CANTON --  Junior receiver D'Juan Martin and sophomore quarterback Cleet Bowman came to play for Bullard in Friday's key District 5-4A Division II game.

For as good as they were in the Panthers' 34-14 win in the regular season finale against Canton, the night belonged to their counterparts on defense. 

"We challenged our defensive backs," Bullard head coach Shannon Wilson said. "We felt like we would be able to stop the run. We were hoping, anyway. We knew it was going to be a passing night, and our secondary did a good job. They hit us on some, but we were able to, for the most part, somewhat contain (Canton quarterback) Hunter Moore."

Junior safety Joey Praducco breaks up a pass intended for Canton's Zach Brown, one of six passes Bullard deflected in Friday's game.

The defensive backfield came away with three interceptions, including safety Drake Daly's backbreaker just when it seemed the Eagles (5-5, 3-2) were coming into their own offensively. In total, the Panthers (7-3, 4-1) held Canton to a 12 for 34 passing night -- 35 percent -- while allowing just 63 rushing yards on 17 carries.

It was a statement within a statement game. The meeting broke a late tie between Bullard and Canton within the district standings.

With the win, the Panthers finished as the league runner-up behind Gilmer and earned a second seed in the Class 4A Division II playoffs. They'll face Atlanta, the third-place team from District 6-4A Division II, in the bi-district playoff round next week.

Canton fell to third place and will take on Gladewater in their first playoff matchup.

The times, dates and locations of those games will be coordinated between the schools this weekend.

"I know Matt (McClure), Atlanta's head coach," Wilson said. "We used to coach against each other a long time ago in the Metroplex. They're a good, solid program, but I haven't seen them at all. I do know year in and year out that they have a lot of speed and they're well-coached. It ought to be a fun game."

Bullard's Major Tennison pressures Canton quarterback into a hasty throw during the second quarter of the District 5-4A Division II meeting.

It took a quarter for either offense to gain traction yet Bullard had a 20-0 lead after 24 minutes thanks to Martin's 74-yard punt return score in the first quarter, two Bowman passes of more than 40 yards each in the second frame and interceptions by Ty Crayton and Tre Crayton.

Whatever halftime speech Canton head coach Robert Ivey delivered during the break seemed to ignite a fire under the Eagles. The team held Bullard to a three-and-out its first time out in the third quarter and then Moore found Tre Fitzgerald for a 42-yard score to cut the deficit to 20-7.

Bullard punted for a fifth time in the meeting minutes later. Momentum was clearly with Canton.

However, Daly intercepted Moore on 3rd-and-10 at midfield and returned the ball to the Eagles' 23-yard line. Bullard took a 27-7 lead 50 seconds later with Bowman's 5-yard pass to Ty Crayton in the back of the end zone.

Canton answered with a nine-play, 43-yard drive before Moore found Brown for a 40-yard touchdown. The Eagles defense then ultimately forced Bullard into a sixth and final punt, down 27-14 with 9:42 left in the game.

But the punt landed at the Eagles' 6-yard line. Two plays later, Moore fumbled in the end zone while taking a sack.

Sophomore linebacker Luke Bowman was there for the recovery and touchdown for the final score of the night.

"We practice every week and really work on reading our keys," Daly said. "We're real disciplined with the routes they run. We worked on their routes all week, whoever we are playing. We knew what they were going to run and were real disciplined covering their receivers."

Bullard sophomore quarterback Cleet Bowman completed 10 of 17 passes for 154 yards and three scores in Friday's game.

Cleet Bowman completed 10 of 17 passes for 154 yards and three scores through the air despite a tough start for the Bullard offense in general. Sophomore wildcat runner Jerrod Shore led the team with 51 rushing yards and running back Jake Johnson recorded 50 yards.

Martin and junior Texas tight end commitment Major Tennison only got one catch apiece and made the most of it.

Martin's 70-yard reception extended Bullard's lead to 13-0 with five minutes left in the first half. Tennison followed suit three and a half minutes later with a 49-yard catch.

"I love my receivers," Cleet Bowman said. "They've got some of the best hands I've ever seen. They did a great job tonight. It was an awesome win."

The bright side for Canton, it clinched a playoff berth last week and is back in the postseason after last year's injury-riddled campaign.

Bullard is back in the state tournament for a second consecutive year. Last season's journey was cut short with a loss to Tatum in the opening round.

"We took this game really seriously," Cleet Bowman said. "We were really focussed on winning this game. Practice was very serious and we had fun tonight. We were in this position last year and we're hoping to go a lot farther this year."

Bullard celebrates the close of the 2015 regular season following its 34-14 win against Canton. The Panthers will face Atlanta next week in the Class 4A Division II bi-district round.

Bullard 34, Canton 14
District 5-4A Division II
Norris Birdwell Stadium, Canton

Bullard            6      14     7       7    --    34
Canton           0        0   14       0    --    14

First Quarter
BUL--D'Juan Martin 74 punt return (pass failed), 8:41
Second Quarter
BUL--Martin 70 pass from Cleet Bowman (Will McCown kick), 3:22
BUL--Major Tennison 49 pass from Cleet Bowman (McCown kick), 1:31
Third Quarter
CAN--Tre Fitzgerald 42 pass from Hunter Moore (Nathan Wood kick), 9:41
BUL--Ty Crayton 5 pass from Cleet Bowman (McCown kick), 6:24
CAN--Zach Brown 40 pass from Moore (Wood kick), 1:45
Fourth Quarter
BUL--Luke Bowman fumble recovery in end zone (McCown kick), 9:01

 

                                                   BUL              CAN
First Downs                                  11                13
Total Yards                                  280              253
Rushes-Yards                         35-126            17-63
Passing Yards                             154               190
Comp.-Att.-Int.                       10-17-0--154   12-34-3--190
Punts-Avg.                                 6-32.8           6-39.5
Fumbles-Lost                               2-0               2-2
Penalties-Yards                          7-65              1-15

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Bullard, Jerrod Shrode 11-51, Jake Johnson 13-50, Ty Crayton 2-23, Drake Daly 2-17, Cleet Bowman 2-7, Luke Bowman 4-3, TEAM 1-(-25). CantonJordan Jackson 16-49, Hunter Moore 7-14.
PASSING--Bullard, Cleet Bowman 10-17-0--154. Canton, Moore 12-33-2--190, Zach Brown 0-1-1--0.
RECEIVING--Bullard, D'Juan Martin 1-70, Major Tennison 1-49, Nic Costas 4-17, Jake Johnson 1-7, Daly 2-6, Ty Crayton 1-5. Canton, Brown 3-57, Logan Nace 4-45, Tre Fitzgerald 1-42, Brazos Hesskew 2-29, Tanner Moore 2-7.