WAXAHACHIE — With one game remaining in the regular season, the Glen Rose Tigers are 8-1 overall and 4-0 in District 4-4A play, and they hold the fate of their second straight undefeated district season in their hands when they host Hillsboro Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.
“It’s good to control our own destiny,” Glen Rose football coach Cliff Watkins said following the Tigers’ 55-34 victory over Life School last Friday night. “We have to enjoy this and then we have to come out and figure out what’s going wrong and get that fixed and get back to our fast starts.”
The Tigers, who haven’t lost since falling to Grandview in the season opener, beat Hillsboro 49-14 on the road last year. This year, the Tigers are hoping to wrap up the district title on their turf.
The Eagles are 3-6 overall record and 2-2 mark in district play and enter the contest with the Tigers after beating Benbrook 35-6. Their other district win was 51-7 over Venus. They lost 40-34 to Godley in the district opener and to Life School 49-33 in Week 3 of the district slate.
Against Life School, the Tigers broke open a 34-34 tie by scoring three touchdowns in the final 4:30 of the contest to win in their sixth consecutive game of scoring 50 points or more.
Glen Rose running back Westen Halcom scored on back-to-back runs of 55 and 32 yards late in the fourth quarter. For good measure, Connor Hansen returned a Mustang fumble 33 yards for a touchdown to put the icing on the cake.
“I don’t know how that happened but it happened fast and I like it,” Watkins said of the 21-point fourth-quarter burst. “I loved the way our guys fought. There were a lot of things that went wrong. We had some guys step up who had to play different spots and they kept fighting and kept believing and finally we were able to wear them down at the end.”
Halcom finished with 240 yards rushing and four touchdowns a week after rushing for a school-record 270 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Godley.
“He’s playing really, really well and running the ball extremely tough, and I was proud of our offensive line,” Watkins said. “We leaned on them heavily. Life was loading the box, but we had to be able to run the ball. Towards the end of the game, it finally wore on them. We came out and got the tempo going in the second half, and our offensive line took over.”
The Tigers were uncharacteristically held to just 13 first-half points — the fewest in the first half all season — and trailed by four at the break. Jess Niedziela hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Cameron Griffin and Halcom had a 6-yard run for the Tigers’ scores in the half.
“A lot of credit goes to Life,” Watkins said. “They changed up and came out and showed something new and then we got down in the red zone and didn’t score. It wasn’t a good start for us.”
After Life School hit its second 40-yard field goal of the game to go up 20-13 early in the third quarter, Dakota Paschall scored on a 36-yard pass from Griffin to knot the score at 20-20.
Life School took the lead at 27-20 on a 57-yard pick-six with 4:27 left in the third quarter, but the Tigers answered with a 9-yard run from Halcom and a 6-yard run from Griffin to take the 34-27 lead with 6:25 left in the game.
The Mustangs tied the score at 34-34 on a 1-yard run with 4:34 left before the Tigers blew the game open with three consecutive scores to end the game.
“We have to get back to our fast starts,” Watkins said. “That didn’t happen and we knew that would be key for this game. The longer they stayed in it the longer they could do what they wanted to do offensively. I thought Life had a great game plan and they played really well.”
Griffin completed 12 of 24 passes for 127 yards and two TDs with three interceptions. He also rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries. Paschall led the Tigers with five catches for 80 yards and a score.
Tanner Stroud paced the Tiger defense with 12 stops — including four for loss — and Logan Thames added 12 tackles as well. Davis Shackelford tallied nine and Keegan Bunt and Ricky Douglas had eight each.
The Tiger defense held the Mustangs to just 94 yards passing, but they managed 243 yards on the ground.