CHINA SPRING - China Spring showed what makes it the No. 2 team in Class 3A last Friday when the Cougars disposed of the Glen Rose Tigers, 56-34, in a battle for the District 7-3A championship.
"They're as good as advertised," said Glen Rose Head Coach Tommy Dunn. "We're certainly not in awe of them, but they are a good football team. We have to play sound football in order to play with them, and we just didn't do that."
The game started on a high note for the Tigers with an 11 play, 65-yard touchdown drive that consumed the first 4:35 of the contest.
Quarterback Derek Thompson found Austin Eschbach in the end zone from 18 yards out to give the Tigers the early 7-0 lead.
China Spring, however, could not be stopped.
The Cougars scored with a 38-yard scamper from Mike Hicks, a one-yard dive from James French, a seven-yard reception from Jerome Lloyd, 65-yard run from Travis Veselka and a 36-yard toss to Hicks in the first half.
China Spring scored on every possession until the end of the third quarter.
Glen Rose would tack on two Tanner Tongate field goals from 31 and 30 yards, and a 36-yard touchdown toss from Thompson to Ty Taylor to trail the Cougars 35-20 at the break.
The offense struggled in the second half posting only 193 yards of offense, as opposed to the 278 yards in the first half.
The Tigers found the end zone twice in the final 24 minutes, once on a QB keeper from one-yard out and later when Thompson found Jorge Espino from 15 yards out.
"We didn't play well defensively in the first half or offensively in the second, and we never got together at the same time," explained Dunn. "When we were scoring we couldn't get a defensive stop, andwhen we did get a stop them, we turned the ball over. They're a good football team and you have to play mistake-free football to beat a team like that."
Thompson finished the contest 30-43 for 350 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw a costly interception with just over two minutes left in the first half, which set up a China Spring score.
Taylor was Thompson'Ã-s main target through the air hauling in 10 passes for 152 yards and the score. Eschbach was a close second with nine grabs for 101 yards and first drive touchdown.
The Tiger "D" showed up in the second half, forcing two three-and-outs and an interception by Shelby Junge.
China Spring scored two offensive touchdowns in the second half, and a touchdown when they picked up a Santos De La Garza fumble in the end zone.
"The fumble in the end zone was a fourth-down call and (De La Garza) was just trying to make a play and do everything he could do to get a first down," said Dunn. "We were playing to win. Other people would probably punt in that situation, but we felt like we needed to take some risks in this game, and that was one of them. We needed to keep the ball, go down and score, and make it a ballgame," said Dunn.
"It wasn't because of a lack of effort and that is what I'm proud of our team for," he added. "We came to win and we put everything on the line. When you risk it all like that, sometimes you lose, and tonight we lost. But we're going to be alright, we're going to bounce back and we're going to keep playing for a while."
The Tigers have lost out on the opportunity to call themselves the outright district champion, but the coaches and players have not given up on the thought of bringing a state title to Glen Rose.
"(China Spring) played for the state championship last year and only lost by seven points," said Dunn. "So we're no that far off. If you don't believe it, it's not going to happen. We believe that we can make a run. We have a very good football team and we have to stick together and not listen to what anyone outside of our team says. We know we can do it, and we just have to keep improving. Honestly, I think we played better than we did last week, in some aspects."
In other 7-3A action Friday, West defeated Gatesville to knock the Hornets out of playoff contention with three district losses. Therefore, China Spring will be the large school representative and Glen Rose locked up the No. 1 seed in the small school division, where they will face off against their counterpart from District 8-3A, either Llano or Wimberley.
Glen Rose will have one final tune-up before the playoffs begin, as the Tigers host Hillsboro at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.