ABILENE — For the first time since 2007, the Glen Rose Tigers are in the state quarterfinals.
With their 39-33 victory over Lubbock Estacado on Friday night at Abilene Christian University, the Tigers punched their ticket to the Class 4A Div. II state football quarterfinals and earned a meeting with Iowa Park on Friday at 5 p.m. at The Star in Frisco.
“I am so happy for these guys and our staff, and grateful for the support of our fans,” Glen Rose football coach Cliff Watkins said. “We’re going to enjoy it over the weekend and then we have to get back to work and get ready to win another one.”
Iowa Park (9-5, 4-1) finished second District 3-4A and earned its meeting the Tigers with a 35-14 victory over Greenwood last week.
Also in Friday’s win over Estacado, Watkins notched his 50th career win (50-13); defensive end Keegan Bunt recorded his single-season school sack record (9); quarterback Cameron Griffin threw for more than 400 yards for the first time in his GR career (416); and Davis Shackelford went over 1,000 yards receiving (1,001).
The Tigers (11-1) amassed 513 yards total offense with 416 coming on 21 of 39 passing from Griffin. He now has 3,480 yards passing with 47 TDs and just five interceptions.
Running back Westen Halcom was held to just 69 yards rushing on 20 carries, but for the third time this year, the Tigers had two receivers go over 100 yards in a game with Harrison Hawkins hauling in four catches for 123 yards and a touchdown and Shackelford recorded six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Halcom still went over 100 all-purpose yards as he tallied 67 yards receiving for 136 total yards.
The Tigers went three-and-out on their first two drive drives, fumble inside the Estacado 10 on their third drive and lost the ball on downs in their fourth.
A 22-yard pass from Griffin to Halcom on the Tigers’ fifth drive cut the Estacado lead to 7-6. Halcom later added TD runs of 9 and 2 yards to increase the Tiger advantage to 20-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Matadors scored with 38 seconds left in the first half to whittle the lead to 20-13, but the Tigers mounted a 34-second, four-play, 67-yard drive capped by a 7-yard pass from Griffin to Shackelford to increase the lead to 26-13 at the half.
“We know we are explosive enough to go and score,” Watkins said of the scoring drive. “We did, and it ended up being the difference.”
The Matadors needed just five plays early in the third quarter to tie the game at 26-26. They scored two plays into the half, then intercepted a GR and scored three plays later.
“Our kids didn’t panic; our coaches didn’t panic,” Watkins said. “We stepped back up and scored and then went toe to toe with them from then on out.”
After a 76-yard TD catch from Hawkins gave the Tigers the lead, the Matadors answered back to knot the score at 33-33. Glen Rose took the lead for good on a 41-yard TD pass from Griffin to Halcom.
In Estacado’s final three drives, the Tiger defense got an interception by Teddy Starnes, forced a punt and stopped the Matadors on downs to preserve their ninth win in a row.
Estacado recorded 423 yards total offense and had two players rush for more than 100 yards, but the Tiger defense didn’t break.
Linebacker Ricky Douglas had a monster game with 20 tackles, while Braylen Meador, Bunt and Austin Worthen had 12, 10 and 10 stops, respectively.
“Talk about a team win — the offense was up and down, the defense was up and down, but when the people had to step up and make plays, they made plays,” Watkins said. “This is a great team win.”