WICHITA FALLS - Last Friday night at Memorial Stadium on Joe Golding Field the Holliday Eagles were on the verge of taking a second half lead in the third period. Up to that point the upset minded Eagles were hanging tough with the Association Press No. 2 State Ranked Gunter Tigers. A yellow flag kept that from happening. The inspired Eagle defense got big plays from Cason Foster and Connor Hill to force a Tiger punt. The punt was blocked giving the Eagles good field position at the Gunter 42 yard line. With the score 14-9 in favor of the Tigers, Austin Jones ran in from the one yard line for an apparent go ahead score. A questionable procedure penalty wiped out the touchdown moving the ball back to the 6 yard line. The Eagles went to the air to reclaim the score only to have a Tiger pick off the pass attempt and return it to the Gunter 31 yard line. That third quarter turnaround allowed the Tigers to take the momentum for the remainder of the contest.
The Eagles took an early lead on a 91 yard touchdown pass from Kase Patterson to Tucker Strealy. Strealy outleaped the defender to make the catch, broke a tackle, and then outran the Tiger secondary for the score with 6:16 left in the first period. It was the last time Holliday crossed the goal line when the points went on the scoreboard. Strealy made another leaping catch in the fourth period to keep hope alive, but it was too late for comeback heroics. He caught 2 passes for 132 yards narrowly missing another long pass by just inches in the second quarter.
The Tigers rushed for 314 yards while holding the Eagles to just 59 yards rushing. Gunter drove 70 yards in the first period to take the lead at 7-6 on a Bryson Rigsby 4 yard run with a Logan Hubbard point after kick.
The best drive of the night for the Eagles came in the second period after the Tiger touchdown. Starting at their own 25 the Eagles utilized a mix of passing to Austin and Mark Hardin along with a Tristin Boyd run to move the ball to the Tiger 22 yard line. The drive stalled, but not without points. Logan Whitling kicked a 42 yard field goal to allow Holliday to regain the lead 9-7 with 9:50 left in the half.
The Eagle defense was working hard to contain the Tiger rushing attack with some success. Unfortunately after an exchange of punts Gunter used up the rest of the time in the first half on a 72 yard drive capped by a Hudson Graham one yard run with 30 seconds left. The half ended in Gunter’s favor after the extra point kick 14-9.
Neither team scored in the third period. Three inspired downs of defense by the Eagles forced Gunter to punt. The Tigers downed the punt on the 1 yard line just before the end of the third period. The Eagles moved the ball to the 27 yard line, but another interception early in the fourth quarter returned to the Holliday 12 yard line allowed the Tigers to bang in their third touchdown of the night on a Rigsby 1 yard run. The extra point made it a 2 score game at 21-9 with 10 minutes left in the contest. With Gunter’s ability to chew up both time and yardage it was an uphill task for Holliday.
The Tigers got the final score of the game by burning up a good bit of the time on the clock while driving 80 yards. Peyton Lowe scored on a 22 yard run. The 2 point attempt was no good making the final score 27-9 with 4:59 left in the game. Holliday moved the ball to the Gunter 43 yard line on Strealy’s second leaping catch of the night. When the ball went over on downs to the Tigers they ran out the clock.
Holliday uncharacteristically abandoned the run game to attack the Tigers in the air. Without the two second half interceptions it might have worked. Patterson passed for 179 yards with a touchdown. Jones finished the night with 3 catches for 32 yards. Boyd rushed 9 times for 26 yards and Jones had 4 carries for 20 yards.
The Eagles started the season with a lot of question marks given the number of productive seniors lost to graduation. After dropping two district games the Eagles answered those questions by improving steadily to earn a spot in the Class 3-A, Division 2, State Quarterfinal. Whoever they met, making it to the Quarterfinal made them one of the 8 teams still playing in December. The fact it was the fifth shot at Gunter did nothing to diminish the stellar season the Holliday Eagles had in the 2019 campaign.