Gladewater Grinds Out 24-17 Victory Over Previously-Unbeaten Gainesville to Advance to Regional Final
ROYSE CITY -- Gladewater may have finished fourth in District 16-3A, but the Bears are now one of just eight teams remaining in the Class 3A Division II playoffs.
Gladewater dominated both lines of scrimmage, held a massive edge in time of possession and was perfect on fourth-down conversions in its 24-17 victory over previously-unbeaten Gainesville in their Region II semifinal on Saturday at Royse City ISD Stadium.
The Bears (7-6), which had not secured a postseason win since 2001 until two weeks ago, have won four consecutive games and will face No. 1 Argyle (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday from Dallas' Kincaide Stadium where the Eagles defeated fellow "District of Doom" member Gilmer 45-38 on Friday night.
"It's great, I'm really kinda shocked right now," said fourth-year Gladewater coach Jerrod Baugh. "All these kids that are seniors were freshmen when I took the job at Gladewater. You preach a lot of things whenever you first get a job … about hard work and things paying off. This just goes to show those kids that I wasn't full of crap."
The Bears controlled the ball for most of the game. Gladewater's four scoring drives covered a total of 281 yards in 52 plays and ate up more than 25 minutes of game clock. For the game, the Bears ran 70 plays to Gainesville's 34 and held a 15-minute advantage overall in time of possession.
Gladewater was 7 of 7 on fourth-down conversions with 6-1, 310-pound junior Daylon Mack collecting four of them. Mack, a Texas A&M commit and one of the nation's most sought-after recruits in the 2015 class, was also responsible for six of the Bears' eight successful third-down conversions. He finished with 68 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
"I'm just doing what I need to do to win," said Mack, who rushed for a career-high 178 yards and three touchdowns in last week's area-round win. "Last week, I had to run and this week I had to be sort of a decoy. We knew they were going to try to key in on me running the ball."
Mack also led a strong defensive showing for Gladewater, which limited Gainesville (11-1) to just 106 total yards and only 54 on the ground, finishing with a sack and three tackles for loss. Junior defensive lineman Eric Abston also recorded a sack and three tackles for loss as the Bears ended the night with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage as a team.
"They really like to trap and we get up the field pretty good," Mack said of Gainesville's offensive approach. "We had a good week of preparation, so we were ready for it."
Junior running back James Reese led Gladewater by running 19 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Darnell McKnight had 53 yards on 12 carries and sophomore fullback Justice Centers registered 36 yards and a score on eight attempts while hauling in a 12-yard touchdown reception from Nick Canaguier.
"We don't throw the ball around a lot and those running backs take a lot of beating and they're not real big kids," Baugh said. "It's important for us to be able to rotate those guys around."
Gainesville kicker Hector Sagrero cut Gladewater's lead to 18-10 with a 30-yard field goal with 7:44 remaining, but that was the last time the Leopards' offense saw the field. The Bears responded by putting together its final scoring drive of the night. Gladewater went 72 yards in 13 plays, and by the time Reese's 27-yard touchdown gave the Bears a 24-10 lead, Gainesville had just 1:16 remaining on the clock.
Adam Berryman returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to inject new life into the Gainesville sideline, but the Leopards' onside-kick attempt trickled out of bounds and Gladewater soon celebrated its third-round victory as the "District of Doom" improved to 11-1 in the playoffs.
"It's like I tell our kids all the time, 'if we could just find a way to get into the playoffs with the tough district that we're in, we'll be ready to play whoever it is that we're matched up against,'" Baugh said. "There can't be a better set of teams in one district to get you ready to play."
Gladewater took a 12-7 lead into halftime, but it could've been bigger. The Bears scored on their first two possessions of the game -- a 6-yard run by Centers and a 1-yard plunge by Mack -- but lost fumbles inside their own territory on their next two drives. The first turnover occurred inside the Gladewater 15 and led to a 9-yard scoring pass from Mason Copeland to Devin Mims with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter.
Despite limiting Gainesville to three first downs and 24 yards in the first half, the Bears entered the break nursing a five-point lead.
"I didn't feel real good at halftime," Baugh said. "As good as our defense played in the first half and only have a five-point lead going into halftime … I knew it was going to come down to the wire because of that. We really needed to score a few more points in the first half."
Gladewater received the kickoff to start the third quarter and began its longest drive of the night. The Bears traveled 81 yards in 13 plays and chewed seven minutes off the clock, converting on fourth-and-4 with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Canaguier to Centers off a play-fake to Mack that pushed the Bears' lead to 18-7.
Gainesville finally found some rhythm on the ensuing drive, but on third-and-3 from the Gladewater 16, Mack sacked Copeland for a three-yard loss and Kenneth Ainsworth followed a fourth-down stop behind the line of scrimmage to give the ball back to Gladewater.
The Leopards forced Gladewater's only punt of the game after that, and once again marched deep into Bears territory. But on third-and-6 from the Bears' 7, Gladewater's Kenneth Gossett dropped Jonathan Mendez for a six-yard loss, which led to Sagrero's field goal that trimmed Gladewater's lead to one score.
Mack carried the ball five times on the Bears' ensuing drive, picking up three first downs along the way, before Reese's touchdown provided the final blow to Gainesville.
"It definitely feels good to beat an undefeated team going into Argyle," Mack said. "It really makes us want to step it up some more."
Gladewater 24, Gainesville 17
Class 3A Division II Region II Semifinal
Royse City ISD Stadium
Gladewater 6 6 6 6 -- 24
Gainesville 0 7 0 10 -- 17
GLA--Justice Centers 6 run (kick failed), 2:23.
GLA--Daylon Mack 1 run (run failed), 6:16.
GAI--Devin Mims 9 pass from Mason Copeland (Hector Sagrero kick), 4:24.
GLA--Centers 12 pass from Nick Canaguier (run failed), 5:00.
GAI--FG Sagrero 30, 7:44.
GLA--James Reese 27 run (run failed), 1:16.
GAI--Adam Berryman 85 kickoff return (Sagrero kick), :57.
First Downs 22 7
Total Yards 300 106
Rushes-Yards 64-271 25-54
Passing Yards 29 52
Comp.-Att.-Int. 3-6-0 3-9-0
Punts-Avg. 1-32.0 3-34.7
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-12 5-34
RUSHING--Gladewater, James Reese 19-87, Daylon Mack 16-68, Darnell McKnight 12-53, Justice Centers 8-36, Daryl Polk 6-14, Nick Canaguier 2-10, Cameron Callaway 1-3. Gainesville, Adam Berryman 10-44, Jonathan Mendez 4-24, Demarius Farr 3-0, Mason Copeland 8-(-14).
PASSING--Gladewater, Canaguier 3-6-0--29. Gainesville, Copeland 3-9-0--52.
RECEIVING--Gladewater, Centers 2-18, Polk 1-11. Gainesville, Farr 1-31, Mendez 1-12, Devin Mims 1-9.