon Sultz fired a pass to Jarell Gary about five yards downfield, and then Gary immediately got rid of the ball with a lateral of Joshua Gayden. Gayden had a head of steam toward the end zone when he received the pitch and raced the rest of the way for the score. It was perfect execution on a play that famously doesn’t score a lot of the time because the team trying to do it messes it up. It worked for Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, just a little differently though.

That was the last score of the game. Vista Ridge’s Clarence Deiparine kicked a pair of field goals from 37 and 32 yards to give the Rangers a 6-0 lead in the first half, and while the Rangers also played great defense, the one big play the Mavs made ended up the difference.

McNeil could have scored in the fourth quarter, but Gary knew if Vista Ridge got the ball back, the Rangers could potentially tie the game. With the ball on the Vista Ridge 18-yard line, Gary burst through the line and had a clear path to the end zone with 2:00 left. Instead of getting the glory of scoring, Gary took a knee at the 3-yard line so McNeil could bleed the clock out and win. Had Gary scored and the Rangers missed the point after, Vista Ridge could have tied the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion. The only way Gary could guarantee a Mavericks win was to take a knee and keep possession.

McNeil (3-2, 1-1 6A-District 25) hosts Vandegrift at 7 p.m., Oct. 6 while Vista Ridge (4-1, 1-1) draws a Thursday matchup against Westwood on the road Oct. 5.

Game log

Final: McNeil 7, Vista Ridge 6. The Mavericks hand Vista Ridge their first loss of the season with tremendous defense and a first-half touchdown on a gadget play. The Mavericks had three interceptions on the day and didn’t allow a touchdown.

2:00 4Q: McNeil’s Jarell Gary had a sure touchdown on a run up the middle, but decided to take a knee at the 3-yard line to the Mavs will keep the ball and run the clock out to secure a victory. If Gary had scored, Vista Ridge would have got the ball back and potentially could have tied the game, but Gary sacrificed his own stats for the good of the team. Don’t see that a lot these days.

7:29 4Q: And they don’t take advantage of the big play. The Rangers’ pass on 4th-and-11 falls incomplete and McNeil will have it at their own 41-yard line.

8:21 4Q: These teams are pulling down interceptions like how Oprah Winfrey handed out free stuff at her talk shows. This time Vista Ridge’s Karson Smith goes way up for the pick and brings it down at the Rangers’ 41-yard line. Let’s see if the Rangers can take advantage of the big play.

11:52 4Q: It would have been plausible for the Rangers to go for that given where they were on the field, but they end up punting and it goes in the end zone so they don’t gain a lot of field position. McNeil takes over on its own 20.

End 3Q: McNeil 7, Vista Ridge 6. The Rangers will have the ball at the McNeil 38-yard line with a 4th-and-6 play to start the 4Q. Here’s to an exciting finish!

1:52 3Q: This has been a defensive battle all the way through. Vista Ridge has great field position on the McNeil 42-yard line after the Mavs had to punt from their end zone.

6:08 3Q: Vista Ridge looks to go deep down the field with a pass but the ball bounces off the Rangers receiver high enough for McNeil’s Kameron Green to dive underneath it for an interception. Wow. The Mavs take over on their own 11-yard line.

Halftime: McNeil 7, Vista Ridge 6. McNeil gets two interceptions in the first half to keep the Rangers at bay, and the Mavericks score on the razzle-dazzle for the game’s only touchdown so far.

3:24 2Q: TOUCHDOWN MCNEIL: Hook and lateral alert! Well, it was more of an out-and-lateral, but let’s not get too technical, folks. The Mavericks get into the bag of tricks on 3rd-and-21 and they hit pay dirt on the fabled pass-and-pitch play for a 26-yard touchdown. Jarell Gary catches the pass and flips to Joshua Gayden who finishes off the play sprinting down the sideline for a score. PAT good and McNeil has the lead. Mavericks 7, Rangers 6

5:44 2Q: McNeil’s Keegan McBryde lays out for a tipped pass to make an interception. Did the ball hit the turf before he had control? Maybe, but the officials didn’t think so and their opinion is the one that matters. The Mavs take over on the Vista Ridge 46-yard line.

10:44 2Q: VISTA RIDGE FIELD GOAL: Deiparine bangs another one through, this time from 32 yards. Rangers 6, Mavericks 0

End 1Q: Vista Ridge 3, McNeil 0. A lot of defense early on in this one as McNeil was able to hold the Rangers to the field goal after getting deep in Mavericks territory. Vista Ridge will start on McNeil’s 16-yard line on 2nd down.

4:39 1Q: FIELD GOAL VISTA RIDGE: Clarence Deiparine drills a 37-yard field goal and the Rangers are on the board. Great kick with plenty of distance. Rangers 3, Mavericks 0

6:44 1Q: Vista Ridge goes to playaction and the Rangers hit a big play to James Hester down the middle of the field for 40 yards to set up at the Mavericks’ 25-yard line. Quarterback Jackson Arnot with a little bit of an underthrow but Hester adjusted to the ball nicely.

7:56 1Q: Both teams ended their first drives with punts, and we’ll see where the offenses adjust here moving forward.

12:00 1Q: McNeil wins the coin toss and defers its option to the second half, so Vista Ridge will get the ball to begin the game.