Pleasant Grove Nearly Gets Measure Of Revenge Against Abilene Wylie + Lufkin And Marshall To Division I Consolations
COLLEGE STATION -- It was only the State 7-on-7 Tournament, but Pleasant Grove tended to forget that fact when it realized Abilene Wylie was coming down the pipe in the quarterfinal round of the Division II championship bracket Friday.
Wylie gave Carthage everything it wanted for three quarters in last season's Class 4A Division I football state championship game. More than that, the Wylie baseball team eliminated Pleasant Grove's squad in the state semifinal round for a second consecutive year less than a month ago.
The Hawks nearly pulled off a statement win for themselves and to the state at College Station's Veterans Park and Athletic Complex. Nearly.
Wylie connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining on the game's continuous clock, squeaked by with a 35-33 win and eventually advanced to the championship round before meeting its match in Graham.
"They were a really fundamental team," safety Chauncey Martin said just after the tournament-ending loss. "We had to really focus on their routes. They ran really great routes. It wasn't just they were super fast, physical or strong. They were just smart. We really wanted them. We've got a baseball player on our team that really wanted to play them, but we just looked at them as a regular team once the game actually got started."
Martin's described transition from excitement to focus paid big dividends in the first half. The Hawks led 27-14 at the break thanks to four touchdowns throws by sophomore quarterback Ben Harmon, who finished the game 32-for-36 with two interceptions.
Both interceptions led to second-half Wylie scores. That's how Wylie garnered the possession that won the game.
Pleasant Grove, at the top of the 45-yard field, got two plays off after the game-winning score. Harmon completed a short pass to get within 38 yards of the end zone, but his final throw was just his fourth incomplete pass of the contest.
Luke Harmon recorded a team-best three touchdowns in the meeting and finished with 12 receptions.
While the loss stung a program that exited Thursday's pool play segment undefeated and with extremely high expectations for bracket play, the squad managed to tie for the best finish among East Texas teams in the Division II tournament.
San Augustine also reached the quarterfinal round and lost to China Spring.
Pleasant Grove defeated Mexia, 33-32, in the tournament's round of 32 and waxed Lubbock Estacado in the next round by a score of 39-14. San Augustine, meanwhile, knocked out Palestine and Lexington.
The two local sides would have met in the semifinal round, thus guaranteeing the region a presence in the championship game.
"It was a fun," Luke Harmon said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it. I like this town and just competing with my boys. It was a great experience for us moving forward."
Moving forward entails eventually falling into District 7-4A Division II competition alongside Atlanta, Gilmer, Gladewater, Pittsburg and Spring Hill. Five of the six league teams were in playoff contention entering Week 11, and Gilmer reached the state semifinal round for a third consecutive year.
"We've still got strength and conditioning," Luke Harmon said. "We're working on plays and just waiting to get into the pads. We want to go all the way to the Dallas Cowboys' stadium."
Marshall Drops Must-Win To Houston Lamar
One of Claude Mathis' signatures as a high school head football coach and athletics director is his willingness to travel great distances to see his teams compete.
Like all Texas high school coaches, Mathis is forced to surrender control of his 7-on-7 team to volunteer coaches. But that doesn't stop him from delivering motivating pregame and postgame speeches.
The message Friday after a 1-2 Pool H performance was playing for pride in Saturday's Division I consolation bracket. There are still valuable reps out there for his players, but those won't come chasing a true 7-on-7 state championship.
Marshall got called for pass interference on 4th-and-goal with the final pool game in grasp and fell to Houston Lamar, 40-25. Both teams were 1-1 in the pool and the winner was going to get the nod for the championship bracket.
The turnover on downs turned first down from the 1-yard line inside two minutes to play allowed Lamar to regain a two-possession lead. Lamar then scored on a pick-six the final play of the game.
Quarterback Marshall Green, filling in for injured starter Hunter Herrington, led the Mavericks to leads of 6-0 and 13-7 before the offense took a step back. Lamar scored the final two touchdowns of the half for an advantage it never fully relinquished.
Green got his squad back within two points in the second half and then within three points his next time out, but Lamar got second life on the pass interference call and took advantage.
Marshall will face Edinburgh North at 8 a.m. in its round of 32 consolation game.
Bug Thompson's Interception Returns Spur Lufkin To Win
Lufkin found itself in a defensive stalemate through one half against Fort Worth Eaton in its second of three Pool B games.
Junior safety Jerrin "Bug" Thompson's pick-six early in the second half turned the tide permanently in a 22-12 win. But Thompson wasn't done there.
Eaton, which scored on the contest's fourth play, scored once more in the final minutes. Thompson intercepted the opponent's two-point conversion, took the ball 25 yards, lateraled to a teammate and got the Panthers two additional points near the final whistle.
Malik Jackson scored in the first half and fellow receiver Jamal Warren scored after Thompson with an array of quarterbacks competing to replace Texas State signee Kordell Rodgers.
The Eaton win elevated Lufkin to a 1-1 record after a 38-32 opening loss to Georgetown and made the pool a dead heat into the third round of competition. Katy Cinco Ranch defeated the Panthers in the pivotal final game, 32-12, punching its own ticket and relegating the Pack to the consolation bracket.
Lufkin will begin consolation play with a round of 32 meeting against The Colony today at 8 a.m.