HICO — It seems unlikely, but in an 88-42 six-man football bi-district win by Gordon over Zephyr, it was the Longhorns’ defense that turned the momentum.
Gordon racked up 570 yards of total offense in Saturday night’s Six-Man Division I game and scored 22 points in each quarter before winning because of the 45-point mercy rule with 4:03 left in the game. Michael Cherry amassed 387 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns by himself rushing, passing and receiving.
Still, it was three consecutive stops in the first half by Gordon’s defense that rallied the Longhorns from an early deficit to a lead they never relinquished.
“The defense turned the tide for us, that’s for sure,” said Cherry, who rushed for 187 yards and four touchdowns, caught four passes for 137 yards and two TDs and finished 6-of-7 passing for 63 yards and four scores.
Gordon coach Shane Mallory said, “Zephyr is bigger and faster than we are, but we’re quicker. We had to use our quickness to our advantage. On defense, we tried to get them (Zephyr) going sideways instead of downhill. The defense really stepped it up and played well.”
Gordon (8-3) advanced to play Savoy (10-0) in next weekend’s regional round of the Six-Man Division I playoffs.
Zephyr, which got into the playoffs after a three-way coin flip, saw its chances fade when three starters were injured, including leading rusher Derek Jesko to a possible concussion just before halftime and Kaiden King to a shoulder injury in the first half. Jesko and King didn’t return to the game.
“We had to completely change what we were doing,” Zephyr coach Royce Jesko said. “We had some sophomores and juniors in there having to do things they weren’t used to doing. But I thought they got in there and competed well. By that time (of the injuries), the momentum already turned against us.”
Jesko broke a 55-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage to stake Zephyr to an early 8-0 lead, but Gordon’s defense limited him to a minus-15 yards on his final five carries. Quarterback Josh Todd led the Bulldogs with 96 yards rushing and 92 yards passing, completing nine of 12 attempts.
Gordon led 44-30 at halftime because of three consecutive defensive stops midway through the half. Jake Wigington’s fumble recovery led to Jennings’ 4-yard touchdown run that rallied the Longhorns to a 22-16 lead with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
A three-and-out stop by Gordon’s defense led to a 48-yard touchdown drive sparked by Emory Allen’s 21-yard pass to Wigington. Cherry finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, extending the Longhorns’ lead to 28-16 with 8:26 left before halftime.
Another three-and-out stand by Gordon’s defense led to Cherry’s 24-yard scoring pass to Wigington as the Longhorns stretched their lead to 36-16 with five minutes left before halftime.
“It was simple,” Royce Jesko said. “We fumbled and let them get an onside kick and the momentum shifted. They scored two touchdowns real fast, and when you get 20 points behind to a good team, it’s tough to overcome.”
Zephyr rallied to within 44-30 at the half after Todd’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Williams and Todd’s 47-yard scoring run. On the 47-yard run, Todd was going to pass, but scrambled instead.
The momentum turned even more in Gordon’s favor to start the second half. The Longhorns took the second-half kickoff and scored in four plays on Cherry’s 3-yard run to go up 52-30. Stephen Plowman recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Longhorns scored again on Pedro Lopez’s 5-yard run on fourth-and-3 to take a 60-30 lead.
“That really changed the game completely right there,” Cherry said.
Mallory said, “In big playoff games when the talent is even, you have to get some turnovers and play well in the special teams. We worked on our onside kicks a lot in practice this week.”
Gordon 88, Zephyr 42
Zephyr 16 14 12 0 — 42
Gordeon 22 22 22 22 — 88
ZEP— Derek Jesko 55 run (Kade Miller kick), 8:58
GOR— Jonathan Jennings 5 pass from Michael Cherry (Jeremy Jorgensen kick), 6:08
ZEP— Dakota Rogers 71 kickoff return (Miller kick), 5:55
GOR— Pedro Lopez 9 pass from Michael Cherry (kick failed), 3:38
GOR— Jennings 4 run (Jorgensen kick), 2:17
GOR — Cherry 1 run (kick failed), 8:26
GOR— Jake Wigington 24 pass from Cherry (Jorgensen kick), 5:00
ZEP — Dillon Williams 5 pass from Josh Todd (Miller kick), 1:45
GOR — Cherry 44 run (Jorgensen kick), 0:52
ZEP — Josh Todd 47 run (pass failed), 0:32
GOR — Cherry 3 run (Jorgensen kick), 8:10
GOR — Lopez 5 run (Jorgensen kick), 5:42
ZEP — Bradley Lewis 8 pass from Todd (kick blocked), 2:28
GOR — Cherry 47 pass from Emory Allen (kick failed), 0:59
ZEP — Rogers 49 pass from Todd (kick failed), 0:24
GOR — Cherry 8 run (Jorgensen kick), 8:52
GOR — Allen 19 pass from Cherry (Jorgensen kick), 4:29
GOR — Cherry 21 pass from Allen (no PAT), 4:03
First Downs 8 25
Rushes-Yards 19-157 38-307
Passing 92 263
Comp-Att-Int 10-13-0 14-20-0
Punts 0-0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 5-40 2-20
RUSHING: Zephyr — Josh Todd 10-96, Derek Jesko 6-40, Dakota Rogers 2-20, Dillon Williams 1-1. Gordon — Michael Cherry 25-187, Pedro Lopez 9-82, Jonathan Jennings 3-44, Emory Allen 1-(-)6.
PASSING: Zephyr — Todd 9-12-0 for 92, Bolton Day 1-1-0 for 5. Gordon — Allen 8-13-0 for 200, Cherry 6-7-0 for 63.
RECEIVING: Zephyr — Rogers 4-52, Williams 3-26, Bradley Lewis 2-5, Day 1-14. Gordon — Cherry 4-137, Jake Wigington 3-47, Lopez 2-25, Jennings 2-9, Allen 1-19, Brandon Gonzales 1-16, Stephen Plowman 1-10.
RECORDS: Zephyr 7-4, Gordon 8-3.