VICTORIA – Football coaches often stress the importance of controlling the line of scrimmage. The battle in the trenches can be a deciding factor in most games, and that was the case Friday night.

The No. 9 Calallen Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season, falling to Alamo Heights 31-13 in the Region IV-4A Division II semifinals at Victoria’s Memorial Stadium. Calallen had a difficult night keeping the aggressive Mules defensive line out of the backfield, which was made more challenging by an injury that left the Wildcats without offensive lineman Jason Phillips for a majority of the contest.

“When we lost our right tackle, it hurt us early in the game,” Calallen coach Phil Danaher said. “We had to put a younger kid in there, and we just couldn’t keep them off of us long enough to get anything thrown. And we didn’t sustain our blocks in situations. We were kind of wounded…They controlled the line of scrimmage, and they whipped us pretty soundly.”

Alamo Heights (10-3) set the tone early, finishing off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown run by Byron Proctor less than two minutes into play. It was the first of three scores for Proctor, all of which came in the first half.

Calallen (11-1) responded with a grind-it-out possession of its own, taking more than seven minutes off the clock on 15 plays. Running back Chris Price took it into the end zone on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line to knot the game at 7-all.

Proctor scored from 19-yards out on the ensuing drive, putting the Mules back on top 14-7 with 26 seconds to go in the first quarter. Then, things went south for the Wildcats.

On the first play of the answering possession, a Price fumble popped into the air and was scooped up by Alamo Heights’ Adam Luna and returned 38 yards for a touchdown. Ahead 21-7 and with all the momentum on their side, the Mules went on to the big win.

“That was a big turning point,” Danaher said of the fumble. “They went down and scored, we turn around and score, they went down and scored again…We coughed it up and they get a two-touchdown lead on us.”

Calallen was able to string some plays together offensively in the second half, but the task of playing on both sides of the ball wore on the Wildcat running game.

“Offensively, we had three of our backs having to go defense,” Danaher said. “We couldn’t keep fresh backs, or do any of our stuff where you use two backs. It was just one of those things.…(Alamo Heights) played a great ballgame. They had a great defensive scheme on us, and they played it well. They won, and they won convincingly.”

The Mules will face another District 30-4A foe this week in the Region IV championship, Port Lavaca Calhoun. The Sandcrabs defeated defending state champion Cedar Park on Saturday, 28-27 to advance.