MANSFIELD — Keller Central picked up almost every break it could get in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Class 5A Division I bi-district game against Arlington Martin at Newsom Stadium.
A simple zone rush just inside the defensive ends by senior running back Justin Manuatu set Central up for a 17-yard touchdown run by Manuatu to bring the Chargers within five points of Martin with four minutes to play.
Martin sophomore running back Nic Smith, however, broke tackles and evaded defenders on the final drive of the game to seal the Warriors’ 21-16 victory in the opening round of the playoffs.
Martin (9-2) will play El Paso Franklin or Odessa in the area round
Martin was faced with third-and-7 with just over two minutes left when Smith broke off a 10-yard gain for a first down. He picked up another first down on the next play with a 13-yard run, then followed that with a 15-yard run, sidestepping a Central defender to assure the first-down yardage and the win.
Smith finished with 194 yards rushing on 23 carries out of Martin’s 373 total yards of offense.
Martin sophomore quarterback Eric Walker overcame a three-interception night to throw for 146 yards and a touchdown. His 48-yard pass to JR Omigie late in the second quarter gave Martin its first lead of the game, 14-7, which stood at halftime.
Keller Central (5-6) struck first, scoring the only points of the first quarter on Manuatu’s 1-yard run. Manuatu finished with 121 yards on 14 carries to go with his two touchdowns.
Martin’s Spencer Evans kicked two field goals in the first half, one from 56 yards, to bring Martin within 7-6.
Josh Watson added a 1-yard touchdown run for Martin in the third quarter.
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