[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

HOUSTON -- Waskom could not have asked for a better start to its first state semifinal appearance in school history.

The Wildcats left Reliant Stadium on Thursday night wishing they had a better finish.

The Refugio Bobcats gave up the game's first 14 points, then stormed back in dominating fashion, cruising to a 69-33 victory and a berth in the Class 2A Division II state championship game.

The Bobcats will face the winner of Cisco (14-0) and Leonard (11-3) next Thursday at 8 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Waskom ends a record-setting campaign at 14-1, just a year removed from a season that was marred by paperwork issues leading to the forfeiture of all seven of its wins. The Wildcats' 2013 squad not only set a school record for wins in a season but gave Waskom its first-ever trip to the state semifinals.

The Wildcats became the second team in as many years from District 9-2A D-II to reach the state semis, following rival Elysian Fields' run last season that ended at the hands of eventual champion East Bernard.

Waskom head coach Whitney Keeling. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"I told those kids I was very proud of them," said Waskom head coach Whitney Keeling. "They did a heck of a job and there’s nothing for them to hang their heads about."

The Wildcats got off to a perfect start in the game's first three series, setting up what looked to be an upset of perennial power Refugio, which lost to East Bernard in last year's Region IV title after winning the 2011 state crown.

Waskom quarterback Trace Carter’s third-and-1 option keeper up the middle on the game's opening drive found the end zone from 54 yards away and gave the Wildcats a quick 7-0 lead. Refugio’s opening drive went nowhere as the Waskom defense forced a quick turnover-on-downs, giving the Wildcats prime field position at the Bobcat 34 yard-line.

Kevin Johnson’s 28-yard run put the Wildcats inside the 5-yard line and Carter got in from a yard away for his second touchdown of the night and a quick 14-0 lead just 5:24 into the contest.

It was all Travis Quintanilla and the Bobcats from that point.

Quintanilla, the all-classification state record-holder in career passing yards and touchdown throws, took over from there, leading his team to the end zone on their next six possessions.

"We jumped out 14-0, felt good about it, but we knew it wasn’t gonna be easy," Keeling said. "We made a couple of mistakes, didn’t capitalize on our drives, then they got the ball and they scored quick."

Quintanilla, who completed 23 of his 32 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns, found Devon LeFrance for a 30-yard strike and hit Tyler Castellano for a six-yard score after a Waskom punt to quickly tie the game 14-14.

An attempted fake punt by Waskom on its next possession went for just a yard on fourth-and-3, giving the ball right back to Quintanilla and his potent offense.

With a heavy rush of Waskom defenders pressuring him all night, Quintanilla frequently took what the defense gave him. This meant a steady dose of a variety of screen passes, which burned the Wildcats all night.

Waskom's Kevin Johnson runs the ball during the Wildcats' 60-13 Oct. 18 win at Elysian Fields. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

Quintanilla’s short screen to Marquis Brown went for 35 yards just one play after the attempted fake punt to give the Bobcats first-and-goal at the Waskom 5-yard line. Isaiah Perez punched it in from there a play later for the 21-14 lead.

Waskom’s big-play ability was limited for the majority of the game by a fast and aggressive Bobcat defensive front.

Kevin Johnson, the leading rusher on the season for the Wildcats, kept them in it with his speed as he broke two long runs, one for 66 yards to bring the Wildcats within 28-21 and one from 46 yards away late, giving the junior a team-leading 182 yards on just 15 carries.

Refugio put points on the board in a hurry on their next three possessions, with each drive lasting less than a minute and two of the three capped off by Quintanilla passing scores, one to Castellano from 11 yards and one to Dana Franklin from 17 yards.

A Waskom offense that averaged more than 50 points a game during the season couldn’t keep up, rushing for 331 yards but needing 49 carries to do so and turning the ball over three times. Waskom's 6.8 yards per carry were impressive, but the Wildcats entered the game averaging about 10 yards per tote.

Waskom's Junebug Johnson (5) is brought down by a Corrigan-Camden defender during Waskom's fourth-round playoff win in Carthage. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

The Bobcat defense contained Waskom's Junebug Johnson -- not an easy task -- holding him to just 39 yards on 12 carries and holding Dillon Benton to 7 yards on six carries.

Carter, who finished the night with 103 yards on the ground, found Thomas Ford just before the half for a 45-yard score, cutting the Refugio lead to 42-27 at the break.

The Bobcats added to that lead throughout the second half, scoring on four of their six second-half possessions.

Two of those came on the ground from J.B. Brown, who did all his damage after the break. The 5-foot-9 senior carried the ball only four times but made the most of his chances, rushing for 132 yards and two scores, from 71 and 31 yards out, respectively.

Quintanilla spread the ball around throughout the second half, finding LaFrance for his second TD of the night, and Castellano for his third TD with just under a minute remaining for the game's final score.

LaFrance finished with six catches for 162 yards and two scores, while Castellano caught eight passes for 86 yards. Perez added eight catches for 140 yards to go along with the two rushing touchdowns.

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Class 2A Division II
State Semifinal

Refugio 69, Waskom 33

Reliant Stadium, Houston

Waskom -- 14 13 0 6 -- 33
Refugio -- 14 28 14 13 -- 69

First Quarter
WAS – Trace Carter 54 run (Manny Munoz Kick) 10:37
WAS – Carter 1 run (Munoz Kick) 6:36
REF – Travis Quintanilla 30 pass Devon LaFrance (Adolfo Cordero Kick) 5:39
REF – Quintanilla 6 pass Tyler Castellano (Cordero Kick) :54
Second Quarter
REF – Isaiah Perez 5 run (Cordero Kick) 10:54
REF – Quintanilla 11 pass Castellano (Cordero Kick) 9:09
WAS – Kevin Johnson 66 run (Munoz Kick) 6:41
REF – Quintanilla 17 pass Dana Franklin (Cordero Kick) 5:44
REF – Perez 5 run (Cordero Kick) 2:43
WAS – Carter 45 pass Thomas Ford (Kick Failed) 1:38
Third Quarter
REF – Quintanilla 49 pass LaFrance (Cordero Kick) 10:47
REF – JB Brown 71  run (Cordero Kick) 1:20
Fourth Quarter
REF – JB Brown 31 run (Cordero Kick) 8:16
WAS – Johnson 46 run (2-PT Fail) 6:10
REF – Quintanilla 17 pass Castellano (Kick Fail) :56

 

                                WAS               REF
First Downs                13                   31
Total Yards                376                 696
Rushes-Yards          49-331           32-253
Pass Yards                 45                   443
Comp-Att-Int             1-2-1              24-33-0
Penalties-Yards         3-33                10-85
Fumbles-Lost             3-2                  4-1
Punts-Avg                  4-45                1-47

Individual
Rushing – Waskom: Junebug Johnson 12-39, Kevin Johnson 15-182, Trace Carter 15-103, Dillon Benton 6-7, Lucas Norton 1-0. Refugio: Tyler Castellano 10-78, Isaiah Perez 9-19, Travis Quintanilla 4-(-25), J.B. Brown 4-132, Marquis Brown 2-13, Johnathan Rosas 1-7, Jaylon Mascorro 2-29.
Passing – Waskom: Trace Carter 1-2-1 45. Refugio: Travis Quintanilla 23-32-0 423, Jaylon Mascorro 1-1-0 20.
Receiving – Waskom: Thomas Ford 1-45. Refugio: J.B. Brown 1-11 Isaiah Perez 8-140 Devon LaFrance 6-162 Tyler Castellano 8-86 Marquis Brown 1-35 Dana Franklin 1-17