By David Kapitan
QUINLAN – The Wills Point Tigers and Quinlan Ford Panthers hit the field on Friday night as two teams trending into different directions.
The Tigers, last year’s District 14-3A champions, had struggled through the first part of the season, recording only one win en route to a 1-5 record. Ford, on the other hand, continued where they left off last year, bulling their way to a 4-2 record during the non-district part of their schedule.
Friday night’s showdown, the district opener for both, proved to be a one-sided affair, with Quinlan’s rushing attack helping the Panthers take home the 49-29 victory.
The Panthers opened on offense, riding the legs of seniors Dalton Beierschmitt and Jon Humphries from their own 40-yard line to the Tiger 19-yard line in eight plays. One play later, Ford drew first blood with a Humphries touchdown run to jump in front 7-0.
Wills Point answered back on its first drive of the game, stringing together a 13-play, 69-yard drive for the game tying score. Completions from Pemberton to Tre Smith and Ranger Wilcoxson, and gains by Dominique Granville, put the ball on the Quinlan Ford 3-yard line. Pemberton scored the Tiger touchdown on a quarterback keeper, pulling the teams even at 7-7 with 3:37 to play in the first quarter.
Ford answered back with its own 13-play touchdown drive, driving and 80 yards and scoring on Humphries’ second touchdown of the first half to retake a 14-7 lead.
Wills Point got lucky on its next possession, fumbling the away the ball deep in their own territory, but keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard.
Ford punted the ball back to the Tigers. Wills Point, starting at its own 10-yard line, needed 11-plays to find pay dirt, with Pemberton finding Tre Smith for a 17-yard touchdown.
Wills Point elected to go for the 2-point conversion, with Pemberton connecting on a pass to Ranger Wilcoxson to give the Tigers a 15-14 lead with 3:43 to play in the half.
After a nice kick return, the Panthers turned to a bit of trickery to retake the lead. Manuel Enriquez scored on a 36-yard reverse, but the Panther failed on the ensuing 2-point conversion, leaving Ford ahead 20-15.
Wills Point looked to be well on their way to an answer thanks to a big 37-yard connection from Pemberton to Jah Golden, but the Tiger’s drive would stall out, forcing a field goal attempt. Wills Point’s kick was no good, returning possession to Quinlan Ford with just under 30 seconds to play.
After an 18-yard gain on a Beierschmitt on first down, Ford got in the end zone on a 62-yard completion from their quarterback to Logan Lane. With the PAT, Quinlan took a 27-15 lead into the half.
Pemberton and Tre Smith started the second half on fire for Wills Point, connecting on three completions, gains of 18, 11 and 35 yards, to put the Tigers back on the scoreboard. Roberto Lira added the PAT, cutting Ford’s lead to 27-22.
Quinlan and Wills Point traded an odd sequence on the ensuing possessions. The Panthers drove the ball from their own 34-yard line to the Wills Point 14-yard line on the legs of their rushing attack.
The Panthers were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the following play and then fumbled the ball to Wills Point moments later.
The Tigers returned the favor on their first play back with the ball, giving Quinlan possession of the football deep inside Wills Point territory. The Panthers lost a total of 2 yards on their first three plays of the drive, setting up a fourth down and 12 situation from the 22-yard line.
Ford was called for a delay of game penalty, pushing them back five yards before Bryce Evilsizer connected withLogan Laneon the backbreaking 27-yard touchdown completion. Humphries rushed home the following 2-point conversion, giving Quinlan the 35-22 lead.
After Pemberton connected on pass plays with Jah Golden twice and Tre Smith once, the ensuing Tiger possession fizzled out with a turnover on downs.
Already in command with the game moving into the fourth quarter, Ford iced the game on their play. The Panthers ran the ball 11 consecutive plays, before going for it on fourth down and converting on a 24-yard pass from Evilsizer to Markus Laurent. Another successful PAT put the Panthers up 42-22 with 10:25 to play.
Wills Point couldn’t score on its first possession of the fourth quarter, returning possession to the Panthers.
Quinlan needed only five plays to tack on another touchdown, scoring on a 42-yard run by Weston McCluskey.
The Tigers mounted a late rally, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Pemberton to Jah Golden, cutting the Ford advantage to 49-29 with 3:01 to play.
Neither team could score with time winding down, moving Quinlan Ford to the top and Wills Point to the bottom of the District 14-3A standings.
Quinlan finished the game racking up 375 rushing yards on 56 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt.
Wills Point got big games from Tre Smith (9 catches for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Jah Golden (8 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown) in the loss.
The Tigers will now face Crandall at home Oct. 18, before entering their bye week. Quinlan will travel to Kaufman, before hosting Rains on Oct. 25.