BURLESON – The Holliday Eagle defense took charge early in the Class 3A, Division 2, Regional round of the UIL State Playoffs last Friday. The Lexington Eagles offense was stifled in the first half on a wet and rainy night. Cason Foster and Crae Jackson made picture perfect open field tackles to prevent first downs. Mark Hardin, Connor Hill and Crosby Jurecek were relentlessly filling gaps resulting in losses or short gains. The early game changer was a blocked punt caused by a heavy rush from Foster and Hardin. Kaleb Austin came up with a sack resulting in a 15 yard loss late in the second period. The Eagles took a halftime lead of 13-0.
Another 20 points in the second half gave Holliday a 33-14 victory to advance to the State Quarterfinal round for the second year in a row against a familiar opponent, the Gunter Tigers. The Eagles are now 10-3 for the season. In 2017 the Tigers bumped the Eagles out of the playoffs in the Regional round 48-7. Last year the Eagles lost to Gunter in district then again to them in the State Quarterfinal 27-6. Back in October in district competition the Tigers beat the Eagles 20-7. Holliday spotted Gunter 14 points on an early touchdown and a fumble recovery for a touchdown with 5:49 left in the first period. For the last 3 and a half quarters it was Holliday 7, Gunter 6. The Eagle defense has improved since then and the Eagle passing game has helped the offense become more balanced. It could be the fifth and not the third time is the charm. The game is scheduled for a 7:30pm kickoff at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls this Friday night.
Lexington played the first half last Friday without the services of their leading running back, Jarred Kerr, but the inspired Holliday defense was swarming to the ball on every snap. Kerr’s presence might have made a difference in the first half, however, he would have had to deal with a defense the likes of which Lexington had probably not seen all year.
A poor punt in the first period gave Holliday the ball on the Lexington 41 yard line. It took 7 plays for Holliday to cover the 41 yards. A Kase Patterson pass to Jaxx Johnson kept the drive alive with a first down at the 20 yard line. Tristin Boyd registered another first down on a six yard run before Patterson completed a 7 yard pass to Tucker Strealy for the first touchdown of the night. Logan Whitling supplied the point after kick to give the Holliday Eagles a 7-0 lead with 3:51 left in the first period.
Later in the first period Foster chased down a scrambling Lexington quarterback for a 10 yard loss forcing a punting situation. Foster and Hardin charged in to block the kick. The Eagles took over on the Lexington 23 yard line to set up the second score of the night. Boyd scored on a 3 yard run behind clearing blocks by John Paul Menasco and Ryan Hipol. An attempt for 2 points failed. Both the first quarter and the half ended 13-0 Holliday. Late in the second period the Eagles drove to the Lexington 28 yard line before an interception stopped the drive.
Lexington’s Kerr entered the game in the second half fighting through an injury from the previous week, however, he was 20 points down when he took the field. Eagle freshman Jaxx Johnson returned the kickoff to start the second half 20 yards to the Holliday 38 yard line. Boyd ripped up the middle for 36 yards on the first play of the second half through a lane provided by good blocks from the offensive line. Patterson ran a bootleg to the Lexington 14 yard line. From there the Eagles punched in the third touchdown of the night on a Hardin three yard run capping a 7 play 62 yard drive. Whitling’s point after made it 20-0 with 9 minutes left in the third period before Lexington’s highly touted running back got into the game.
Kerr did manage to breathe some life into the Lexington offense before throwing an interception picked off by Keegan Hutchins at the Holliday 48 yard line. Ethan Twilligear gained 17 yards to start a 4 play drive. Patterson got his second touchdown pass on a 26 yard completion to senior tight end Ethan Greer. Another Whitling point after kick put Holliday up 27-0 with 5:05 left in the third period.
Hardin snuffed out the next Lexington possession with an interception. After Holliday punted a Lexington fumble recovered by Hill gave Holliday another short field with the ball on the 27 yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter Johnson completed a 6 play drive with a 3 yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 33-0 with 12 minutes left in the game.
Kerr, who finished the night with 109 rushing yards on 11 carries, scored on an 8 yard run with 6:10 left in the contest. Holliday went on a time consuming drive with the next possession but lost a fumble at the Lexington 24. Kerr scored on a 58 yard run in the waning seconds. A two point conversion with 2 seconds on the clock made the final 33-14.
Patterson was 7 for 11 passing for 84 yards with 2 touchdowns. Thanks to good field position provided by the defense the Eagles only needed 177 yards on the ground to score three rushing touchdowns. Johnson was the leading rusher with 58 yards on 14 carries. Boyd gained 43 yards on 8 carries. Twilligear had 30 yards on six carries.
Foster had 9 solo tackles and was in on another 4. Austin and Tyler Curnutte had 7 each. The Eagles defense had 2 interceptions, a blocked punt, and a fumble recovery.