Terrance Cuney + Jasper Run to 44-34 First-Round Playoff Victory Over Palestine
NACOGDOCHES -- Jasper's running game started sluggish, but once it got rolling, there was little Palestine could do about it.
Senior tailback Terrance "Tiki" Cuney spearheaded a second-half rushing attack that amassed almost 300 yards in Jasper's 44-34 Class 3A Division I Region III bi-district playoff victory at SFA's Homer Bryce Stadium.
Jasper (7-3) faces Waco La Vega (6-5), which ran for almost 500 yards in Friday's 42-19 win against Taylor, next week in a 3A D-I Region III area playoff at a site and time to be determined. Palestine finishes 7-4 for the second consecutive season.
Palestine held Cuney to fewer than 40 first-half rushing yards, but he exploded in the second half for 208 yards on 19 carries to finish with 28 rushes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He enters next week's game with more than 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season.
Jasper ran for 284 second-half yards. Junior Randy Spikes had 88 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown, in the second half. The Bulldogs ran mostly from under-center, I-oriented formations in the first half before switching to primarily pistol-based run plays in the final two quarters.
"We kind of figured out what they were doing. We went in and made some adjustments for the second half and figured out what they were doing. WE just came out and played ball."
Jasper's second-half ground game propelled the Bulldogs to a 496-314 total yardage advantage, which included a 329-208 rushing edge. But Palestine senior Ben Luckett was a workhorse with 31 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown, plus a game-opening, 42-yard screen-pass touchdown. TCU-bound senior Jarrell Owens had 13 carries for 84 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown that cut Jasper's lead to 37-34 with 5:56 remaining.
Jasper's ensuing drive ended when Spikes fumbled the ball at the end of a 37-yard run. The ball bounced from the 14-yard line into the end zone and out, resulting in a touchback after a lengthy discussion among the referees. Trailing by three points with 3 1/2 minutes left, Palestine drove into Jasper territory before a holding penalty set up a second-and-16 from the Bulldog 49-yard line, where a center-QB miscommunication resulted in an errant snap that bounded back 14 yards before, who else, Cuney recovered at the Palestine 37-yard line.
Three plays later and two Palestine timeouts later, Cuney scored from 30 yards on third-and-3 for a 44-34 lead with 36 seconds left. Palestine got the ball with 29 seconds left, but Jasper's Roy Hennington intercepted the Wildcats near midfield to ice the game.
Jasper fought back from a 21-13 first-half deficit with a second quarter-closing drive capped by a 10-yard, Steve Walker-to-Shawn Jones touchdown strike. Walker then found Spikes for a two-pointer to tie the game 21-21 entering halftime.
Walker completed 8 of 17 passes for 167 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, which went to Palestine's Kailon Murph and Marquis Clark. Walker's second touchdown strike also went to Jones, who scored from 64 yards on a catch-and-run that cut Jasper's deficit to 14-13 late in the first. Jones caught three passes for 98 yards, while Jamarcus Reed caught Jasper's first touchdown, a 34-yard fade, and finished with three catches for 70 yards.
After a sluggish first half, Jasper's running game came out on fire in the third. Cuney ran for 16, 25, and 16 yards to set up his four-yard touchdown for a 28-21 lead a minute into the third. Palestine's return man slipped at his own 1-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, which led to Markeith Cauley blocking a Palestine punt out of the end zone for a safety and 30-21 Bulldog lead with 9:10 left in the third.
Jasper was poised to separate from Palestine on a 68-yard drive two possessions later, but Murph snagged a deflected ball in the end zone for his interception to kill the drive on its eighth play on a second-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
"I think we would've really put them away early in the second half if we don't turn the ball over in the end zone, and we go up by 16," Barbay said. "We go up by three scores, it would've been out of reach. We just kept them around. But our kids just kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting. That's the main thing. They didn't quit."
Palestine cut Jasper's lead to 30-28 on quarterback Gee Clark's two-yard touchdown a minute into the fourth, but Jasper responded with a 72-yard drive capped by Spikes' 32-yard touchdown with 8:10 to play. That's when Palestine drove 62 yards on six plays, the final one being Owens' 21-yard touchdown to trim Jasper's lead to 37-34 with 5:56 remaining, setting the stage for the wild ending.
Clark completed 4 of 7 passes for 106 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception to accompany his fourth-quarter rushing touchdown. Jasper linebacker Deroddrick Hadnot had 2 1/2 tackles for loss and provided a couple of quality kickoff returns -- including a 74-yarder to set up Jasper's first score on the Walker-to-Reed touchdown -- to help the Bulldogs' field position.
Class 3A Division I Region III
Jasper 44, Palestine 34
SFA's Homer Bryce Stadium, Nacogdoches
Palestine -- 14 7 0 13 -- 34
Jasper -- 13 8 9 14 -- 44
PAL -- Ben Luckett 42 pass from Gee Clark (kick blocked) -- 9:40
JAS -- Jamarcus Reed 34 pass from Steve Walker (Marco Lopez kick) -- 8:37
PAL -- Jarrell Owens 25 pass from Clark (Jose Romero pass from Clark) -- 4:16
JAS -- Shawn Jones 40 pass from Walker (kick failed) -- 2:24
PAL -- Luckett 17 run (Bennett Gierkey kick) -- 7:54
JAS -- Jones 10 pass from Walker (Randy Spikes pass from Walker) -- 0:20
JAS -- Terrance "Tiki" Cuney 4 run (Lopez kick) -- 10:41
JAS -- Markeith Cauley punt block for safety -- 9:10
PAL -- Clark 2 run (Gierkey kick) -- 10:54
JAS -- Spikes 32 run (Lopez kick) -- 8:10
PAL -- Owens 21 run (kick blocked) -- 5:56
JAS -- Cuney 30 run (Lopez kick) -- 0:36
First downs 16 20
Total yards 314 496
Rushes-Yards 52-208 39-329
Passing yards 106 167
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-7-1 8-17-2
Penalties-Yards 6-44 10-69
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Punts-Avg. 3-24.0 1-32.0
RUSHING -- Palestine: Ben Luckett 31-143, Jarrell Owens 13-84, Gee Clark 5-2, Marcus Robinson 1-(-1), TEAM 2-(-20). Jasper: Terrance Cuney 28-245, Randy Spikes 5-88, Steve Walker 3-8, TEAM 3-(-12).
PASSING -- Palestine: Gee Clark 4-7-1 106. Jasper: Steve Walker 8-17-2 167.
RECEIVING -- Palestine: Jarrell Owens 3-64, Ben Luckett 1-42. Jasper: Shawn Jones 3-98, Jamarcus Reed 3-70, Randy Spikes 1-0, Steve Walker 1-(-1).