GLADEWATER -- Eli Carter rumbled into the end zone to bring Gladewater within a point of Tatum, but Justice Hassek remained on the sidelines.

Hassek could have tied the game. The Gladewater kicker hadn't missed an extra point all evening and it was the safe bet, but coach John Berry didn't want to play it safe. He wanted the win. He sent Carter back on the field for a two-point conversion. With the game in overtime, this would be the final play.

Carter took the handoff and absorbed contact from several Tatum defenders. Somehow, despite the force pushing back against him, he broke the plane, giving the Bears a 36-35 victory and the District 8-3A Division I championship.

After watching his team rally from a 28-7 deficit in the first half, Berry said he had little doubt about the decision to go for two.

“We decided that before the game started," he said. "There was a little bit of a pause in it. (Tatum's) OB (Jones) wasn’t moving quite as good. It looked like he got a little dinged up. He scored the one on their position with just a couple of extra handoffs. With him at quarterback and feeling really good, it was a no-brainer.”

The beginning of the game gave no indication that the final minutes would play out in such a dramatic fashion.

Tatum jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter behind the play of quarterback OB Jones, who finished the first half with 141 total yards and three touchdowns. He started the game by leading the Eagles on a 98-yard touchdown drive that finished with a 17-yard pass to Jachais Jenkins.

He followed that with a 9-yard touchdown run on the next drive. Tatum scored on its first four drives to go up 28-7 early in the second quarter. However, the Eagles would not score  again until their first possession of overtime.

Although the offensive hiccups can be attributed to a hit Jones took late in the first half that left him limping, the Bears defense was resilient. Gladewater forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a fumble at the goal line with two minutes to go that ultimately sent the game into overtime.

“Coming into the ball game, one of the main things we were trying to deal with was making sure (Jones is) not breaking containment," Berry said. "He did anyway. He does that to everyone. He is a fantastic guy creating from the quarterback position.

"...They go up 21 points on you, it’s easy to think, ‘Well, we can’t stop ‘em.’ But they accepted what our defensive coaches gave them and said, ‘All right, we’ll reshuffle the deck and go at ‘em.’ They did. With a little bit of success, we kind of grabbed ahold of that."

The turning point came when the Bears forced Tatum to attempt a field goal on its opening drive of the second half. Two minutes after the Eagles missed a 28-yard try, Devon Walker ran it in from the 1 to bring Gladewater within a touchdown with 6:16 left in the third.

The Bears' offense gained a boost from freshman quarterback DJ Allen, who started the second half. Allen was 6-of-9 for 84 yards and also rushed eight times for 64 yards. He had no touchdowns as Walker, also a freshman, scored twice in the third quarter.

Berry pointed to Allen's ability to run the power option as the main reason he opted for him in the second half.

"He did (the power option) all the way through the seventh and eighth grade as a freshman and it was there," Berry said. "We were getting something out of it. Both of them can throw it really good. They’re both quarterbacks that can throw our kind of throwing – down the field. We still have that. It was not something Tristan wasn’t doing as much as it was what their defense was giving us that lends itself to what DJ does.”

Allen especially connected with receiver T.C. Minter, who caught six of the Bears' seven completions for 105 yards and a touchdown.

OB Jones finished with 164 total yards and three touchdowns to lead Tatum, while Decartiyay Allison had 176 total yards.

The victory gave Gladewater a top seed in 3A Division I Region 2, where the Bears will draw a first round game with Hughes Springs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hallsville.

Tatum finishes at second place in District 8-3A D-I and will face Mount Vernon in the first round. The time, date and place of that game has yet to be determined.

Of course, Berry and the Bears are excited to be in the playoffs and to have claimed the district title. There will be plenty of time to think about those things in the near future. But after a game like this, it's necessary to reflect and take pride in the current moment.

"We’ve been in a lot of tough football games over the last several years," Berry said. "This was one of those. Our kids responded to it kind of like I expected them to. You don’t necessarily think you can make that reach and get it brought back from 21 down, but we have the type of team that can do that.

"Doing things right. That's all it is."

Gladewater 36, Tatum 35

At Jack V. Murphy Stadium, Gladewater

Tatum         21    7    0    0     7    --    35
Gladewater       0     14   14   0   8          –    36

First Quarter
TAT – Jachais Jenkins 17 catch from OB Jones (Ismael Vasquez kick), 8:58.
TAT – Jones 9 run (Vasque kick), 3:15.
TAT – Trey Fite 7 catch from Jones (Vasquez kick), 0:30.
Second Quarter
GLAD – Eli Carter 30 run (Justice Hassek kick), 9:37.
TAT – Jenkins 12 run (Vasquez kick), 7:52.
GLAD – T.C. Minter 24 pass from Tristan Holmes (Hassek kick), 2:57.
Third Quarter
GLAD – Devon Walker 1 run (Hassek kick), 6:16.
GLAD – Walker 1 run (Hassek kick), 2:25.
TAT – Ty Hollins 19 run (Vasquez kick).
GLAD – Eli Carter 9 run (Carter two-point conversion).

                                           TAT                   GLAD
First Downs                          24                       18
Total Yards                           452                     351
Rushes-Yards                  56-340                  40-260
Passing Yards                       112                  108
Comp.-Att.-Int.                 11-22-1              7-15-0
Punts-Avg.                       3-29.7                4-47.3
Fumbles-Lost                         3-1                  1-1
Penalties-Yards                     7-61              7-56

RUSHING—Tatum, Decartiyay Allison 11-139, Jachais Jenkins 22-90, Ty Hollins 9-59, OB Jones 14-52. Gladewater, Eli Carter 21-164, DJ Allen 8-64, Tristan Holmes, 5-26, Devon Walker 5-16, KD Tennison 1-(-10).
PASSING—Tatum, Jones 11-22-1--112. Gladewater, Allen 6-9-0--84, Holmes 1-6-0--24.
RECEIVING—Tatum, Allison 5-37, Jachais Jenkins 3-35, Jayden Boyd 2-33, Trey Fite 1-7. Gladewater, T.C. Minter 6-105, Jailyn Robertson 1-3.

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