By JUSTIN RAINS
There were any number of things that could’ve distracted the Palestine football team Friday night.
It was Senior Night, for one. Also, the Wildcats face rival Fairfield next week. Not to mention, that visiting Mexia hadn’t won a game all season.
But, the Wildcats simply took care of business here at Wildcat Stadium, rolling over the Blackcats 63-24.
With the win, the Wildcats (7-2, 3-0) locked up a playoff spot and solidified how big of a matchup next week’s game in Fairfield (6-3, 3-0) will be.
Palestine scored the first four times it got the football, and only two of its 10 drives didn’t end with the Wildcats in the end zone.
After forcing a three-and-out on Mexia’s first possession, Palestine didn’t waste time driving down the field, engineering a three-minute drive — almost all of it on the ground — that ended with a Jarrell Owens one-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
Palestine’s defense again forced a three-and-out on Mexia’s next possession and this time, the offense took advantage of how successful its run game had been.
Gee Clark faked a hand-off that fooled all the Mexia defenders, leaving Sheldon Watson all alone to catch an easy 33-yard touchdown pass to put Palestine up 15-0.
Early in the second quarter, Palestine again faced a fourth-down inside the red zone. Again the Wildcats went for it, and again they succeeded.
Clark hit Paul Barksdale on a screen pass, and Barksdale followed the block of Owens for a 13-yard touchdown.
With Palestine up 22-0, Mexia’s offense finally sprang to life.
After a holding penalty on the kick-off put Mexia on the 10 yard line, Ike Jones took a hand-off and went all the way to the end zone, 90 yards for a Mexia touchdown that cut the lead to 22-6.
But, Palestine answered thanks to a tough, two-yard run by Juan Yarbrough to put Palestine up by 23, 29-6. That play was set up by a 4th-and-7 conversion by Palestine, when Clark his Brian Gummelt with a pass and Gummelt ran it 47 yards down to the two-yard-line.
Then, Jones and the Blackcats really found their groove.
After a nice kick return by Jones all the way to the Palestine 30, Broderick Reeves ran the Blackcats down inside the Palestine 10. Jones then finished the job, pounding it in from 10 yards out to make it 29-12.
After a Gee Clark interception at the Blackcat 10-yard-line on the ensuing Palestine possession, Jones struck again.
This time, Mexia quarterback Ronald Jackson handed the ball off to Kaylon Watson on a jet sweep, and Watson raised up and threw to Jones on a go route.
Jones made a nice adjustment coming back to the ball, and then out-ran the defense for a 90-yard catch-and-run to cut the Palestine lead even further at 29-18.
But, that’s as close as Mexia would get.
Despite having only 1:06 left in the half, Palestine drove inside Mexia territory.
Then, Jadarrius Beasley took off on a 48-yard touchdown run with six seconds remaining in the half, extending Palestine’s halftime lead to 35-18.
Beasley struck again one play from scrimmage later, when he took the first play of the second half 46 yards for another touchdown to extend Palestine’s lead even further to 42-18.
From there, it was all but over.
Clark added another touchdown pass — his third of the night — when he hit Marquis Clark for a 10-yard score, and Jordan Anthony made the play of the night when he returned an interception 96 yards down the Palestine sideline for a score, tight-roping along the way.
Reeves ran in from 34 yards out midway through the fourth quarter to make it 56-24, but Palestine tacked-on another score when Darrius Stephens ran in from 10 yards out. Stephens had set up that TD with a 40-yard run the play before.
Beasley finished the night with 117 yards and two touchdowns on only five carries, while Stephens had 98 yards and a score on seven carries.
Clark finished 9-18 for 139 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with seven different receivers in the process.
On the night, Palestine racked up 403 total yards of offense.
Jones had a game-high 165 yards rushing, while Reeves finished with 99.