It seemed like a new era was ushered in for the illustrious Amarillo ISD rivalry between Tascosa and Amarillo High on Friday night, which just happened to open District 2-5A Division I play.
And like it or not, that was good news for Tascosa and not so good news for Amarillo High.
Playing the 66th game of the series for the first time outside of Dick Bivins Stadium, the two schools descended on Buffalo Stadium at the West Texas A&M campus for a historic meeting. It was Tascosa which made history, jumping on the Sandies early and rolling to a 45-10 victory to make a statement for the rest of the season.
The Rebels (4-1, 1-0 in district) scored the most points and the biggest margin of victory for any Tascosa team in the history of the series. A change of scenery in the rivalry for the first time in six decades didn’t hurt Tascosa in front of a crowd announced at 8,510 spectators.
“You couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Tascosa coach Ken Plunk said. “We played outstanding defense and controlled the line of scrimmage. I was super excited. We want to be more physical on the line of scrimmage. That’s a big deal for us.”
Tascosa dominated the first half, sometimes in unexpected ways, in rolling to a 23-3 halftime lead.
The Rebels pulled a surprise on their very first play after the opening kickoff. Hudson Farris hit sophomore T.J. Tillman on a 37-yard pass gain between three defenders to shock everybody in the stadium with the possible exception of themselves.
It was a play Plunk had been planning for a long time but finally got around to pulling the trigger on against Tascosa’s biggest rival.
“We’ve been conjuring up a first play pass for about the last decade,” cracked Plunk, who’s coached games where the Rebels didn’t throw a single pass. “We just didn’t throw it. Maybe it’s time to turn over a new leaf. We’ve said we have to throw the ball better.”
That was the first of three big completions from Farris to Tillman, all of which set up scores. Tillman had three catches for 106 yards in the first half, an absolute anomaly for a receiver on a team as run-heavy as Tascosa.
Farris himself cashed it in at the end of the first drive for the first of his two scoring runs, this one from 2 yards out, for a 7-0 lead.
Amarillo High wasn’t having near as much success on offense either throwing or running the ball. Mason Graham had a deep ball to Jameson Garcia tipped and intercepted by Tayden Barnes, the first of two Graham interceptions which set up Tascosa touchdowns.
Treshun Wilson scored on a 40-yard run to put the Rebels up 14-0. Wilson ran for a game-high 144 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
“We watched our freshmen and JV play and it was like we’ve never seen Amarillo High give up,” Wilson said. “Our coaches told us to keep our foot and the gas and that might just be the way to make them quit.”
The Sandies got on the board before the end of the quarter on Micah Conger’s 42-yard field goal, but that was it for Amarillo High offensive highlights in the first half.
Amarillo High’s biggest offensive wound in the first half was self-inflicted, though. Graham was flushed out of the pocket and looked like he was throwing it away long the sideline, but Tillman picked off the throw in AHS territory to set up the Rebels again.
They cashed in on a second scoring run by Farris, then Rual Lin Cung kicked a 26-yard field goal with six seconds left in the half to make it 23-3.
“I didn’t think we played well tonight,” AHS coach Chad Dunnam said. “First of all, you can’t turn the ball over and give a short field to a really good football team. (The Rebels) capitalized on every one of our mistakes which is a sign of a good football team. A good football team will make you pay for your mistakes.”
Tascosa’s vaunted defense had a lot to do with that. The Rebels limited Amarillo High to 171 total yards, including minus-18 rushing, although that number is slightly misleading since the Sandies lost 27 yards on a bad punt snap in the third quarter which Tascosa’s Micah Lewis recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Avion Carter, Tascosa’s defensive lineman who has committed to TCU, was almost as much a presence in Amarillo High’s backfield as Graham was. Carter had a sack in the first half, and forced a fumble by Graham (one of five Amarillo High turnovers) on the first possession of the second half to set up the Rebels deep in AHS territory which resulted in a 15-yard touchdown run by Tayden Barnes to make it 31-3 and pretty much end any illusions about a competitive game.
“That’s for every QB not just this one,” said Carter of the game plan to harrass Graham. “I really wanted to hold our D-line to elevate and get better tonight. It’s just technique and wanting to execute our game plan. I think we handled (the rivalry) real well and we were real mature about it. We just treat it like a regular game.”