KILGORE -- It didn't take long for Gladewater head coach John Berry and his crew to calm the nerves of fans after last week's somewhat surprising regular season finale loss.

Darnell McKnight completed a 38-yard halfback pass to Tyler Glenn the first play from scrimmage and set the tone against Tatum. Moving the ball and scoring came easily in meaningful time toward a 35-7 Bears win Friday in the first round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs at Kilgore's R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

"Our offensive coordinator had a really good plan for tonight," Berry said. "So did our defensive coordinator. All of our coaches did a great job getting us ready to play. We just had a good feeling about that play, I think. The fronts we've played the past weeks have just gotten tighter and tighter.

"We've been throwing the ball better recently, but it's something we need to do a lot better each week to at least get a legitimate front up there."

Clint Starling filled in for Darnell McKnight and ended up leading Gladewater with a team-best 140 rushing yards on 19 carries. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

McKnight looked about full speed early in the contest, a great thing because it's been a season filled with nagging injuries for the ultra physical senior utility back out of the I-formation.

But, as quickly as fans began to feel good about that particular issue, the injury bug reared its ugly head once again for McKnight. He lost his helmet on a hard, 2-yard run with 1:50 to play in the first quarter and caught someone else's helmet on the way down.

McKnight put up 78 total yards and spearheaded two scoring drives for a 15-0 lead just 8:30 into the game before exiting.

Gladewater's trainers subsequently cleared McKnight for more action, but the Bears had built a 22-0 advantage by that point. Berry held the back out for the rest of the contest.

Clint Starling got to shine in McKnight's absence alongside fellow primary back Isaiah Davis.

Starling ultimately rushed for a game-best 140 yards and scored once in just a tad more than three quarters of work. Davis added another 115 yards on 23 carries, scored twice on the ground and caught two passes for 42 yards.

That's the kind of night if was for Tatum (7-4) defensively.

The Eagles didn't fare much better on offense. They got held to 53 yards in the first half and went on to record 182 with the aid of an 80-yard touchdown run by Cedric White to make it a 25-7 game late in the third quarter.

Still, Tatum increased its win total 700 percent this season. It made the playoffs on the heels of a winless campaign.

"I'll tell you what, Tatum football has come miles in one football season," Berry said. "I have to give them a lot of credit. They are really a lot better than the last time we saw them. They're pretty good. This is a game, especially with the type of athletes they have, if we slacked a little bit like we did against Pleasant Grove, they would have run for 500 yards out here."

There was no slack. Tatum was one of three casualties from District 8-4A Division II against the four playoff teams from Gladewater's District 7-4A Division II.

McKnight opened the game with his pass down to the Eagles' 33-yard line. It took the Bears eight more plays to find the end zone, including a fourth-and-3 conversion run by McKnight.

Gladewater running back Isaiah Davis celebrates the game's opening touchdown with receiver Fernando Serrano. Davis scored twice and recorded 157 all-purpose yards. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

Davis gave the team a permanent lead with a 1-yard dive into the end zone ahead of quarterback Cameron Callaway Jr. running in a two-point conversion out of the swinging gate.

Tatum answered with a penalty plagued three-and-out and the Bears drove 55 yards in seven plays to set up a 15-yard option pitch from Callaway to Davis for a 15-0 lead.

Tatum went three-and-out again.

Callaway's 10-yard score less than two minutes into the second quarter completed the drive McKnight started but could not finish.

The lead increased to 25-0 in the third quarter with a 26-yard field goal from starting linebacker and kicker Fernando Serrano.

White scored his 80-yard touchdown to get Tatum on the board late in the third quarter. Gladewater answered in the form of a 27-yard field goal from Serrano and a 15-yard run from Starling in the final period.

Gladewater's reward is a date with Celina in the area round of the playoffs. Celina reached the Class 4A Division II state championship game last year and might have won it if starting quarterback Conner Pingleton had not broken his arm on the first drive of the game.

Pingleton is back and Celina drilled Emory Rains, 66-21, elsewhere Friday.

Berry said the two surviving teams want to play at City Bank Stadium in Forney. A time and date for the game will probably be announced later this weekend.

"I think our kids have lined up against pretty good ones," Berry said, "seeing Pittsburg, Gilmer, Atlanta, Pleasant Grove, Carthage, Kilgore, Lindale and Chapel Hill. When we were scheduling them, we were trying to get ready to compete at a state level. Celina, we know, is one of those teams."

Bears receiver Tyler Gleen hauls in Darnell McKnight's for a 38-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

Gladewater 35, Tatum 7

Class 4A Division II Bi-District Playoff Game
At R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, Kilgore

Tatum                    0     0       7        0    --       7
Gladewater           15    7       3       19    --     35

First Quarter
GLA--Isaiah Davis 1 run (Cameron Callaway Jr. run), 8:19
GLA--Davis 15 run (Fernando Serrano kick), 3:27
Second Quarter
GLA--Callaway 10 run (Serrano kick), 10:05
Third Quarter
GLA--Serrano 26 field goal, 8:02
TAT--Cedric White 80 run (kick successful), 1:133
Fourth Quarter
GLA--Serrano 27 field goal, 9:24
GLA--Clint Starling 15 run (Serrano kick), 6:55

                                         TAT                GLA
First Downs                         7                   22
Total Yards                       182                428
Rushes-Yards              30-151               58-351
Passing Yards                    39                   77
Comp.-Att.-Int.              6-16-0               4-7-0
Punts-Avg.                    6-38.1             2-40.0
Fumbles-Lost                    1-0                  1-0
Penalties-Yards                3-25               5-35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Tatum, Cedric White 15-120, Jermaine Moore 5-13, LeMarcus Harmon 3-12, Ob Jones 3-6, Demonte Byrd 2-4, Omari Dickerson 2-(-4). Gladewater, Clint Starling 19-140, Isaiah Davis 23-115, Cameron Callaway Jr. 7-52, Darnell McKnight 8-40, Rashaud Johnson 1-4.
PASSING--Tatum, Ob Jones 6-15-0--31, Spencer Liles 0-1-0--0. Gladewater, Callaway 3-6-0--39, McKnight 1-1-0--38.
RECEIVING--Tatum, Jachias Jenkins 4-19, Liles 1-10, Dickerson 1-2. Gladewater, Davis 2-42, Tyler Glenn 2-35.