Duncanville just might have the best defense in the state.
Heck, maybe the nation as the No. 5 Panthers showcased it on Saturday night against a potent Southlake Carroll offense during the Class 6A Division I state quarterfinals at the Ford Center.
The Panthers forced five turnovers and returned two interceptions for touchdowns to eliminate the No. 6 Dragons, 51-7, and advance to the state semifinals for the first time since winning it all in 1998.
“We have a great group of kids on defense and our philosophy is we put our best on defense,” Duncanville coach Reginald Samples said.
It’s the most points Carroll (13-1) has allowed since giving up 62 in the 2014 state quarterfinals against Cedar Hill. It’s also the first time the Dragons were held to single digits since a 24-0 loss to Allen in 2012.
“I feel like defense wins games and we’ve been doing it all year long,” Samples said. “The teams I coach are going to play defense.”
Duncanville (13-0) will take on No. 1 Allen (14-0) in the state semifinals, 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at AT&T Stadium. Allen beat Waco Midway, 51-7, on Saturday.
“I’ll only celebrate tonight,” Samples said. “We’ll get up in the morning and work on Allen. They have a great football team.”
Duncanville struck first with a 12-play and 81-yard drive as 4-star quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson called his number on a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:33 in the opening period.
After the Dragons missed their second field goal attempt, Jackson’s 9-yard TD run on the ensuing drive extended the Duncanville lead to 14-0 with 5:05 in the first half.
Three plays later and Duncanville senior linebacker Anthony Cruz returned an interception 14 yards for another touchdown. The Panthers missed the extra point, but led 20-0 with 3:35 in the second quarter.
Carroll had its best drive on the next possession when Will Bowers threw a 53-yard pass to 4-star junior RJ Mickens and then the duo hooked up for a 16-yard touchdown two plays later to make it 20-7 with 2:10 before the half.
But the Panthers deflated any Carroll momentum when Jackson found Roderick Daniels Jr. for a 10-yard touchdown and 27-7 lead, which they took into the break.
Jackson finished with 19 carries, 156 yards and three TDs, and threw for 124 yards and one TD.
“He’s a good player and you saw it, and he has a lot more good football left in him,” Samples said.
The Panthers tacked on their final 24 points in the third quarter which included a 4-yard TD run by Trysten Smith and a 14-yard score from Jackson.
Duncanville went up 51-7 late in the period on a 54-yard pick-six from Ennis Rakestraw.
The Panthers, which entered the game allowing 4.5 points per game, also forced two fumbles and held the Dragons to 58 yards rushing. Carroll came in averaging 42 points and 239 yards on the ground.
SMU commit TJ McDaniel rushed for 94 yards in his final game as a Dragon. Mickens had a game-high five catches for 146 yards.
“We had a good year,” first-year head coach and Dragon alum Riley Dodge said. “The kids battled every week. We just came up short.”