Playoff Veteran Tenaha Draws Undefeated Iola For Regional Title
CLASS 2A DIVISION II
Region III Championship
Tenaha Tigers (10-1)
Iola Bulldogs (11-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
- Tenaha: Terry Ward
- Iola: Pete Martinez
Road to regional final
- Bi-district: bye
- Area: def. Muenster, 35-21
- Regional semifinal: def. Chilton, 34-9
- Winner faces Bremond-Bruni winner, 2A Division II state semifinal
- RB/S Cobe Caraway, Sr., 5-8, 168 (164 carries, 2,060 yards, 29 TDs; 40 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 PBUs, fumble recovery)
- WR/DB D'Andre Thomas, Sr., 6-2, 175 (34 catches, 670 yards, 9 TDs; 14 carries, 83 yards, 2 TDs; 29 tackles, 3 for loss, INT, 12 PBUs)
- WR Colton Goeke, Jr., 6-1, 165 (31 catches, 507 yards, 4 TDs)
- QB/DB TJ Thomas, Sr., 5-8, 160 (71 of 136, 1,233 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs; 82 carries, 442 yards, 7 TDs; 84 tackles, 4 for loss, 5 INTs, 2 PBUs)
- LB Da'Marcus Perry, Sr. (141 tackles, 14 for loss, 6 sacks, INT, 3 PBUs, forced fumble, recovery)
- RB/DB Markevaus Reed, Sr., 5-11, 160 (55 carries, 438 yards, 5 TDs; 51 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 INTs, PBU)
- DB Seth Wyatt, Sr. (31 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 PBUs)
- LB DiCarlo Dudley, Jr. (47 tackles, 5 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, recovery)
- QB/DB Hayden Martinez, Sr., 5-11, 205 (58 of 76, 1,164 yards, 17 TDs; 148 carries, 1,917 yards, 37 TDs; 3 INTs, defensive TD)
- WR/DB Tyler Dykes, Fr., 5-9, 150
- DL Reed Fairbanks, Sr., 6-2, 315
- TE Ryan Renick, Jr., 6-4, 220
- OL Dustin Timm, Sr., 6-0, 281
- OL Will Mallett, Sr., 6-3, 245
- WR Will Nevill, Jr., 6-2, 185
- RB/DB Court Creamer, Sr., 5-6, 155
Just the facts
- Tenaha is in its fourth consecutive state quarterfinal. It's 3-0 in this round in the last three years with wins over Mount Enterprise (55-6), Frost (34-30) and Bremond (24-7).
- Since Terry Ward took over the program prior to the 2009 season, Tenaha is 65-13. The Tigers are 17-4 in the playoffs over that span.
- Fort the season, Tenaha is averaging 40.5 points and 431.7 yards per game -- 318.2 rushing and 113.5 passing.
- During its current seven-game winning streak, Tenaha has outscored its opponents by an average of 29 points.
- The cumulative record of Tenaha's opponents this season is 64-56.
- The previous two times Iola reached the quarterfinal round, the Bulldogs lost to East Texas teams -- Alto in 2006 and Big Sandy in 2005.
- Iola is averaging 54.1 points per game, while allowing 8.8. Its closest win came against Muenster in the area round of the playoffs, 35-21.
- The cumulative record of Iola's opponents this season is 48-71.
Key matchup: Tenaha rushing attack vs. Iola defensive front. No team has been able to stop Tenaha senior running back Cobe Caraway this season, and it will take a big-time effort from the Iola defense to contain the speedster on Friday night. Caraway has played in 10 games this season and has already eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark, rushing for at least 200 yards in a game seven times, including a streak of five consecutive entering this week's clash. Only once has Caraway been held to less than 100 yards in a game, but that came in a 49-15 rout of Maud back on Oct. 10. Since then, he has put together five straight 200-yard performances and scored a total of 20 touchdowns. Caraway only averages 16 carries a game, but when you put up more than 12 yards per attempt, the damage has already been done. A mid-season injury cost Caraway all of the playoffs last season, and the senior is certainly making up for the lost time.
Iola's defense has been stifling all season long, especially against the run. In last week's win, the Bulldogs limited Chilton to just 104 total yards, holding star running back Demarcus Simpson to just five yards on seven carries and quarterback Norvell Alston to 58 yards on 15 attempts. For the season, Iola is allowing less than nine points per game, yielding just a touchdown or less to five opponents. However, the Bulldogs will be confronted with their biggest challenge to date. Tenaha has just one loss -- a 72-21 defeat to unbeaten Alto -- and has quality wins over TAPPS Division II quarterfinalist Bullard Brook Hill and 3A Division I postseason qualifier White Oak. Stopping Tenaha's ground game will be key. Even though Tenaha quarterback TJ Thomas brings solid numbers into Friday's game, the Tigers' offense is built around Caraway and its ability to run the ball. Thomas has attempted more than 20 passes in a game only once this season, and with a completion percentage at 52 percent, Iola could gain a huge edge in time of possession if it can contain Tenaha's explosiveness on the ground.
Don't be surprised if: Iola attempts to play keep-away from Tenaha when it has the ball. The Bulldogs' senior quarterback Hayden Martinez is a tough runner and hard to bring down one-on-one in the open field. Martinez is nearing 2,000 yards on the ground and has 37 rushing touchdowns to go with his solid numbers through the air. Chilton is known for team speed, but so is Tenaha, and the Tigers have burned opponents in the playoffs over the last half-decade. In addition to Caraway, the Tigers can turn to TJ Thomas, receiver D'Andre Thomas or running back Markevaus Reed to deliver explosive plays. That's one reason why it would be wise for Iola to possess the ball as often as possible Friday night. Iola and Tenaha share one common opponent: Normangee, which Iola disposed of by a score of 57-12 in the regular-season finale and Tenaha took down, 47-7, last week. Judging by that, the two teams appear to be evenly matched. But the game will ultimately come down to which unit plays best -- Tenaha's running game or Iola's rush defense.