Gladewater Takes Care Of Fairfield + Sets Up Third-Round Showdown Against Gilmer
[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]
LONGVIEW -- With a potential matchup ahead with a familiar rival, the Gladewater Bears could have easily looked past the Fairfield Eagles.
That didn’t happen.
The Bears ran right through the Eagles, pounding the ball on the ground and shutting them out in the second half on their way to a 34-16 victory in a Class 4A Division II Region II area playoff Friday night at Lobo Stadium.
Gladewater's 11th win of the year, the school’s most since 2001, combined with Gilmer’s 80-21 victory over Waco Connally, sets up a huge showdown of old rivals, next Friday at Lobo Stadium in the Region II semifinal. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Fairfield, just a year removed from a 3A state title game appearance, finished its season at 9-3.
Coming off three consecutive victories by 40 points or more, the Bears faced their first big test in over a month. Their response impressed first-year head coach John Berry.
“We had to respond to a good football team,” Berry said. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone who could play at that level. They played at a high level, and did some really good things, had some good schemes for us on both sides of the ball. We had to make some adjustments in both our level of play and how we were doing it. I was proud of them for doing that.”
James Reese lead a stable of backs for Gladewater (11-1). The senior picked up 207 yards on 21 carries, finding the end zone twice. Seven other ball carriers toted the rock for the Bears, as they racked up 418 yards on 57 carries.
“James Reese has been a great running back for us for two years,” Berry said. “This is what we get from James every week. He’s a good football player that plays a lot bigger than he is physically. He’s got a lot of skills running the ball and he showed it out here tonight.”
Darnell McKnight added 64 yards, Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack had 51 yards and two scores, while Marcello Jackson had just one carry for 38 yards, but it was a big one as it seeming sealed the deal for the Bears.
Opening up the second half with just a slim 20-16 lead after an Eagles field goal at the halftime horn, the Bears put their most complete drive of the game together to start the third.
Starting at their own 17-yard line, the Bears moved the ball methodically, carving out 8:26 of game-time, all on the ground. The 16-play drive featured a heavy-dose of Mack, including runs of 10 and 4 on third-and-11 and fourth-and-1 plays to move the ball into Fairfield territory.
A 13-yard carry for Reese set up Mack for the next five carries, and the big man rumbled into the end zone on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line, putting the Bears up 27-16.
Fairfield’s next two possessions didn’t end well as a 10-play drive ended with a 40-yard field goal attempt that was wide left.
The duo of Haisan Baker and Dominic Brackens did the majority of the damage for the Eagles throughout the night.
Baker finished the night completing 10 of his 19 passes for 97 yards and added 58 yards and a score on the ground. Tailback Dominic Brackens was impressive, finishing with 136 yards on 19 carries.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Eagles moved the ball well again to the Bears' 22-yard line, where Jackson made the first of his two big plays.
Jackson intercepted a Haisan Baker pass at the 5-yard line and returning it 18 yards.
A 34-yard carry by Reese moved the ball across midfield, and three plays later, Jackson took his only carry of the night 38 yards to paydirt, putting things out of reach.
An interception by Austin Hawley, the Bears' third forced turnover of the night, sealed the second-half shutout and set up the showdown with Gilmer next week.
“It’s always a great football game,” Berry said of the Gilmer-Gladewater matchups. “Both communities have proud football traditions. We’re looking forward to another good game with them. Offensively they’re as good as anybody in Texas, and they probably have the best offensive player in East Texas playing for them. We’ll have our work cut out for us defensively and we’ll have to manage the ball well on offense when we get it.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair.
The Bears opened up the scoring after forcing an Eagles punt, reeling off a nine-play 82-yard drive -- all on the ground.
Five different ball carriers toted the ball on the opening drive, with Reese runs of 5, 15 and 17 yards setting up his score from 14 yards out. The two-point attempt failed, as the Bears took a 6-0 lead.
Fairfield answered right back, behind the legs of Brackens. His 27-yard carry on third-and-1 put the ball inside the Bears' 10, where Baker finished the drive two plays later with an 8-yard score, tying the game at 6-6.
The Eagles took the lead on their next possession, following a 34-yard punt from the Bears that started their drive at their own 35. Fairfield used the arm of Baker on a 12-play drive, with the signal-caller completing all four of his pass attempts, the last of which found Colby Minze for a 13-yard score.
Gladewater answered back when a 5-yard run from Reese, which was followed by a 13-yard keeper by quarterback Nick Canaguier, with Reese hitting paydirt from 46 yards away on the next play. The extra point was blocked, keeping Fairfield in front 13-12.
The Bears regained possession quickly as Daylon Gordon forced a fumble on a Baker keeper that Kenneth Ainsworth recovered.
Two big runs by McKnight were called back by penalties, however, the Bears chipped away with runs from Reese and McKnight setting up Mack for a 6-yard score. He added the two-point conversion for good measure, giving the Bears a 20-13 lead.
The Eagles punted on their next possession, giving the Bears an opportunity to add to their lead before half.
Michael Gibson had other plans as he picked off a deep Canaguier pass returning it to near midfield.
The Bears appeared to be headed to the half with a seven-point lead, however a personal foul penalty after a 21-yard run by Baker lead to an untimed down, where Erick Reyes hit a 31-yard field goal, cutting the halftime lead to 20-16.
No. 8 Gladewater 34, Fairfield 16
Class 4A Division II
Region III Area Playoff
At Lobo Stadium, Longview
Fairfield 6 10 0 0 -- 16
Gladewater 6 14 7 7 -- 34
GLA--James Reese 14 run (two-point failed), 6:33.
FAI--Haisan Baker 8 run (kick failed), 4:26.
FAI--Colby Minze 13 pass from Baker (Erick Reyes kick), 9:05.
GLA--Reese 46 run (kick failed), 7:50.
GLA--Daylon Mack 6 run (Mack run), 3:35.
FAI--FG Reyes 31, :00.
GLA--Mack 2 run (Fernando Serrano kick), 3:34.
GLA--Marcello Jackson 38 run (Serrano kick), 5:02.
First Downs 15 19
Total Yards 291 455
Rushes-Yards 30-194 57-418
Passing Yards 97 37
Comp.-Att.-Int. 10-19-2 1-4-1
Punts-Avg. 2-46.0 2-46.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-20 9-101
RUSHING--Fairfield, Dominic Brackens 19-136, Haisan Baker 11-58. Gladewater, James Reese 21-207, Darnell McKnight 9-64, Daylon Mack 12-51, Marcello Jackson 1-38, Nick Canaguier 5-23, Justice Centers 3-22, Daryl Polk 5-22, Cameron Calloway 1-(-9).
PASSING--Fairfield, Baker 10-19-2--97. Gladewater, Canaguier 1-4-1--37.
RECEIVING--Fairfield, Colby Minze 4-48, Cameron Hicks 4-24, Chance Carroll 2-25. Gladewater, Blake Guthrie 1-37.