SPRINGTOWN — On paper, the District 4-4A champion Glen Rose Tigers were the heavy favorites heading into Friday night’s bi-district football playoff with Vernon — the fourth-place team from District 2-4A.
The Lions (5-6, 1-3), who squeaked into the playoffs with a win over Krum in the final week of the season, however, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Week 1 of the Class 4A Div. II playoffs with a 42-28 victory over the Tigers, who hadn’t lost since the first week of the season.
“Obviously, it didn't end the way we had hoped, but I’m still proud of the way our team competed week in and week out,” Glen Rose football coach Cliff Watkins said. “I really appreciate everything our seniors have done for our program. This group was back-to-back district champs and have a lot to be proud of. They are selfless leaders and will definitely be missed.”
In the rematch of last year’s bi-district matchup, the Lions torched the Tigers on the ground with 386 yards rushing (6.7 yards per rush) behind 100-yard rushers Brent McCallon (190 yards) and Chad Thomas (154 yards). The Lions only completed 4 of 6 passes for 64 yards.
“We had a hard time tackling their running backs,” Watkins said. “They had a couple different guys running the ball and were able to mix it up. We weren't able to get off the field on third and fourth down like we had throughout the season. They were able to keep the chains moving and keep the clock running.”
Also, the Lions scored the most points on the Tiger defense this season, while defensively, they held the Tigers to their second-lowest point total (19 at Grandview). Glen Rose had a string of eight straight games of scoring 48 points or more.
The game started off on a good note for the Tigers as they scored 15 seconds into the game when quarterback Cameron Griffin hit Dakota Paschall with a 65-yard strike to lead 7-0.
After a Vernon score, Griffin scampered in from 18 yards out to increase the lead to 14-6. Vernon scored again before the end of the quarter but failed on a two-point conversion to make the score 14-12.
The Lions took their first lead of the game early in the second quarter on a 9-yard TD run. The Tigers, however, took a 21-18 advantage on a 19-yard pass from Griffin to Paschall with 9:23 left in the half.
Vernon marched down the field and got inside the Glen Rose 10 thanks to several fourth-down conversions, but Glen Rose’s Tanner Stroud made a big stop on a fourth-and-goal from the 6 to preserve the three-point Tiger lead at the break.
The Lions took a 24-21 lead with a touchdown early in the third quarter, and the Tigers got their final touchdown of the game when Westen Halcom scored on a 1-yard run to make the score 28-24 midway through the third quarter.
Vernon took the lead for good at 30-28 on a fumble recovery in the end zone midway through the third quarter. Then on its next offensive possession, Vernon scored on a 65-yard run. The Lions later added a score in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers, one of four district champs to get beat in the first week of the playoffs, drove the ball to the Vernon 31 and the Vernon 17 in the second half, but failed to score.
“In the playoffs, the team that plays the best that day is going to win the game, and Vernon played a great game, and we made too many mistakes,” Watkins said. “Offensively, we didn't finish some drives that really hurt us. We also had more dropped passes than we ever do, and we turned the ball over twice in the second half.”
Halcom rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries to surpass Cody Burtscher as the school’s single-season rushing leader with 1,534 yards (153.4 per game) and 23 touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in his last eight games and nine times on the season. He had 86 yards against Waco Connolly before leaving the game with an injury.
“Westen had a really great season,” Watkins said. “He is a strong runner and is also a great leader for our football team, and for him to rush for the most yards in a season says a lot about him as a runner and our offensive line.”
The Tigers tallied 386 yards total offense. Griffin completed 13 of 29 passes for 236 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and he also rushed for 50 yards.