MADISONVILLE – The Palestine Wildcat could not repeat their 2019 magic as they fell in the first round, 19-10, to the Huffman Hargrave Falcons Friday.
The Wildcats entered this Class 4A-Region III match as underdogs – even after being one of two teams to defeat Huffman in the past two years.
It seemed that momentum was behind the Wildcats early as they struck first on their opening possession. Three straight runs from Jakaryon Conley set Palestine up on Huffman's 14 before quarterback Jarrod Walker snuck it in a few plays later.
That momentum transitioned to the defensive side as a Dawaylyn Lewis sack ended Huffman's drive after four plays.
Huffman boomed a punt that traveled 64 yards down to Palestine's one. However, the offense was not phased.
Palestine picked up first downs on back-to-back runs from Conley and Shedrick Dudley before a holding call stalled the Wildcats drive. They were forced into a third-and-16 and a punt on fourth down.
The unfortunate events continued to cut the Wildcats as the punt only traveled 20 yards – setting Huffman up on Palestine's 30.
On the next play, Eliott Jameson sprinted 30 yards to the endzone for their first score. The extra point was blocked.
Up 7-6, Palestine attempted to regain momentum. They found themselves in opponent's territory, again, following a few solid runs from Dudley and Taj'Shawn Wilson.
A strong run from Jermeny Walker got them to Huffman's 12 before back-to-back holding calls neutralized his efforts.
Palestine attempted to go for a deep bomb to the endzone on a fourth-and-26, but failed.
Huffman responded with a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Luke Thomas to Gunner Gates. Their shot at a two-point try failed.
Neither side added to their score before the teams headed to the locker room for intermission.
Huffman exited halftime with ball and a five-point lead. Palestine's defense made an early statement as they forced them into a three-and-out.
The Wildcats was able to respond with a field goal to trim their deficit to 12-10.
The Wildcat defense continued to show up – forcing another three-and-out.
The Wildcats started near midfield. A 39-yard run from Dudley moved them to the Huffman 25. However, just as before, the Wildcats began to beat themselves.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved them back into a second-and-25. A pair of incompletions turned the ball over on downs.
Huffman began on their 41, but did nothing to capitlize on the favorable field position as the Wildcats forced a turnover on downs after four plays.
Palestine took over on their 48. A run for a loss of one and a false start put them in a second-and-16. A pair of runs from Conley and Dudley forced them into a fourth-and-4 before a Falcons defender jumped offsides – giving the Wildcats a fresh set of downs.
Conley fought hard for another seven-yard run until another holding call put Palestine behind the chains once again.
Faced with a second-and-11, then a third-and-10, the Wildcats were unable to overcome the down-and-distance.
A remarkable punt, however, pinned the Falcons on their own one-yard line with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter.
Huffman has a conservative first two plays that netted two yards before. Faced with a third-and-8 from their own three, Thomas connected with a receiver across the middle for a 47-yard completion.
The big completion sent a burst of energy through the Huffman sideline. The Falcons continued to pound the ball into the gut of the Wildcats defense before finally Thomas ended the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
The ensuing extra point put the Falcons up 19-10 with 2:06 left.
A final interception from Jarrod Walker inside the redzone would inevitably end the game and the Wildcats season.