December 21, 2018
Cuero 40, Texarkana Pleasant Grove 28
Going into the Class 4A Division II state title game, Cuero’s Jordan Whittington had just over 30 carries on the season but when it counted most, the Gobblers unleashed Whittington who set multiple UIL State Championship records as CHS knocked off defending 4A Division II state champion Texarkana Pleasant Grove 40-28 in front of 12,784 fans inside AT&T Stadium.
The Texas commit put on a show for the ages with 28 carries for 334 yards and five rushing touchdowns, while also chipping in 43 receiving yards and a touchdown and just for good measure, he had 11 tackles taking home offensive and defensive MVP honors as Cuero won its fourth state championship in school history.
Pleasant Grove raced out to a 21-7 lead as the Hawks' Wing-T offense was rolling with junior running back Bruce Garrett running for three touchdowns en route to 208 yards on the afternoon. Cuero’s lone score in the first 21 minutes of the half came on its first offensive snap when Whittington scored on a 69-yard touchdown run. However, the Gobblers got some big momentum at the end of the first half as Whittington scored on a 54-yard run to cut the Hawks lead to 21-13 and then, after forcing a three and out, the game swung in the Gobblers' favor right before halftime. With less than 10 seconds left in the half, Jordan Whittington hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Michael Barta, but after an instant replay review the touchdown was overturned. Cuero wasn’t to be denied however and on the very next play, Barta and Whittington connected again and this time the touchdown stood and right before halftime, Cuero had whittled the lead down to 21-20.
Cuero opened the second half with a 16-play drive that took over eight minutes of the third quarter, but the Gobblers turned the ball over on downs at the PGHS 26. Pleasant Grove would only gain one first down on its next series and the Hawks punted the ball back to Cuero. The Gobblers seized control of the game nine plays later, as Whittington scored on a one-yard run with 9:43 remaining to put the Gobblers up for good at 26-21.
Pleasant Grove turned the ball over on downs at its own 34 on the next drive and Cuero took full advantage as Whittington ran for his fourth score of the game from 12 yards out to make it 33-21 Cuero with 5:24 left. The defending champion Hawks wouldn’t go quietly and cut the Cuero lead back to a single score less than minute left as junior QB Ben Harmon scored on a one yard run making it 33-28 Cuero. The key play on this drive was a little trickery from the Hawks as Bruce Garrett took a handoff from Harmon ran to his right and then threw back to a wide open Harmon for a 46-yard gain, setting up the Hawks touchdown.
Cuero recovered the onside kick and put the game on ice five plays later as Whittington capped off his sensational day with a 20-yard touchdown run for the final margin of 40-28. The win caps off the high school careers of 22 Cuero seniors who fulfilled a destiny that many in DeWitt County had hoped for after several near misses in the playoffs in recent years and Whittington’s performance will go in the record books with some of the real legends of Texas high school football. After winning its first title in school history in 2017, Pleasant Grove was thought to be in for a rebuilding season, but head coach Josh Gibson’s squad proved they not only had staying power, but resiliency as well weathering the storm of youth, a couple of early season defeats and the loss of one of their top defensive players to injury midway through the season. The roles for these two teams could be reversed in 2019, with Cuero looking at a bit of a youth movement, while Pleasant Grove looks to be among the short list of state title contenders in 4A Division II.