RUSK -- The run and the pass worked Thursday night for Center, which finished strong to pull away from Groesbeck for a 45-21 Class 3A Division II Region III bi-district victory at Eagle Stadium.

After Groesbeck (4-7) cut Center's lead to 24-21 with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Roughriders (3-8) scored 21 unanswered points in the game's final 14 minutes to claim the 24-point victory. Center plays Rockdale or Lorena in a 3A D-II Region III area playoff next week.

Running back JeMarcuss Jones spearheaded the second-half spurt. Jones scored from 56 yards with a minute left in the third for a 31-21 lead before capping a drive with a one-yard touchdown run halfway through the fourth quarter. Jones finished with 21 carries for 175 yards and two touchdowns as the Roughriders ran for 294 yards and four scores on 38 rushes.

Caiden Rainbolt complemented the running game with a 175-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception performance on 21-for-35 passing. He also ran for a one-yard touchdown for the game's first score with 4:44 left in the first. That helped Center built a 21-7 first-half lead before Groesbeck narrowed the gap to 24-21 late in the third.

Center's DeJalen Preston ran seven times for 79 and a touchdown and caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. Octavius Evans caught seven passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, while Josh Burns gained 75 yards on seven receptions.

Center's defense played a huge role in the win. The unit picked off Groesbeck quarterback Sterling Cable four times. Cable finished 17 of 33 for 225 yards and two touchdowns, along with 25 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown. He accounted for all but 20 of the Goats' total yards of offense.

Center outgained Groesbeck 469-338.

-- Stats courtesy the Center Light & Champion