[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

VAN -- First Leonard, then Howe, and now Gunter.

The Waskom Wildcats continued their run of dominance against District 5-3A with a 49-15 victory Friday night over the Gunter Tigers in the Class 3A Division II Region II championship at Van’s Memorial Stadium.

The Wildcats (13-1) advanced to the state semifinals for the second consecutive year, and will face Sonora, a 36-35 winner over defending champion Cisco.

Gunter’s season ended at 12-2.

Waskom's Kevin Johnson skips into the end zone during the Wildcats' 49-15 win over Gunter in their Class 3A Division II state quarterfinal Friday night in Van. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

The ground game, as it normally does, carried the Wildcats once again, where they amassed 463 yards just a week after gashing Howe for 575 yards. The Wildcats threw the ball just twice once again, this time completing both for scores.

“We played the best game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said Waskom coach Whitney Keeling. “It was unbelievable, great team effort by those guys. I couldn’t be more proud.”

The duo of Kevin Johnson and Trace Carter sliced up the big Gunter defensive front on numerous occasions.

Johnson lead the way, scoring twice and picking up 207 yards on just nine carries. Carter added two scores of his own, racking up an additional 192 yards on 12 carries.

The Wildcats defense, at times overshadowed by the gaudy numbers put up by their offense, was both dominant and hard-hitting, holding the Tigers to 180 yards rushing on 43 carries and controlling the line of scrimmage.

“We were real worried about those guys (Gunter),” Keeling said. “They’ve done a great job all year controlling the clock and we were worried about it. Tonight signifies how well our defense is. That group of linebackers, Chan Amie, Dillon (Benton) and Keileon Johnson had a great game. Unbelievable effort, I’m real proud of them.”

Waskom's Eric Stephens III catches a 30-yard touchdown during the Wildcats' 49-15 win over Gunter in their Class 3A Division II state quarterfinal Friday night in Van. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

A big reason for the dominance of the defense was linebacker Chan Amie, who missed a large portion of last season, including the playoffs with a foot injury. The junior was all over the field, with several hard hits and a sack to go along with numerous tackles for loss.

“Number one, he’s the spark plug of our football team,” Keeling said of Amie. “Emotional leader, he plays the way everyone should play. He always gives 100 percent on offense, defense and special teams. Great kid and a great football player.”

Amie is just happy to be back and not watching this year's playoff run from the sideline.

“It feels good, real good,” he said. “Before the game, coach told us we had to play the best game we’ve ever played, we couldn’t come out slacking. They’re the team that could’ve put us out. We’ve come too far to be put out, we played our hearts out for the seniors.”

Waskom found the end zone on three of its first four possessions of the second half, opening up a 28-3 halftime lead.

Carter took off on the opening play of the third quarter, keeping the read-option and outracing the defense for a 65-yard score.

The Wildcats weren’t done.

Gunter's Garrett Hunter jumps over Waskom's Kevin Johnson to reach the end zone during their Class 3A Division II state quarterfinal Friday night in Van. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

After being pinned deep following a Gunter punt, they had little trouble marching 96 yards for their next score.

A 19-yard run by Amie and a 45-yarder for Johnson moved the ball to the Tigers' 28-yard line. Carter threw the Wildcats' second pass of the night on the next play, hitting Kaleb Haynes in stride for the 28-yard score, pushing the lead to 42-3.

The Tigers found the end zone for the first time on the game's next possession.

Garrett Hunter, the workhorse of the Tigers' offense, carried four times on the drive for 21 yards, including a 6-yard score.

The senior finished with 127 hard-earned yards on 28 carries, accounting for more than half of the Tigers' offense. Quarterback Austen Gressett finished with 72 yards through the air, completing 7 of his 16 passes.

Carter completed the Wildcats' scoring two possessions later, taking a 71-yarder to the house and wrapping up another trip to the final four.

“Our quarterback doesn’t get a lot of credit about what goes on,” Keeling said of Carter. “Tonight it showed how good of a player he is. He’s the leader of our football team on the offensive side, and he doesn’t get as much credit, but he’s definitely that guy.”

