GLADEWATER -- It was a good night to be a Bear.

Gladewater got a little help from elsewhere in District 7-4A Division II play and finished Friday in a two-team tie for second place in the league with its 22-7 win against Atlanta at Jack V. Murphy Stadium.

More than that, the squad showed what its I-formation offense could do against the most physical run defense it has come across in seven games played.

"That may be the best defense in the district," Bears head coach John Berry said. "Arguably, ours is pretty good too. But Atlanta lined up good, they had a good plan for us tonight and have the kind of kids at Atlanta that can line up out in front of us and play. I think they played us really well.

"Enough so that we had to scratch our heads, make sure we were dialed in. We're, of course, committed in what we do. Probably the difference in it is they're playing a lot of those kids on both sides of the ball. It just took its toll eventually. Well played by them and well thought out by them."

Bears tight end Michael Sanchez caught both of Gladewater's completed passes for 31 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

The Rabbits (5-3, 1-2) led for all of 61 seconds in the contest, finally breaking a scoreless draw with 1:11 left in the first half when Trin Taylor converted fourth-and-6 for a 13-yard touchdown on a pass from Layton Henson.

Both teams endured misfortune after misfortune in the opening act.

Gladewater's first four drives ended on an interception, two turnovers on downs as well as a punt, and it missed a fifth possession by muffing a punt. Atlanta had punted, turned the ball over on downs, missed a 28-yard field goal and fumbled on first-and-goal from less than one yard away prior to its touchdown.

It didn't take long for the Bears (6-1, 2-1) to break their own slump after falling into the 7-0 hole. Quarterback Cameron Callaway took a designed run all the way 58 yards to begin the ensuing drive and then connected with tight end Michael Sanchez from seven yards out two plays later with 10 seconds to go before halftime.

From there, Gladewater gained the lead on Callaway's surprise two-point conversion pass to running back Isaiah Davis out of the swinging gate formation. That gave the squad all the points it would ultimately need for the win.

"We just knew that if we kept grinding on them and kept grinding on them that eventually they would wear out," Davis said. "Eventually, we'd grind them out and we'd keep on pushing."

Linebacker Michael Batchelor (31) and end Draka Ransom (8) catch Atlanta quarterback Layton Henson for a 7-yard sack in the third quarter of Friday's game. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

Davis' defense dug in afterward, holding Atlanta to a three-and-out and then deflecting the punt for a net of 10 yards to midfield just after Gladewater had fumbled at Atlanta's 35-yard line

Davis broke a 39-yard run from midfield to tee himself up for a 2-yard score the next play and a 15-7 lead.

Gladewater's defense held Atlanta at bay again and Callaway ran in a 9-yard option keeper to close a 14-play, 84-yard drive over seven minutes.

Atlanta's hopes of coming back completely died in an unfortunate incident. Henson got face-masked in the Rabbits' followup drive and left the game with an apparent back injury.

Backup signal-caller Grant Harrell got the team down to Gladewater's 21-yard line from the 50, but two incomplete passes ended the drive inside the final five minutes. The Bears got a first down, made the Rabbits burn their final two timeouts and then converted fourth-and-inches at the 40.

Gladewater stopped Atlanta from scoring eight times in nine opportunities, allowed 154 yards and averaged less than three yards per snap.

The Rabbits' defense relented after a strong start. Davis broke out for a net of 108 yards on 28 carries, Callaway went for 91 yards with seven touches and the run-oriented offense as a whole generated five yards per play in spite of the slow start.

"We've had some explosive plays from both of those guys this year, and that's something that they've done their whole career," Berry said. "However, once we've gotten into district, we've played some really good teams. We played some really good teams as well. Kilgore was the same way for us, kind of methodical. But when you do what we do on offense, eventually it just ends up being there and you've got guys like Callaway and Davis."

Gladewater safety Austin Hawley (15), who committed to ULM on Thursday, recovers an Atlanta fumble in the end zone to preserve a 0-0 tie in the second quarter of play. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

The win alone simply split a third-place tie between the Bears and Rabbits. Gilmer and Pittsburg began the day tied for first place with 2-0 league records.

Gilmer defeated Spring Hill and advanced to 3-0 in the district standings. Atlanta will try to hand Gilmer -- which beat Gladewater in its prior game -- a loss next week.

Pleasant Grove upset Pittsburg in Texarkana, 31-18, and knocked Pittsburg into a second-place tie with Gladewater. Pittsburg will will host the Bears next week in a battle of second-place teams.

Atlanta dropped into a tie with Pleasant Grove for fourth place, but the Rabbits own the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head win last week.

"There are five teams in this district that all deserve to be in the playoffs and that I think are at least second-round teams," Berry said. "Pleasant Grove is one of them ready to do that. I don't think any coaches are overlooking them, certainly not us. I'm not surprised that they did what they did to Pittsburg even though Pittsburg is one of the most talented teams, if not the most talented team.

"So, what does it mean? Everything is still in play. The district championship is still in play, playoff berths are still out there for everybody. Atlanta could go out there and win out as well. P.G. is out there, where hopefully they won't get us at home in the last game, but it will be there for them to play for." 

Gladewater's Isaiah Davis (3) hits the end zone to give the Bears a 15-7 lead late in the third quarter of Friday's District 7-4A Division II contest. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

Gladewater 22, Atlanta 7

District 7-4A Division II
Jack V. Murphy Stadium, Gladewater

Atlanta               0     7      0       0   --       7
Gladewater        0     8      7       7    --    22

Second Quarter
ATL--Trin Taylor 13 pass from Layton Henson (Jaime Campos kick), 1:11
GLA--Michael Sanchez 7 pass from Cameron Callaway Jr., (Isaiah Davis pass from Callaway), :10
Third Quarter
GLA--Davis 2 run (Luke Anthony kick), 4:53
Fourth Quarter
GLA--Callaway 9 run (Anthony kick), 9:37

                                          ATL                  GLA
First Downs                         10                     11
Total Yards                        154                    302
Rushes-Yards                  27-56                55-271
Passing Yards                      98                     31
Comp.-Att.-Int.                13-26-0              2-4-1
Punts-Avg.                        4-25.3               1-25
Fumbles-Lost                     1-1                    4-2
Penalties-Yards                 8-62                  4-58

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Atlanta, Kelton Young 7-32, Layton Henson 13-10, Nick Cooper 6-9, Trin Taylor 1-5. Gladewater, Isaiah Davis 28-108, Cameron Callaway Jr. 7-91, Darnell McKnight 17-59, Raymundo Alvarez 1-8, Rashaud Johnson 2-5.
PASSING--Atlanta, Henson 9-16-0--61, Grant Harrell 4-10-0--37. Gladewater, Callaway 2-3-1--31, Luke Anthony 0-1-0--0.
RECEIVING--Atlanta, Jose Arrrendondo 1-21, Hunter Roberts 3-19, Ken Butler 3-19, Taylor 2-17, Desmond Webster 2-13, Young 1-6, Jawan King 1-3. Gladewater, Michael Sanchez 2-31.