[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

VAN -- It took the Daingerfield Tigers a while to get things going Saturday afternoon at Van’s Memorial Stadium. Once they finally did, they never looked back.

Daingerfield took advantage of its limited time of possession, scoring 21 second-half points and forcing three turnovers in a 34-7 victory over Eustace in a Class 2A Division I Region III bi-district matchup.

The Tigers (8-3) will face Farmersville in an area-round matchup next Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Paris.

Daingerfield quarterback Keris Alexander dodges a Eustace tackler and throws downfield during their Class 2A Division I Region II bi-district playoff Saturday in Van. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)

Eustace used a ball-possession game plan to perfection for much of the game, keeping the ball for more than 36 minutes. Jesus Barcenas was a workhorse for the Bulldogs, carrying the ball 39 times for 159 yards and a score.

The Tigers took advantage of their possessions in the second half, despite a sluggish first two quarters, scoring on three of their first four chances after the break to pull away from the Bulldogs.

“Our offense is built on being in a rhythm, and we weren’t in a very good rhythm early on,” said Daingerfield coach Aric Sardinea. “A lot of that is we didn’t have an opportunity to play last week so it’s been a while. When you face an offense like Eustace you have to be able to get the ball. If you’re not getting first downs on offense it could be a long night.”

Malik Higgins, who split time with Keris Alexander at quarterback, led the Tigers to a score to open the second half, finding Calvin Bryant, who made a juggling circus catch at the 1-yard line. Cordarius Anderson, who finished the day with 57 yards on 11 carries, punched it in from a yard out for a commanding 20-0 lead.

The Bulldogs stuck to their game plan throughout, despite a 20-point deficit, with Barcenas orchestrating a 15-play drive that gave Bulldogs their only score of the night and cut it to a two-possession game.

Following a Tigers interception on the next possession, the Daingerfield defense would did what they seemingly did all day: bend but not break.

Eustace's Keenan Hargest (34) follows his blockers during the Bulldogs' 34-7 bi-district playoff loss to Daingerfield on Saturday in Van. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)

The Bulldogs moved the ball inside the Tigers' 10-yard line, one of their three red-zone trips on the day, but were unable to come up with anything as Spencer Alexander made his second big play of the game by throwing Abed Abuhatab for an 8-yard loss on fourth-and-4.

“We’ve always been one of those teams; we’ll bend a little bit but we’ve got enough kids athletically that can make plays and won't break very much,” Sardinea said.

The Tigers closed things out from there, scoring on their next two possessions, as Alexander rushed for 19, 25, 6, 9 and 7 yards on the next drive to set up Keaten Key's 3-yard score.

Malik Higgins added a 16-yard score with 2:00 remaining to close out the scoring.

The Bulldogs controlled the ball for the majority of the first half, with the Tigers only running 12 plays.

The Tigers got on the scoreboard following a fumble recovery by Dominique Allen that set them up at midfield. Two plays later Calvin Bryant found the end zone from 45 yards away, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Those were the only two plays of the second quarter for Daingerfield as Eustace chewed up clock and held the ball for more than 21 minutes in the first half behind the legs of Barcenas, who had 22 carries for 85 yards by halftime.

The Bulldogs used up nearly nine minutes of time in the second quarter, slowly moving the ball down the field into the Tigers' red-zone. Facing second-and 3 at the Tigers 10, the Bulldogs attempted their first pass of the game, which was picked off by Alexander. The senior linebacker took it up the sideline for 96 yards and a score with just 12 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Tigers a 13-0 halftime lead.

Eustace finished the season at 5-6.

Eustace's Abed Abuhatab is brought down by a Daingerfield defender during their Class 2A Division I Region II bi-district playoff Saturday in Van. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)
Class 2A Division I Region II Bi-District Playoff

Daingerfield 34, Eustace 7

Van Memorial Stadium

Eustace                  0    0    7    0   --    7
Daingerfield             0  13    7   14  --   34
Second Quarter
DAI--Calvin Bryant 45 run (Keynon Whetstone kick), 9:02.
DAI--Spencer Alexander 96 interception return (kick failed), :24.
Third Quarter
DAI--Cordarrius Anderson 1 run (Whetstone kick), 9:56.
EUS--Jesus Barcenas 3 run (Ryan Brown kick), 2:08.
Fourth Quarter
DAI--Keaten Key 3 run (Whetstone kick), 4:28.
DAI--Malik Higgins 16 run (Whetstone kick), 2:00.

                                       EUS              DAI
First Downs                          14                 9
Total Yards                          250             277
Rushes-Yards                 62-250        21-208
Passing Yards                         0              69
Comp.-Att.-Int.                 0-3-2          5-13-1
Punts-Avg.                        1-7.0         1-31.0
Fumbles-Lost                       2-2              0-0
Penalties-Yards                   4-25            3-15

RUSHING--Eustace, Jesus Barcenas 39-159, Abed Abuhatab 6-33, Keenan Hargest 9-29, Ryan Brown 6-24, Steven Stine 2-5. Daingerfield, Keris Alexander 5-66, Cordarrius Anderson 11-57, Calvin Bryant 1-45, Tyrek Boyd 1-22, Malik Higgins 1-16, Keaten Key 1-3.
PASSING--Eustace, Brown 0-2-2--0, Stine 0-1-0--0. Daingerfield, Higgins 3-5-1--68, Alexander 2-7-0--1.
RECEIVING--Daingerfield, Bryant 2-40, Key 2-10, Boyd 1-19.