Haltom coach Jason Tucker addresses team after regional-round win
Haltom was attempting to set a record for the furthest it had ever advanced into the football state playoffs, but did Cinderella’s slipper fit after its Class 6A Division II regional-round game against Hebron on Saturday?
Quarterback Michael Black made sure it did.
Black accounted for 402 of the Buffalos 505 total yards with four rushing touchdowns as Haltom rallied for a 41-30 win at Apogee Stadium.
Haltom (13-0) has reached the quarterfinal round for the first time and will face Amarillo Tascosa (10-3), a 43-34 winner over Mansfield Lake Ridge, on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock with the time to be determined. Haltom last reached the regional round in 1993.
Haltom started slowly, fumbling its second snap of the game which was recovered by Hebron’s Alex Day at the Buffalos 24 yard line. Four plays later Hebron quarterback Carson Harris ran it in from 2 yards out to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead with 9:45 left in the first quarter.
Following a Haltom punt, the Hawks took 10 plays to cover 78 yards capped by a Harris 15-yard TD run. The point after was missed, but Hebron’s lead grew to 13-0 with 2:46 left in the opening frame.
Black and the Haltom offense woke up after that, scoring on its next three possessions. Big pass plays set up short touchdown runs, all by Black, of 6, 1, and 1 yards. Black rushed for 191 yards on 28 carries and completed 11 of 16 passes for 211 yards.
A 24-yard pass from Black to Julian Johnson on a 3rd-and-7 from the Hebron 30 set up the first score. That was followed up by a 38-yard Black-to-Jace Washington connection that set up Black for a 1-yard TD run to cut Hebron’s lead to 16-13 with 4:11 left in the second quarter.
Haltom defensive back Keyon Shannon’s first of two first-half interceptions gave the Buffs the ball at their own 32. A 40-yard reception and tough running by Johnson set Black up for another one-yard scoring run that gave Haltom its first lead at 20-16 with 1:20 left in the first half.
Midway through the third quarter, with the Buffalos leading 27-23, Haltom linebacker Gavon Lange force a fumble that was scooped up at the Hebron 18 by Jahari Williams and returned for an apparent touchdown. The play was nullified by a controversial penalty, but the play seemed to spark Haltom.
Hebron (8-5) was later forced to punt and on the ensuing play Black broke through the line and raced 90 yards down the left sideline to up the lead to 34-23 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
“It definitely fired us up,” said Black of the nullified touchdown. “It got our defense rolling and, vice versa, got us rolling on offense too.”
Two second-half scoring runs by Haltom’s Kenneth Cormier and strong defensive play by the Buffalos kept Hebron at bay. Cormier rushed for 104 yards on 17 carries with TD runs of 21 and 2 yards.
Game was over when: Following Black’s 90-yard scoring run, Hebron went three and out on its next two series. After the second punt, the Haltom offense took nearly five minutes off the clock capped by a two-yard Kenneth Cormier scoring run. The play gave Haltom a 41-23 lead with 2:59 left in the game.
Play of the game: Oklahoma commit Trejan Bridges hauled in a short slant from Harris and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown on the Hawks first series of the second half. The play gave Hebron a 23-20 lead at the time. Bridges, however, was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as he celebrated in the end zone. The ensuing kickoff, 15 yards back, was returned 14 yards by Cormier to the Hebron 47. Three plays later Cormier ran it in from 15 yards out to give the Buffalos a 27-23 lead which they never relinquished.
Defensive player of the game: Keyon Shannon’s two interceptions were huge for Haltom. The first set up a Buffalo score that gave them their first lead at 20-16. The second ended a Hebron drive at the Haltom 27 with 28 seconds left in the first half. Haltom linebackers Jahari Williams and Gavon Lange, as well as defensive lineman Anthony Garcia, were very physical and key in helping stop the Hebron running attack.