The Wildcats dominated from the get-go, scoring on their first four possessions of the first half.

Eric Stephens III got the Wildcats going with his acrobatic one-handed interception of Gressett on the game's opening drive.

Waskom started from its 34-yard line and went to work on the ground.

Waskom quarterback Trace Carter looks for a crease on a keeper during the Wildcats' 49-15 win over Gunter in their Class 3A Division II quarterfinal Friday night in Van. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Four different ball carriers touched the ball on the opening drive, with Johnson taking a 30-yard reverse on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive. Benton found the end zone on the next play, from 4 yards out to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.

Gunter’s only points of the first half came on the game's next drive, as the Tigers moved the ball to the 9-yard line, where Benton made another big play, throwing Hunter for a 6-yard loss, which forced a 32-yard field goal from Cameron Hearn that cut the lead to 7-3.

Waskom’s next drive appeared to be headed for a three-and-out when Johnson was thrown for a 6-yard loss on third down. However, an offsides penalty kept the drive alive. Carter picked up 24 yards on the next third down and Junebug Johnson took the next handoff and rolled out to find Stephens wide open for a 30-yard score and a 14-3 lead.

After forcing a punt, Waskom went right back to work, with Johnson taking a pitch and outrunning everyone for a 30-yard score to cap an eight-play, 67-yard drive and give the Wildcats a 21-3 advantage.

Gunter went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and the Wildcats had burned their final timeout, giving them just over a minute before the half to find the end zone.

It didn’t take nearly that long as Johnson scored his second TD of the half on the next play, taking a draw and heading up the sideline for a 55-yard score and the 28-3 halftime advantage for the Wildcats.

Waskom head coach Whitney Keeling hoists the regional championship trophy after his team's 49-15 win over Gunter on Friday night in Van. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Waskom 49, Gunter 15

Class 3A Division II Quarterfinal
At Van Memorial Stadium

Waskom           7    21    14      7    --    49
Gunter              3      0      6      6    --    15

First Quarter
WAS--Dillon Benton 4 run (Jose Chavarria kick), 4:53.
GUN--FG Cameron Hearn 32, :30.
Second Quarter
WAS--Eric Stephens III 30 pass from Junebug Johnson (Chavarria kick), 9:24.
WAS--Kevin Johnson 30 run (Chavarria kick), 2:50.
WAS--Kevin Johnson 55 run (Chavarria kick), 1:00.
Third Quarter
WAS--Trace Carter 65 run (Chavarria kick), 11:50.
WAS--Kaleb Haynes 28 pass from Carter (Chavarria kick), 4:55.
GUN--Garrett Hunter 6 run (kick failed), 2:36.
Fourth Quarter
WAS--Carter 71 run (Chavarria kick), 9:46.
GUN--Hadley Johnson 18 pass from Austen Gressett (two-point failed), :12.

                                           WAS                  GUN
First Downs                              11                     14
Total Yards                             521                   252
Rushes-Yards                   40-463              43-180
Passing Yards                          58                     72
Comp.-Att.-Int.                    2-2-0               7-17-1
Punts-Avg.                         1-29.0               3-35.0
Fumbles-Lost                          1-1                    1-0
Penalties-Yards                      7-48                 6-55

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Waskom, Kevin Johnson 9-207, Trace Carter 12-192, Chan Amie 4-33, Dillon Benton 8-20, Junebug Johnson 6-7, Lucas Norton 1-4. Gunter, Garrett Hunter 28-127, Spencer Lashley 5-34, Trey Carr 3-12, Kevin Teems 1-10, Seth Brewer 1-0, Austen Gressett 5-(-3).
PASSING--Waskom, Junebug Johnson 1-1-0--30, Carter 1-1-0--28. Gunter, Gressett 7-16-1--72, Hunter 0-1-0--0.
RECEIVING--Waskom, Eric Stephens III 1-30, Kaleb Haynes 1-28. Gunter, Teems 2-23, Lashley 2-13, Hadley Johnson 1-18, Ross O'Hanlon 1-15, Troy Watson 1-3.