Hallsville shocked the high school football landscape with a thrilling Class 5A Division II bi-district playoff win over defending state champion Ennis last Friday night.

The 24-23 victory sent a Hallsville team that ended the regular season with a 63-20 loss to Longview into the area round of the playoffs.

The Bobcats put that loss behind them to pull off a comeback victory.

“We knew it’d be a tough win. Ennis is a team that knows how to win in the playoffs. We watched film and thought we could do it, but you never know if you can play with a team like that until the game starts. I think we started to find our way in the second half,” Hallsville head coach David Plunk said. “We threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown that we thought we would struggle to overcome, but we made the right plays and ended up on the right side of that one.”

Hallsville was down nine points with seven minutes remaining in the game after Ennis returned the interception for a touchdown. The Bobcats were able to drive down the field, score, get the onside kick, and then hit a late field goal to take the lead. It still wasn’t over, however.

“Our defense still had to go on the field and get a stop after our offense and special teams made big plays to give us the lead,” Plunk said. “That was a total team effort.”

It was the first playoff win for Hallsville since a victory in 2003 over a Palestine team led by running back Adrian Peterson.

“That was big for us,” Plunk said of ending the playoff losing streak. “We got the monkey off our back. Interestingly, Ennis was the team that knocked us out of the area round back in 2003 when we beat Palestine. Now it is time to go out, get excited and win another one.”

To do that, Hallsville (7-4) must beat an athletic Lancaster (8-3) squad. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday from Tyler's Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

“We’ll need turnovers and to eliminate their running game so we can cover those two really good receivers Lancaster has.” Plunk said. “Offensively, we need to establish our running game and block them up front. They’re too fast for us if we don’t establish a running game.”

After a huge win over Ennis, the worry for Hallsville is letting the hangover of that win carry over to the area round of the playoffs.

“We need to avoid that hangover from the Ennis win. Lancaster is a really good football team and we need the same effort and more to get a win this week,” Plunk said. “Lancaster has a great defense. I really see no weaknesses for them on that side of the ball. They have two really good wide receivers and a quarterback who can make plays. They have a lot of great athletes.”

The good news for Hallsville is that the Bobcats are used to facing top competition. This is a team that knocked off Carthage and Nacogdoches in overtime to start the season.

“Those two wins in overtime against teams like Carthage and Nacogdoches really taught our kids the value of playing a full 48 minutes,” Plunk said. “Our confidence grew early and the thing about us is we know what a good football team looks like, so we know how to play the team in front of us.”