WICHITA FALLS – They were evenly matched going into Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, but none of the numbers added up for the Tascosa Rebels against Burleson Centennial.
Facing a team which ran a similar offense and who they eliminated during the same round in the same stadium last season, the Rebels had reason to feel confident about advancing in the Class 5A Division I area round. That didn’t quite translate between the lines.
Centennial held massive statistical edges in all the categories which counted, especially the one which meant the most. Tascosa never quite got into the game as the Spartans eliminated the Rebels 31-7.
It concluded a fifth straight season of at least 10 wins for Tascosa (10-2). In the end, Tascosa coach Ken Plunk didn’t make excuses for the rough ending to a good season.
“I don’t think there were a lot of surprises in this one,” Plunk said. “We had some chances, like the first drive of the game when we got a great stop and then we didn’t convert on that. We couldn’t off the field defensively and they kind of got hot on some things. They beat us and there’s no two ways about it.”
In a matchup of teams who run heavily ground-oriented flexbone offenses, Centennial (11-1) played to type by rushing for 327 yards. That fully explained the difference between the two teams on the day.
It was one thing for Tascosa to have only 161 total yards of offense on the day, which isn’t a recipe for winning any playoff game. It’s another for the Rebels to finish with more yards passing (101) than rushing (60), although the bulk of those passing yards came on two plays.
The Spartans had plenty to do with that discrepancy. They ran 71 plays to 39 for Tascosa, who after the first possession couldn’t keep Centennial’s offense off the field.
“It was a huge deal that we couldn’t get off the field,” Plunk said. “I think by and large we fought fairly hard but a lot of bad things happened. We’ll address it in the offseason and move on. There’s nothing you can do about this one.”
Had Tayden Barnes not returned the second half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, the Rebels would have never lit up the scoreboard. It was their only real highlight, or more precisely, their best glimmer of hope to make it a competitive game.
The Rebels held the Spartans on downs on the first offensive possession of the game, but Centennial scored on three straight second quarter possessions after a scoreless first quarter. Quarterback Phillip Hamilton scored on a 5-yard keeper on the second play of the quarter and on the next drive, Elijah Zeh ended it by going in from a yard out to make it 14-0.
Hamilton and Zeh were twin beasts running the ball for the Spartans, as both ran for over 100 yards and scored two touchdowns, with Hamilton running for 122 yards on 23 carries and Zeh picking up 125 yards on 28 carries.
“I think our quarterback played real well and made good decisions and then our fullback and offensive line moved the chains,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “Our defense pitched a shutout and what more can you do? Both teams have a really good idea of how to stop each other and know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s not what you know as a coach, it’s what your players do.”
While the Spartans never gashed the Rebels for any really big plays, they consistently gained 5-8 yards at a time and piled up 21 first downs rushing.
Centennial did hit a fairly big pass in the final seconds of the half as Hamilton found Luke Dotter for a 23-yard gain down to the Tascosa 12-yard line. That set up Truitt Bosher’s 29-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half to make it 17-0.
However, Barnes took the second half kickoff back to the house, and it looked like a ball game. But the Rebels, who had only seven first downs, never got much going with the ball other than that, and when Zeh scored on a 23-yard run midway through the quarter to make it 24-7, the hole got that much bigger for Tascosa.
The Rebels answered when Hudson Farris hit sophomore T.J. Tillman for a 56-yard gain on the first pass of the game they threw, setting them up at the Centennial 19. However, Cassius Carter then fumbled a pitch on the next play and the Spartans recovered, ending Tascosa’s best chance to stay competitive.
“We looked like we were going to be in pretty good shape when we completed that ball,” Plunk said. “If you make it 24-14, you’re still fighting for it. When you fumble like that the air is just let out of you.
“I don’t want to get defined by us losing this game. It was a day that wasn’t really great but that’s the way it is. It’s a loss.”
Amarillo High couldn’t slow down Midlothian
WICHITA FALLS – The Amarillo High Sandies proved they could land plenty of blows against an undefeated opponent Friday night.
Problem was, they had to absorb too many of them from Midlothian
Amarillo High started strong offensively in taking an early lead, but the rest of the way Midlothian showed why it had won the previous 11 games. The Spartans had an answer, and then some, for everything the Sandies threw at them and eliminated Amarillo High 56-28 in a Class 5A Division I area round game aty Memorial Stadium.
Amarillo High finished the season 6-6.
The Sandies looked ripe to pull an upset after taking a 14-6 lead in the first quarter. But Midlothian (12-0) scored 22 unanswered points to take control and never punted once.
The Sandies moved the ball well for most of the first half. They squandered a chance to draw first blood when Pius Vokes fumbled a pitch and the Panthers took over at their own 12-yard line.
Midlothian turned that into the game’s first points when Michael Garber finished the drive with a 14-yard scoring run for a 6-0 lead.
Amarillo High didn’t seem bothered by that. On the next possession, Mason Graham found a wide open JQ Ervin in the end zone for a 24-yard scoring pass and a 7-6 lead.
Less than 90 seconds later, following a Midlothian fumble, the Sandies converted again as Graham scored on a 2-yard run for a 14-6 lead.
However, that would be the last time the Sandies would score in the half. Midway through the second quarter, they were marching down the field when Graham was hit hard after a short run and knocked out of the game, and didn’t return.
A few plays later, Ervin mishandled a pitch from backup quarterback Will Flaming and Midlothian recovered to end the drive.
The Panthers cut the score to 14-12 on the first play of the second quarter on a 79-yard scoring pass from Chad Ragle to Bryant Wesco. With 16 seconds left in the half, Ragle scored on a 5-yard run to make it 20-14.
Those two scores showed Midlothian’s remarkable balance and how big Ragle was. The Panthers rolled up 653 yards of offense, as Ragle ran for a game-high 193 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries and completed 9-of-11 passes for 211 yards and a pair of scores to Wesco, who had six catches for 168 yards.
On the first play of scrimmage of the second half, Midlothian’s De’ago Benson, who had 142 yards on 12 carries, sprinted 78 yards for a score to make it 28-14.
The Sandies twice pulled to within a touchdown in the third quarter as Flaming ran for a touchdown and threw another to Jack Hoeksema. But they never scored again, and Midlothian couldn’t be stopped.