With their season on the line, the Haltom Buffalos went for it, literally, lending credence to the adage that in every venture the bold man comes off best.
The Buffalos converted four fourth-down conversions on three scoring drives in securing their first winning season since 2000 and their third playoff berth this century in a 28-17 District 3-6A victory over Keller Central at Keller ISD Stadium on Thursday.
Running back Zacc Smith rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yarder at the 1:50 mark of the fourth that sealed victory and the district runner-up berth. As a linebacker, he had two sacks to force a punt on Central’s last drive.
Quarterback Michael Black rushed for 147 yards on 31 carries and had two touchdowns passing, including one of 24 yards to Julian Johnson on fourth-and-11.
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Black threw another to Imiee Cooksey of 32 yards that put Haltom up for good at the 6:11 mark, the last of the game’s five lead changes.
The Buffalos (6-4 overall, 4-2 district) will play as the No. 2 seed out of 3-6A in a Class 6A Division I bi-district game next week against Arlington Lamar. The site and time had not been sorted out yet.
“It’s truly a blessing,” said Smith. “We worked all week for this. A lot of people doubted us and counted us out. This was a big game for us.”
After opening district 2-0, including a last-second victory over Keller on Oct. 6, Haltom lost two straight before bouncing back in beating Weatherford last week in setting up its win-and-in showdown.
“Wednesday was the best practice of the year … it was the best practice since I’ve been at Haltom,” said coach Jason Tucker, in his fourth season at the school. “In the rain. It was crisp, our defensive kids were striking a little bit, almost too much for my taste before the game.
“Sometimes you think they’re a little too loose, but they play hard.”
The Chargers’ season is not over. Central (6-4, 4-2) will play Mansfield in a Class 6A Division II bracket of the UIL playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of district.
Chargers running back Isaiah Ganaway rushed for 115 yards on 12 carries. QB Gavin White had 41-yard TD pass to D.J. Graham in the first quarter. Dain Hammit had a 2-yard scoring run.
Haltom, which last made the playoffs in 2009, held the Chargers to 208 yards and nine first downs. Conversely, the Buffalos had 412 yards and 22 first downs.
Haltom converted two fourth downs on its opening possession, which ended in Andres Alaniz’s 35-yard field goal.
Haltom converted another big one in the fourth quarter. Down 17-16, Haltom took possession at the 9:50 mark. The Buffalos drove 61 yards in eight plays, concluding the drive with Cookey’s touchdown reception at 6:11.
The TD was preceded with Smith’s 3-yard run on fourth-and-2.