[By Johnny Green, Special to ETSN.fm]

WACO — Wall's heralded triple-option offense needed time to find its identity in Saturday's Class 2A Division I state-semifinal showdown with New Boston. The Hawks' defense gave it that time.

Held to 95 yards in a 3-3 first half at Midway High School's Panther Field, Wall's ball-hogging offense finally got it together in the third quarter, and the opportunistic defense set up one score and denied another with interceptions as the Hawks advanced to next week's state championship game with a 31-3 victory.

Wall (15-0) will take on defending champion Cameron Yoe (14-1) at 5 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the title.

New Boston, coming off a shocking 41-14 rout of Daingerfield in the Region II final, completed its finest season in school history at 13-2.

New Boston was limited to 167 total yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.

Neither team could muster much offense in the first half, the only scoring a pair of off-setting field goals by New Boston's Cole Pace (26 yards) and Wall's Mason Houser (27). Both came in the second quarter, New Boston's with 11:16 to go and Wall's with 1:12 left after the Hawks ran 9:53 off the clock with a 70-yard drive.

That was it for the Lions, whose only threat in the second half ended with the first of two Kelton Niehues interceptions at Wall's 16-yard line.

Meanwhile, halfback Kris Gutierrez scored on a pair of third-quarter runs around the left side, the first from 11 yards capping an 11-play 59 yard march following the second-half kickoff. Gutierrez followed that up by breaking several tackles on a 34-yard scoring jaunt to cap a six-play, 63-yard drive after New Boston tried — and failed — on a fourth-down play from its own 39.

Everything seemed to go against the Lions, including a two-point conversion pass from kicker Mason Houser to Niehues after New Boston's Jawaun Johnson blocked Houser's extra-point try. Johnson later blocked another PAT kick.

After Niehues' first interception, the Hawks drove 84 yards in 13 plays to score on quarterback Luke Dacy's 1-yard run. The drive consumed 6:50 of the clock and left only 2:52 remaining.

That was time enough for another score. After New Boston was penalized twice for 25 total yards on the ensuing kickoff, Niehues intercepted Aaron Conkleton's pass at the 24, returning it to the NB 7. Two plays later fullback Clint Masters bolted over from the 2.

Dacy, who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, led the 300-yard ground attack with 106 yards on 25 carries. Halfbacks Brett Matschek and Gutierrez added 73 and 70, respectively, on 13 total carries.

Wide receiver Jeff Gladney had two long carries on reverses and led the Lions with 48 yards on seven carries. Keith Baldwin had 36 yards on just three carries, while leading rusher Quinn Dedmon was held to 27 on 10 tries.

Wall failed to throw a pass in its second straight game. The only time Dacy attempted to throw he was sacked by Dale Roberts for a 14-yard loss.

New Boston was playing in the semifinals for the first time ever. Wall lost to Daingerfield, 29-22, in last year's semis.


No. 3 Wall 31, New Boston 3

Class 2A Division I State Semifinal
Panther Stadium, Waco

New Boston 0 3 0 0 -- 3
Wall 0 3 15 13 -- 31
Second Quarter
NB--FG Cole Pace 26, 11:16.
WAL--FG Mason Houser 27, 1:12.
Third Quarter
WAL--Kris Gutierrez 11 run (Houser kick), 7:33.
WAL--Gutierrez 34 run (Kelton Niehues pass from Houser), :32.
Fourth Quarter
WAL--Luke Dacy 1 run (kick failed), 2:52.
WAL--Clint Masters 2 run (Houser kick), 1:56.

                                       NB              WAL
First Downs                        11                 16
Total Yards                        167              300
Rushes-Yards               28-127         56-300
Passing Yards                     40                 0
Comp.-Att.-Int.             5-14-2            0-0-0
Punts-Avg.                    1-39.0          2-51.3
Fumbles-Lost                     1-0              1-0
Penalties-Yards                4-37             6-45

RUSHING--New Boston, Jeff Gladney 7-48, Keith Baldwin 3-36, Quinn Dedmon 10-27, Aaron Conkleton 7-9, Phillip Pyle 1-7. Wall, Luke Dacy 25-106, Brett Matschek 8-73, Kris Gutierrez 7-70, Clint Masters 16-51.
PASSING--New Boston, Conkleton 5-14-2--40.
RECEIVING--New Boston, Jawaun Johnson 2-25, Gladney 1-13, Jordan Simpson 1-10, Dedmon 1-(-8).