Southlake Carroll QB Will Bowers passed for three TDs and rushed for another as the Dragons beat defending state champion DeSoto, 33-15, in a Class 6A Division II area playoff game Saturday night at the Ford Center.
It was hard to separate Bowers from the rest of the celebrating Dragons after the game. Following a long-time Carroll tradition, each player had bleached his hair blonde for the playoffs.
“It felt really good tonight,” Bowers said. “I was in a good rhythm with the receivers and they just made big plays.”
Carroll (9-3) advances to play Arlington (10-2) at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Ford Center. DeSoto, which beat Carroll 48-30 in the same round of the playoffs last year, ends its 2017 season at 10-2.
Carroll is on its deepest playoff run since 2014.
Bowers produced 217 yards of total offense, rushing 17 times for 47 yards and completing 8 of 13 passes for 170 yards. He attempted just one pass in the second half, a three-yard TD catch by Preston Forney with 2:48 left in the game, as the Dragons kept the ball on the ground to run out the clock.
Carroll led 20-7 at halftime thanks to a series of big plays, most of them passes by Bowers. In the first half, DeSoto’s longest play was a 25-yard reception from Courtney Douglas to Vontae Shenault. Carroll, meanwhile, had five plays longer than 25 yards: a 34-yard interception return and passes of 41, 37, 34 and 26 yards. Bowers threw all four passes, two of which were touchdowns.
It was quite an offensive showing for the Dragons, especially considering that DeSoto had given up more than two touchdowns just twice this season.
“It has been fun to watch our QB and our offense mature,” said Carroll coach Hal Wasson. “We have the ability to pass the ball and we showed it tonight.”
The Dragons ground attack dominated the second half. Carroll RB T.J. McDaniel rushed 24 times, with all but seven carries coming in the second half, and gained 125 yards and scored on a 28-yard TD. He also turned a screen pass into a 37-yard TD reception, one of Bowers first-half TD passes.
“The coaches know these players pretty well and they are able to dial up the right call when we need it,” said Wasson.
Despite the Dragons’ success on offense, senior LB Matty Werner might have made the play of the game. With the game tied and DeSoto marching, Werner intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards to the Eagles’ 26. The play set up Bowers’ five-yard TD run that gave the Dragons their first lead of the game, 14-7. They never trailed afterwards.
“That was a big momentum shift, really got us going,” Bowers said.
Another big play for the Dragons came when they upped the lead to 20-7 with 52 seconds left in the first half. R.J. Mickens outjumped a DeSoto defender at the seven-yard line, then somehow kept his balance to complete a 34-yard TD reception from Bowers. Mickens had already caught a 41-yard the play before McDaniel’s TD reception.
“RJ got up there and really made that play happen,” Bower said. “When he gets it, he seems to always take it to the end zone.”
DeSoto QB Courtney Douglas led the Eagles, completing 22 of 33 passes for 203 yards. He also rushed for 94 yards, a TD and a two-point conversion. DeSoto WR Vontae Shenault catching 14 passes for 114 yards.
The Eagles were slowed by 12 penalties for 104 yards. They also failed to convert on third down in the first three quarters.
DeSoto still had its chances in the second half. Their opening drive took 14 plays and more than five minutes, but ended with a 33-yard FG attempt that went wide left. Three plays later, an interception return for a touchdown was called back because of a defensive holding penalty. Carroll took up the rest of the third quarter with an 11-play drive, but punted into the end zone on the 12th play.
The Eagles scored on their first possession of the game. The gained between 15 and 17 yards on four consecutive plays, the first being a 15-yard penalty and the last being a 17-yard TD run by Daryon Triche.