[By Matt Stepp, Special to ETSN.fm]

WAXAHACHIE – Trailing by two points late in the second quarter, the Waskom Wildcats dug into their bag of tricks to seize momentum from Crawford. And in the second half, Waskom’s defense never relented in a 33-14 win in their Class 2A Division II Region III semifinal Friday night at Lumpkins Stadium.

Waskom (13-0) will now take on fellow unbeaten Corrigan-Camden (13-0) next Friday night in Carthage for the regional championship.

With Waskom trailing 14-12, it appeared the Wildcats would be in for an absolute dog fight. But with less than a minute go in the half from the Crawford 41, Waskom dialed up the perfect trick play. Running back Kevin Johnson got the ball on what looked to be a reverse, but he then pulled up and lofted a perfect strike to an open Eric Stephens III, who strolled into the end zone to give Waskom a lead it never relinquished at 18-14.

“We always have a few tricks up our sleeves, and we feel like we can go to those things whenever we need to and our kids executed it just like they’ve been practicing,” said Waskom coach Whitney Keeling.

In the second half, Waskom outscored Crawford (12-1) 13-0 and allowed just four first downs to seal the win. With Crawford trailing 26-14, the Pirates made one deep trip into Waskom territory, but the Wildcats defense held on fourth-and-5 at the 10-yard line when sophomore linebacker Mike Reason sacked Crawford quarterback Wyatt Griffith.

Waskom junior fullback Dillon Benton sealed the win with an 84-yard sprint to the end zone for the game's final score.

Waskom’s balanced ground game churned out 325 yards as four ball carries tallied at least 62 yards, led by junior Junebug Johnson, who had 104 yards on just eight carries.

The Wildcats opened the game with a bang as Kevin Johnson returned the opening kickoff 65 yards for a score and 6-0 lead. Kevin Johnson had a big night, throwing the trick-play touchdown pass while adding a 28-yard scoring run in the second quarter.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair with Crawford taking a 14-12 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Griffith to Colton Adamick.

“After we got that score to go into the locker room, we made a few adjustments on defense and played our best half of football on that side all year, great adjustments by our defensive staff," Keeling said. "That was a good physical team we played and to shut them out in the second half says a lot."

Waskom allowed just 152 total yards of offense, including just 102 rushing yards on 35 attempts from the normally potent Pirates' rushing attack.