Hunter Moore + Canton Rally Past Gladewater in Bi-District, 34-27
HALLSVILLE -- Two years ago, when Canton and Gladewater met in the first round of the playoffs, the Eagles were simply overmatched in every facet of the game. What a difference a couple of seasons make.
Canton matched Gladewater's physicality for four quarters, and scored the eventual game-winning touchdown with a little more than two minutes remaining, earning a come-from-behind 34-27 win Thursday night at Bobcat Stadium.
The Eagles (6-5) advanced to the area round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs, and will face Lorena (8-3). Kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 7 or 7:30 p.m. next Thursday night in Ennis.
Canton entered Thursday's playoff opener decided underdogs against Gladewater (5-6), a team that had advanced at least three rounds deep in the postseason the previous two years.
Gladewater began its run to the 2013 state quarterfinals with a 48-0 first-round rout of Canton.
"I think it gives us a lot of confidence," Canton junior quarterback Hunter Moore said of his team's win. "It gets other teams to notice us. We were just some underdogs and we come out and beat Gladewater in the first round. That gets us in a great position."
It was Moore who rebounded from a first-half, pick-six that saddled his team with a 13-0 deficit. He finished the night with 252 passing yards and two touchdowns, and added 61 yards on the ground, including a pair of second-half scoring runs.
"He just played steady and made the plays he was supposed to," Canton coach Robert Ivey said of Moore's performance. "We came in with a great game plan, and we threw and caught the ball well, and took advantage of what they gave us."
With the game tied, 27-27, with 4:05 remaining, Moore orchestrated a six-play, 75-yard drive. On the second play, he fired a pass over the middle to senior receiver Logan Nace, who made a one-handed snag and raced 29 yards into Gladewater territory.
Three plays later, a 2-yard completion turned into 15 additional yards after Gladewater was issued a dead-ball, personal foul penalty, giving Canton first-and-10 at the 17. On the very next snap, senior running back Jordan Jackson found daylight around the left side of the line and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:57 showing on the clock.
Gladewater still had all three timeouts at its disposal, but each of the final two drives ended with Canton interceptions from Zach Brown, and Tre Fitzgerald, respectively.
Those two plays put an exclamation point on Canton's solid defensive showing. The Eagles allowed 305 rushing yards, but that came on 53 attempts, as Canton limited Gladewater's explosiveness.
Bears senior fullback Justice Centers led Gladewater with 161 yards -- 155 in the second half -- and three touchdowns on 22 carries, but the tailback tandem of senior Marcello Jackson and junior Darnell McKnight combined for just 96 yards on 23 attempts.
"We started out real slow, they were pushing us really hard," said Canton senior linebacker Brazos Hesskew. "We have great team chemistry throughout our whole defense, and our defensive line finally started getting low and getting a push. When we get low and we get a push, we get physical and our linebackers start making tackles."
Canton's defense made nine stops either at or behind the line of scrimmage.
"We've been a pretty good tackling team all year," Ivey said. "We came in with a good plan up front, and we stayed with it. Our ends and our defensive tackles had a really good football game tonight. They played hard, and we executed the game plan up front and did a good job of tackling."
The second half was a back-and-forth affair.
Gladewater scored on the third quarter's opening possession when Centers capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. However, Fernando Serrano's PAT was blocked, leaving the Bears in front, 19-13.
After Jordan Jackson's 43-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, it took Canton two plays to take its first lead. Jackson ripped off a 10-yard run on first down, and Moore found running room on the left side on a designed run, scoring from 38 yards. Jeremiah Bradway's PAT gave the Eagles a 20-19 lead midway through the third.
Gladewater and Canton exchanged punts on the next two drives, and the Bears were stopped on fourth down when Marcello Jackson was tackled for a 9-yard loss by a host of Eagles defenders at the Canton 47.
Six plays later, after a pair of defensive holding calls on Gladewater, Moore reached the end zone on a 4-yard run, which extended Canton's lead to 27-19 with 7:46 remaining.
But Centers and Gladewater were far from done.
The Bears started the ensuing possession at their own 25, and methodically moved the chains. On the ninth play of the drive, Centers bullied through the Canton defense, carrying several Eagles defenders with him for a 16-yard run to the 1-yard line.
Centers got the ball again on the next play, and fell forward into the end zone. Gladewater quarterback Blake Guthrie ran in the game-tying, two-point conversion with 4:05 remaining.
The Eagles finished strong, but Canton endured a disastrous start to the game on offense.
Canton's first three possessions ended with a punt, a lost fumble, and Moore's pick-six, which was returned 24 yards by Gladewater's Adam Kegarise for 13-0 Bears lead just 10 seconds into the second quarter.
"It was just a blown assignment, and that's happened (before this season)," Moore said of the interception. "We knew we could come back and do our thing, and we did. We came back and put some points on the board, and got right back in position to win."
Moore was 5 of 5 through the air on Canton's next series, a five-play scoring drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald. Following a missed extra point, Canton's deficit was 13-6 with 9:56 remaining in the half.
Gladewater's next two drives, which sandwiched a Canton three-and-out, stalled, leaving the Eagles only 38 seconds until halftime.
They only needed 31.
Moore hit Nace for 38 yards on first down, and Hesskew for 16 on the next play, which set up Nace's 36-yard touchdown catch-and-run that tied the game at 13-13.
"That was like a backyard football play," Moore said. "They were just running around, and we just happened to find the open receiver, got the great blocks, and it just worked out great for us."
The play gave Canton confidence going into the break, and the second-half performance should give the Eagles an even bigger boost into the next round.
"We're a confident football team, and we play in a tough district, too; there are some good teams in there," Ivey said of District 5-4A Division II. "Bullard has a good team, and so does Gilmer. But so does Canton."
Canton 34, Gladewater 27
Class 4A Division II Region II Bi-District Playoff
At Bobcat Stadium, Hallsville
Gladewater 7 6 6 8 -- 27
Canton 0 13 7 14 -- 34
GLA--Justice Centers 4 run (Fernando Serrano kick), 4:11.
GLA--Adam Kegarise 24 interception return (kick failed), 11:50.
CAN--Tre Fitzgerald 7 pass from Hunter Moore (kick failed), 9:56.
CAN--Logan Nace 36 pass from Moore (Jeremiah Bradway kick), :07.
GLA--Centers 1 run (kick failed), 8:03.
CAN--Moore 38 run (Bradway kick), 7:34.
CAN--Moore 4 run (Bradway kick), 7:46.
GLA--Centers 1 run (Blake Guthrie run), 4:05.
CAN--Jordan Jackson 17 run (Bradway kick), 1:57.
First Downs 16 20
Total Yards 329 376
Rushes-Yards 53-305 23-124
Passing Yards 24 252
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-12-2 17-26-1
Punts-Avg. 4-37.3 3-44.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 11-90 5-35
RUSHING--Gladewater, Justice Centers 22-161, Marcello Jackson 16-64, Cameron Callaway 2-42, Darnell McKnight 7-32, Isaiah Davis 2-7, Blake Guthrie 4-(-1). Canton, Jordan Jackson 9-63, Hunter Moore, 14-61.
PASSING--Gladewater, Guthrie 4-12-2--24. Canton, Moore 17-26-1--252.
RECEIVING--Gladewater, Callaway 4-24. Canton, Logan Nace 5-104, Zach Brown 4-80, Tre Fitzgerald 4-38, Brazos Hesskew 3-24, Jackson 1-6.