ENNIS — Patience made perfect for the Goldthwaite Eagles on Saturday. Or at least a chance at perfection.
Goldthwaite shut out Joaquin 34-0 in a Class A Division I state semifinals football game, blanking the Rams’ unusually tight running formation that resembled something from a rugby match.
“We had to be patient on defense,” said Goldthwaite lineman Dylan Parrish, whose fumble recovery at the Rams’ 23-yard line set up a late-second quarter touchdown that staked the Eagles to a 21-0 halftime lead. “It was hard to move them and hard to get a hold of them because they’re linemen were so bunched up. That was the toughest offense I’ve played against this year.”
Goldthwaite’s chance at perfection will come next weekend when the undefeated Eagles (14-0) face Canadian for the state championship at site and time to be determined. It will be Goldthwaite’s fifth appearance in the state finals, but its first since 1994, when the Eagles won back-to-back 2A titles.
“It’s great to be back,” said 24th-year Eagles head coach Gary Proffitt, who starts only four seniors. “It’s hard to believe it’s been this long. These kids have come a long way and played well down the stretch when it counted.”
Canadian (12-1) has won state the last two years – last season in 1A Division I and in 2007 in 2A Division II.
The Eagles also had to be patient on offense Saturday since possessions were limited in a game with only nine pass attempts. Eventually, halfbacks James Harden and Jonathon Williams dented the Joaquin defense.
“They (Rams) have a tough run defense, but we definitely felt like, if we kept after it, we could wear them down,” said Harden, who ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns. “It all comes back to our iron horses (linemen). They make our jobs a lot easier. They fire off the ball and never miss a block, and if they do, they tell us how sorry they are for it.”
Williams didn’t score, but he rushed for 89 yards and set up Goldthwaite’s final two touchdowns with two key plays. First, he ran 21 yards on third-and-goal from the Rams’ 22-yard line after the Eagles had lost 17 yards on an errant option pitch. That set up Harden’s 1-yard touchdown run that gave Goldthwaite a 28-0 lead with 8:18 to play.
Next, Williams intercepted a rare Joaquin pass and returned it 32 yards to the Rams’ 40. Harden broke for a 23-yard run, setting up fullback Cagan Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run that finished the scoring with 3:55 left.
Quarterback Tyler Horton scored Goldthwaite’s other two touchdowns on two short runs.
Defensively, the Eagles logged their third consecutive postseason shutout and extended their scoreless streak to 13 quarters against a Rams’ offense that was averaging 37 points per game. The Eagles also limited Joaquin’s Jeffrey Rico to 108 yards on 24 carries after the shifty runner came in with four consecutive 200-yard games.
“Their offense is so hard to simulate in practice,” Proffitt said of Joaquin. “Their linemen are so big and they just wall you off from the ball-carrier. Our defense did a good job of matching it.”
The Eagles broke a scoreless tie with three second-quarter touchdowns, including two in the final 2:02 of the first half to extend a shaky 7-0 lead to a comfortable 21-0 cushion at intermission.
Three plays after taking a 14-0 lead, Parrish recovered a Shane Taylor fumble at the Rams’ 23 with 40 seconds left in the first half. Horton threw a 20-yard pass to Willie Balencia. From the Rams’ 1 and with no timeouts remaining, Horton appeared stopped short on a quarterback sneak, but the 170-pound junior stretched the ball across the goal line, extending the Eagles’ lead to 21-0 with 11 seconds left before halftime.
Prior to that touchdown, Goldthwaite went 78 yards in seven plays to score. Harden broke for runs of 19 and 29 yards, setting up his own 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 2:02 left before halftime.
Goldthwaite opened the scoring with a 14-play, 83-yard drive that used 6:35 of the first and second quarters. Horton twice converted on third down with runs of 11 and 6 yards, and the quarterback finished the drive with a 2-yard run to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 8:32 left in the second quarter.
The Rams’ first possession reached the Eagles’ 16 before Rico was stopped by Keifer Wilson and Garrett Schwartz for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-4.