The Dream Lives On

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Photo by Bill Owney Pleasant Grove players hold aloft the bi-district championship trophy.

11-0 Hawks overcome

tough Tatum to advance

 

Photo by Bill Owney
Bruce Garrett hits a big hole in the Tatum defense for a first down.

TATUM,Texas – If, as fans expect, the Pleasant Grove Hawks wind up making a deep run into the Texas schoolboy playoffs, they will have the Tatum Eagles to thank.

In a game much tougher than expected, Pleasant Grove learned to take no playoff team for granted as the Hawks held off a gritty Tatum team that played like, well, Tatum, to post a 21-7 win and take home a bi-district trophy.

Photo by Kevin Cook
Xavier Benson dances into the end zone after doing a twisting leap over a Tatum defender.

In the beginning, PG looked like the unbeaten, state-ranked, district champion that it is, imposing its will on both sides of the ball. The Hawk defense held the Eagles to just six plays and no first downs in the first stanza, while PG’s offense scored on two of its three possessions to make it 14-0.

Then, all of a sudden, a football game broke out, and it was pretty much a tie the rest of the way.

Gathering his players around him immediately after the game, Pleasant Grove Coach Josh Gibson told them that their fans have grown accustomed to lopsided victories.

“We’ve spoiled them, we really have,” he said. “We know we can play better. We can fix that, but there’s only one number that really matters, and that’s 11-0. You need to enjoy that because you sure worked hard for it.”

Playing in their own backyard, thanks to the good fortune of a coin flip, the Eagles looked less like the 3-7 team that scratched out a playoff berth, and more like the Tatum of old – four times a state finalist, twice a champion, double-digit wins in nine of the last 12 seasons.

The Eagle front seven stuffed the Hawk running game and the secondary blanketed PG’s receivers. Tatum forced two turnovers, the Hawks none, and Pleasant Grove, which came in averaging 44 points a game, was held to its lowest point total of the season.

“Defensively, we played great,” said Tatum coach Craig Barker. “Our kids really battled against a very good football team. We missed a few shots down the field, but that was a great effort by our kids.”

Photo by Kevin Cook
Chauncey Martin weaves his way through the Tatum punt defense to set up the Hawks’ first score.

As well as the Eagle defense played, the good news for Hawk fans is that PG’s defense played better. Take out a 43-yard TD connection from Jasyiah Smith to Jamaurie Wilson just before the half, and a 69-yard halfback pass that netted zero points, the Hawk defense shut down the Eagles all night, holding them just six first downs, and a net of 73 yards on their other 46 plays

Sixteen times – a third of the plays – Hawk defenders made first contact behind the line of scrimmage, and ten of those plays went for losses.

“Our defense played a great game. Holding any opponent to seven points in a playoff game is special,” Gibson said. “My hat’s off to our defensive coaches and players.”

The defensive effort was good enough to win because of the offense’s early success.

Chauncey Martin snatched a line-drive drive punt on the bounce and shot right back up the middle for 30 yards to put the offense in business at the Eagle 27. Three plays later, on fourth-and-11, Harmon hit Xavier Benson in the right flat. The senior tight end spun and leaped over a safety and tip-toed down the sideline, dancing inside the pylon to score.

Dillon Williams’ point-after out of Brett Walker’s hold made it 7-0 with 6:46 remaining in the first act.

Another three-and-out by the defense gave the Hawks the ball back at their own 27. Seven running plays later, the PG was at the Eagle 27. There, Gardner took a pitch to the right, cut back and sliced through the middle of the Eagle defense to make it 14-0 with 54 seconds left in the quarter.

After another three-and-out, Pleasant Grove started at the 34 and ran 10 consecutive running plays, the final a two-yard, driving, backward, leg-churning blast over right tackle by T.J Cole to make it 21-0.

Photo by Kevin Cook
TJ Cole celebrates after scoring a touchdown to make it 21-0 in the second quarter against Tatum.

Tatum’s long pass play made it 21-7 at the half.

Tatum looked like it might make a game of it midway through the third period. On third-and-ten from their own 23, the Eagles ran a halfback pass that went to Jimmie Jakubowski, who was all alone eight yards behind the secondary.

The 245-lb. senior tight end rumbled down the right sideline toward the end zone. What happened next was emblematic of both teams’ seasons. PG senior cornerback Tyler Kelly refused to give up on the play and managed to shove Jakubowski out of bounds at the 8.

Four plays later, the Eagles turned over the ball on downs at the 10. The Hawks then ran off 18 plays to teach the Eagle 8 before missing a field goal.

Thought it did not produce points, the long drive served its purpose, killing off the rest of the third period and the beginning of the fourth. In chess, that’s called simplifying the game to reach, end game.

Turns out, it was the end. The Eagles, who finished 4-7, never crossed midfield again.

Sophomore kicker Dillon Williams drills home a point-after out of the hold of Brett Walker.

“Our offense scored and moved the ball well in the first half,” Gibson said. “We didn’t play well in the second half and I give Tatum credit for the way they played us.

“At the end of the night, only one thing matters,” he added. “We are 11-0 and get to keep playing another week. Our goal this week is to take another step forward, get better, and earn one more week.

PG will play 8-3 Aubrey at 4 p.m. next Friday at the 12,000-seat indoor Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, the world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys.

Aubrey finished third in District 5-4A, behind state-ranked Melissa and Celina. The Chaparrals fell to third when they lost to Celina, 24-22 in the final game of the regular season. In bi-district, they knocked off Canton, 35-24.

Complete 4A DII bracket.
By Bill Owney
[email protected]
Tatum   Pleasant Grove
6 First Downs 17
26-18 Rush – yards 51-265
11-22-0-167 PC-PA-I – yards 4-6-1-57
185 Net Offense 322
1-0 Fumbles-Lost 1-1
5-50 Penalties — yards 4-30
7-37.2 Punts — Average 2-40.0
Photo by Bill Owney
The Hawk cheerleaders have plenty to cheer about after PG (11-0) beat Tatum, 21-0, in a Class 4A bi-district game Friday night.

 

 

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A veteran journalist and educator, Bill Owney is a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida. Writing awards include APME honors for investigative reporting, the Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Award for public service reporting and numerous awards for editorial, column and news writing. He served as publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and Pittsburg Gazette when each paper won sweepstakes awards from the Texas Press and North and East Texas Press Associations. He spent 15 years as a public school teacher and is an adjunct professor of English at Texarkana College.