East Texas Playoff Representation Cut In Half After Wild Weekend
East Texas broke even last week. The region began the weekend with 12 teams still remaining in the high school football playoffs, and after an eventful couple of days, six remain.
Perhaps the biggest storyline that emerged from last week came from Class 3A Division I where, after Kilgore's 42-32 loss to Stephenville and Carthage's 29-25 setback to El Campo, there will not be an East Texas state champion for the first time since 2008.
There were also three district rematches from the regular season, with the regular-season loser got revenge in two instances with Daingerfield's thrilling 35-28 win over New Boston and Elysian Fields' 21-14 upset of Hughes Springs.
The other rematch was the most anticipated game of the weekend. Despite falling behind by 17 points in the first half, Gilmer kept its season alive by rallying past District of Doom counterpart Henderson, 41-34, in front of a standing-room only crowd at Longview's Lobo Stadium.
In Class A, one team was responsible for wiping out an entire East Texas district. Mart took care of District 10-A's Alto Yellowjackets, 62-42, after eliminating West Sabine and San Augustine in the two previous weeks.
And after another crazy week of playoff action throughout Texas, the last defending state champion still alive in the postseason is from East Texas -- the Tenaha Tigers, who stayed a alive with a 34-30 win over Frost.
Here's a brief recap of the week that was in East Texas high school football.
Over And Out
With two area teams on either side of the bracket, there appeared to be a good chance that East Texas would be represented in the 3A D-I state championship game for the fourth consecutive year.
And it almost happened.
Kilgore spotted favored Stephenville a 35-10 second-quarter lead before scoring the game's next 22 points to get within three with just over five minutes to go in Mansfield.
In the meantime, down in Beaumont, the Carthage Bulldogs led El Campo 25-14 late in the fourth quarter and it looked for all the world that Carthage would be headed to its fourth state title game in five years.
But El Campo rallied for two touchdowns in the game's final 3:27 to stun the Bulldogs, while Stephenville iced its win over Kilgore with a touchdown at the 2:09 mark of the fourth quarter.
Neither Kilgore or Carthage could follow up 3A D-I state titles won by Gilmer in 2009, Henderson in 2010 and Chapel Hill in 2011.
Best Served Cold
Daingerfield and New Boston were involved in a classic during their regular season matchup, a 38-37 victory by New Boston, which got the game-winning touchdown with 7:15 remaining in the fourth.
Last Friday's state quarterfinal would be decided much later.
Daingerfield's Edwin Mims fielded a punt at his own 30-yard line and navigated his way 70 yards to end zone with just 45 seconds to go, which put the Tigers into the state semifinal round for the fourth time in five years.
Over in Longview on Saturday night, there weren't very many people giving Elysian Fields a chance to avenge its 55-14 district loss to unbeaten Hughes Springs, especially after the Yellow Jackets fell behind 14-0 late in the first half.
But quarterback Trevor Spear hooked up with Nathan Hall on a 62-yard touchdown right before the half and took it in himself from 16 yards out to bring his team to within a point, 14-13, early in the third quarter.
Spear and Hall began the comeback and finished it off when the two connected for the game-winning 49-yard touchdown with 2:36 remaining.
For the second consecutive week, Elysian Fields had avenged a regular-season loss. The Jackets took out Arp in the regional semifinals after dropping a 43-13 decision back on Sept. 14.
Right On Schedule
When the season began, the John Tyler Lions had perhaps the highest expectations of any team in the area. JT returned 16 starters from last season's state semifinalist and opened the year ranked No. 3 in Class 4A.
And after the Lions' win over Frisco Centennial, a game in which JT trailed for just 1:10, they are back in the semis for the second straight year.
The game was dominated by senior receiver Fred Ross, who had 13 catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns. The Oklahoma State commit was matched up all night with Centennial cornerback Ranthony Texada, a TCU pledge.
The ease with which the Newton Eagles handled their regular season compelled many to proclaim Newton as favorites for the Class 2A D-I crown. And the Eagles have done nothing to quell the expectations.
Newton ran at will in its rout of Franklin, going for 416 yards, led by junior running back Kevin Shorter's 275 yards and four touchdowns.
In three playoff games, Newton has outscored the opposition 199-65.
Hitting The Wall
Mart head coach Rusty Nail probably shouldn't expect any Christmas cards from any of the coaches in District 10-A after what his Panthers have done to its three playoff teams.
First it was Mart's 69-15 thrashing of West Sabine. Then came its 49-21 rout of district champion San Augustine.
Mart completed the trifecta last Friday night by pulling away from Alto in the second half. After the Yellowjackets pulled to within a touchdown in the third quarter, Mart went back to work and scored the game's next 20 points to take control.
Last One Standing
Defending Class A Division II state champion Tenaha lost four of its first six games, but seven straight wins have the Tigers one win from playing for their second consecutive title.
Tenaha's win over Frost, coupled with losses by Southlake Carroll and Mason, the Tigers are Texas' only 11-man state champion left from 2011.
And the Tigers had to earn it.
Tenaha blew a 26-8 lead, eventually falling behind 30-26 in the fourth quarter. Chavis Gregory's 17-yard touchdown run gave the lead back to Tenaha, but the Tigers needed a Frost fumble at the Tenaha 2-yard line on the game's final play to advance to the state semifinals.