Stepp's Five thoughts from the regional semifinals

Photo by James Ellis

Big weather impacts playoff games Friday night
As the week wore on, we thought there could be some impacts to playoff games Friday night as a line of potentially strong storms was scheduled to move through DFW and East Texas in the evening. By Friday early afternoon, it became almost a certainty that the line of storms were a threat to the regional semifinals. Games were impacted in a line from Mineral Wells to the west all the way east to Royse City. In Mineral Wells, Celeste and San Saba saw their scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff pushed all the way back to 8:35 p.m., but once the game kicked off, it was completed with no other delays. There were multiple delays in the immediate DFW area with Southlake Carroll-Euless Trinity, Aledo-South Oak Cliff, Arlington Lamar-Duncanville, Frisco Reedy-Burleson Centennial, Argyle-Celina and Texarkana Pleasant Grove-Gilmer all being delayed around halftime. The most frightening delays may have been in Royse City where a tornado warning was issued in the area and fans from both Pittsburg and Lorena were forced to take cover and shelter in place until the storm passed. Thankfully, there was no word of a confirmed tornado touchdown in the area and after over a three-hour delay Pittsburg and Lorena finished their game well after midnight.

Waco Midway’s rally
For 24 minutes, it appeared that Waco Midway’s season was all but over at Kyle Field in College Station. Jeff Hulme’s Panthers had been thoroughly dominated by Klein Oak and trailed 24-0 heading into the locker room. The Panthers had a defensive score to cut the lead to 24-7 early in the third quarter and that seemed to ignite MHS. QB Nick Jimenez on a bum ankle, that was heavily taped after an injury in the first quarter, gutted it out in the second half throwing a touchdown pass, while RB James Fulbright had a pair of touchdown runs to lead the comeback for Midway in a 28-27 win. The reward for Midway’s huge rally is defending state champion, the Allen Eagles who are coached by former Midway head coach Terry Gambill.

Carthage’s great escape
Carthage was able to run its state best winning streak to 39 games Friday night, but the Bulldogs got the fight of their lives from a strong Midlothian Heritage squad at the Ford Center. Carthage dug themselves quite the early hole falling behind the Jaguars 21-6 after one quarter and 35-21 early in the third quarter as the Bulldogs had no answers for the trio of QB Landon Ledbetter and WR’s Langston Anderson and Jay Wilkerson. However, Carthage showed championship mettle rallying to tie the game at 35 before the end of the third quarter and then, on the game’s final play, getting a touchdown pass from Gunner Capps to Kaden Holcomb to tie the game at 42 and send it to overtime. After seeing Midlothian Heritage score to take a 49-42 lead, Carthage calmly answered with Mason Courtney scoring from four yards out to make it 49-48. Head coach Scott Surratt had no hesitation on the sideline to call for the win instead of another overtime and the six-time state title winning head coach had the perfect play dialed up moving star WR Kelvontay Dixon into the backfield on an option play. The speedy junior made a beeline for the pylon and just beat the Heritage defense to the corner for the game-winning two-point conversion and the 50-49 win. The win equals heartbreak for Midlothian Heritage who, for the third year in a row, lost in the regional semifinals in excruciating fashion, while Carthage gets another date with longtime rival Henderson in the playoffs. It will be the sixth meeting in the past three seasons for the blood rivals. Carthage has taken four out of the last five games and both of the playoff matchups.

Rematches galore in Class 3A and 4A
The theme for the regional semifinals in Class 3A and 4A was certainly rematches as they were everywhere this past week. We start in 4A Division I, where Decatur, for the second time this year, took down favored Wichita Falls Hirschi. Argyle, after drilling Celina by 42 points in the regular season, had to rally late for a 26-22 win over Celina. Henderson avenged a close regular season loss to Van by taking the Vandals down in a 21-20 thriller. In 4A Division II, Texarkana Pleasant Grove doubled its previous margin of victory over Gilmer Friday with a 56-28 win and it’s the Hawks third straight win over the Buckeyes. West Orange-Stark avenged a non-district loss to Jasper by handing the Bulldogs their first loss of the season, 21-14. In Class 3A Division I Atlanta, for the second time this year, took care of Mount Vernon in a game that was moved up to Thursday due to weather concerns on Friday. Finally, Goliad and Yoakum met for the second time with Yoakum avenging a three-point loss in Week 11 with a thrilling 38-35 win. It was the second straight year Yoakum eliminated Goliad from the playoffs. In 3A Division II Canadian, for the second time this season, rolled past Spearman to advance to another regional final. While Tidehaven pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the state Friday avenging a 20-point loss in district play to Van Vleck with a dominant 17-0 win.

District 3-2A Division II Dominance
In Class 2A Division II, no district has been as dominating as 3-2A Division II which saw all four of its playoff teams advance to the regional semifinals. The district’s top two teams will meet up this week to determine the Region I title as Stratford drilled Vega 35-7 on Thursday in the first district rematch. While on Friday district champion Gruver rolled past Clarendon 49-14 to set up the regional showdown, Gruver took the meeting in the regular season 59-28.

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