FORNEY – For the first time in 13 years, the Palestine Wildcats are moving on to the area round of the playoffs.
Palestine nearly matched their season-high point total in dominating the Waxahachie Life Mustangs, 50-20, Thursday night.
“These seniors deserved this,” head coach Lance Angel said. “They were the group that bought in and the group that had to buy in to have success. They are a big reason why we’re here.”
Despite the cold weather, coach Angel refused to let the elements dictate his playcalling. That was evident throughout the game, as four Wildcats reached paydirt in a most satisfying playoff win.
After both teams ended their opening possessions with three-and-outs, Palestine’s Marquis Thompson got the Wildcats going with a 13-yard run on their second drive.
Set up on Life’s 37, a 17-yard pass from Christian Hutchinson to Jeremiah Davis on the following play was wiped out by a Palestine penalty.
Faced with a 1st-and-15, Davis and Cook restarted the drive, rolling with a pair of four-yard runs. Keshawn Nonette took his first handoff down to Life’s 24-yard line before a Hutchinson-to-Thompson connection set Palestine on the three-yard line. Davis punched it in from there.
Life appeared to have an answer on their second drive. Down 7-0, the Mustangs drove within the Palestine 25 before Quinton Cook forced a needed fumble on a quarterback rollout. It was recovered by JK Lockett, shutting down a promising drive for Life.
Hutchinson continued to stay dialed in from the pocket finding Tawalan Cook down the right sideline for a 21-yard gain. A couple plays later, Quinton Cook broke two tackles en route to a 49-yard touchdown run to put them up 14-0 at the top of the second.
Life’s offense continued to stall. A failed fourth-down attempt gave the ball back to the Wildcats near midfield. On the first play, Cook rolled right before making a jump pass to Marquis Thompson. The speedster outran the entire Mustang secondary for a 57-yard score.
Life’s next two possessions ended in punts. In between was a Palestine drive that ended with a Tawalan Cook fumble inside the Mustang 15-yard line.
Still, Palestine carried a 21-0 lead at the half.
“I thought we would struggle early against Life’s offense but it was just the opposite,” Angel said. “At times we struggled to tackle. We’ve been in close ball games and know how to respond.”
Similar to last week, Palestine’s opposition opened the second half with the ball and marched down the field for their first score. A 12-yard pass from Kendal Barnes to Keith Gocha trimmed the lead to 21-6.
Jeremiah Davis quickly canceled Life’s five-play scoring drive on his first carry of the second half. Davis shot down the middle and outran the defense for a 68-yard touchdown.
Down 28-6, Life composed a lengthy scoring drive to move within two possession, 28-12.
Rapid-fire scoring continued for Palestine on the ensuing kickoff when Marquis Thompson returned it 70 yards for Palestine’s fifth touchdown of the night. A two-point conversion stretched the lead to 36-12.
Contrarily, the offense didn’t halt for the Mustangs. Another run-oriented drive ended with a 40-yard touchdown run from Gage Mayfield.
With a 1:17 left until the fourth, Palestine took over on its 40-yard line. A 19-yard catch from Davis followed by a 14-yard run from Quinton put Palestine in a sweet spot to score.
A Keshawn Nonette 20-yard touchdown run capped a pair of Davis runs and a seven-yard gallop from Thompson. Nonette shook a pair of Mustang defenders, before giving his team a 43-20 advantage.
The final 10 minutes of the game belonged to defensive back JK Lockett. The following Mustang drive ended in one-play by a Lockett interception.
Two plays later, Davis recorded his third rushing touchdown of the evening on a 29-yard third-down handoff.
Down 50-20 with nine minutes remaining in the game, Life took over hoping to find some sort of answer. However, their first pass landed in the arms of Lockett once again.
Life’s defense stood up stopping Palestine on a fourth-down attempt. However, the final nail in the coffin was hammered home with Lockett’s third interception of the game.
“Don’t throw it to me next week” Lockett said as he ran into the locker room.
The Wildcats will play the undefeated Hargrave Falcons next week.