Hawks top Aubrey
tackle Celina next
FRISCO – In business, sports and life itself, victory usually goes to the most efficient.
Pleasant Grove taught Aubrey that lesson Friday at the Ford Center at the Star Friday, scoring eight touchdowns in eight possessions to sail to a 58-26 area championship.
While the Chaparrals played plodding turtle, cobbling together scoring drives of 17 and 19 plays, the Hawks were the hare who never rested, striking like reiterative lightning with 10 plays of 20 or more yards, six of those for touchdowns.
Quarterback Ben Harmon connected on all seven of his passes for 163 yards and three scores, one to his brother Luke and two others to star wideout Carson Cox and Chauncey Martin had scoring runs of 65 and 25 yards as the Hawks built a 28-7 halftime lead and never looked back.
“We thought we played awful offense last week and when we looked at the film it was mistakes we could correct,” said coach Josh Gibson. “We had a great week in practice. Just execute, execute, execute and tonight we reaped the benefits of that. We had so many guys having big plays. It was fun watching them produce, produce, produce.”
Pleasant Grove (12-0) will continue the best season in school history with a Class 4A Division II regional championship showdown with Celina (9-3) Friday night at 7 at Prim Stadium in Sulphur Springs. Celina, a 23-19 winner over PG in the third round last year, the last loss PG suffered, Friday knocked off Jaspar 35-27.
With a chance to advance to a state quarterfinal, Pleasant Grove will be looking to play another complete game. No PG squad has advanced past the third round.
“We’re hungry, especially going up against a team that knocked us out last year,” said coach Josh Gibson. “What a great program, what a great tradition with seven state championships. We know we’ll have to have another great game.”
Celina, the District 5-4A runner-up, beat Aubrey, 24-22 on November 22. The winner Friday will meet the following week in a state quarterfinal against the winner of a game to be played Thursday between 5-4A champion Melissa and Gilmer, 7-4A runner-up to Pleasant Grove.
For a while Friday, it looked like PG might not be playing at all next week. The Chaparrals opened the game with a methodical 17-play play drive that chewed up the first 7:33 of the game. Twice Aubrey converted fourth downs, the second when Spencer Nuemann scored from two yards out.
The Hawks responded with alacrity, covering 69 yards in just four plays to tie the game with 2:34 left in the first quarter. Harmon set the tone, delivering a strike to TJ Cole for 38 yards and first down at the Aubrey 31.
After a sack pushed the Hawks back to the 43, Martin exploded through the middle for 32 yards. Harmon found Cox all alone in the right corner of the end zone for the score.
The four-play drive took all of 1:49. That’s the way it went all night. Aubrey, like PG, a Wing-T team, ground out 381 yards but needed 68 handoffs to do it. Pleasant Grove rushed for 359 yards on just 20 carries. Aubrey converted on three of five fourth downs. PG never had a fourth down.
After the touchdown pass, the Hawk defense followed with a three-and-out.
Two plays later, Martin slashed through a gaping hole on the right side, cut back, juked a linebacker and sprinted 65 yards for the Hawks’ second score as time expired in the first quarter.
Pleasant Grove quickly, and efficiently, pulled away.
A few minutes later, the Hawks put together a 70-yard drive, sparked by a pass from a scrambling Harmon to hulking tight end Austin Toler for 16 yards. TJ Cole had a 14-yard first-down run to move it to the 25. From there, Martin found a big hole in the middle top make it 21-7.
In the closing moments of the half, the Chaparrals turned the ball over on downs at the Hawk 28. Josh Roberts scampered for 22 yards around the right side, Martin popped for 18 more and Cole hit the middle for nine to get the ball to the Aubrey 30.
Harmon spotted Cox running a go route in single coverage along the right side, and the big senior took the ball away from the defender and dove just inside the pylon to make it 28-7 with 30 seconds left in the half.
“We saw on film that route would be open,” said Cox. “I just told Ben to put the ball in the air and let me make the play.”
Any hopes Aubrey had of continuing its season began to evaporate with the opening drive of the second half when PG efficiently marched 70 yards in in five plays to make it 35-7. Harmon hit Cox for 23 yards to get things going and Martin hit the line for 11 to get in scoring position.
A holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 34, which simply gave Bruce Garret more room to execute a jet sweep to the right. As the sophomore sprinted to the corner, a trio of defenders headed toward the sideline. The sophomore cut back in a double-lane highway of green and dashed into the end zone to make it 35-7.
Though a Chaparral is a type of road runner, Aubrey looked like anything but, eating up the remainder of the third quarter with a 19-play drive capped by a 4-yard squirt through right tackle by Nuemann, who finished the night with 138 yards on 18 carries.
On the next play from scrimmage, TJ Cole demonstrated how a real road runner operates, bursting through the right side for 72 yards and a score.
While Aubrey found success on the ground, it was less-than-efficient through the air. After completing his first two passes, quarterback Taylor Swarbick found his receivers smothered the rest of the night. At one point, he threw 11 straight incompletions, the last an interception that Caleb Portia returned 20 yards to the Aubrey 45.
Harmon was far more efficient, completing his final two throws of the night, one a 22-yarder to Cox, who finished with 86 yards and two TDs on four catches. The second went to big brother Luke, all alone in the middle of field, for a 23-yard score to make it 49-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Luke Harmon added another touchdown, a two-yard burst through the middle, midway through the final period.
The Chaparrals scored on two late drives as Gibson began to substitute liberally.
Aubrey 7 0 7 14 — 28
Pleasant Grove 14 14 14 14 — 56