It’s difficult to imagine the De Leon vs. Goldthwaite rematch being better than their first game. But it was.

The Goldthwaite Eagles made two first-half touchdowns stand up for a hard-earned 14-13 victory over the fast-finishing De Leon Bearcats in a Class A Division I regional semifinal football game at Gordon Wood Stadium. In the first meeting this season between the District 5-A rivals, the Eagles rallied in the fourth quarter for a 23-20 win on Oct. 25.

On Friday, it was De Leon doing the rallying in a game in which each team had the other backed against the wall at different times.

“We had them on the ropes in the right round (fourth quarter), but we couldn’t deliver the knockout punch,” said De Leon coach David Yeager, whose team finished 9-4. “We’ve been playing with house money since district began. Nobody gave these kids a chance to make the playoffs, much less make it this far.”

De Leon, down 14-0 and held to one first down in the first half, rallied to within 14-13 on fullback Danny Cervantes’ 9-yard touchdown run with 2:49 to play. However, Cervantes shanked his extra-point kick to the right, preserving Goldthwaite’s narrow lead.

“We survived this game and we advanced. That’s what the playoffs are all about,” said Greg Proffitt, Goldthwaite’s co-head coach and offensive coordinator.

Goldthwaite (8-4) advanced to play another District 5-A rival, Hico (12-1), in next week’s state quarterfinals. The schools were expected to flip between Brownwood and Stephenville as a host site.

Halfback Dakota Perry rushed for 127 yards, and fullback Eric Chavez and quarterback T.R. Jones scored on short runs for the Eagles. Goldthwaite, however, was unable to extend its 14-0 halftime lead after halfback Joseph Paddock lost fumbles on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter. Both fumbles were recovered by De Leon’s Auston Sadberry.

“The difference in the first half and the second half was ball security,” Proffitt said. “They (Bearcats) never did really stop us. We kept stopping ourselves.”

De Leon had only two first downs late in the third quarter when the Bearcats began their improbable rally. Sadberry, who rushed for 88 yards, converted a fourth-and-2 from midfield with a 14-yard run. Four plays later, Sadberry converted a fourth-and-10 with a 24-yard pass reception to the Eagles’ 12-yard line.

Sadberry scored two plays later on an 11-yard run, and the Bearcats were within 14-7 with 11:00 left.

Goldthwaite gained one first down before punting to the Bearcats’ 17. De Leon drove the 83 yards in 6:26, and reached the Eagles’ 9 on a 15-yard pass interference penalty that came on fourth-and-6. Cervantes’ touchdown made it 14-13 with 2:49 left.

“We talked about going for two, but there was a lot of time left, and we had all three of our timeouts,’ Yeager said.

After the ensuing pooch kickoff, Goldthwaite gained one first down before punting to the De Leon 34 with 1:34 left.

The Bearcats, down to one timeout at that point, got off seven plays, but only drove as close as the Eagles’ 37. Ryan Wright sacked De Leon quarterback Josh Brownlee, who fumbled, and the Eagles’ William Carr recovered with seven seconds to play to finally determine the outcome.

“The first half, that was the best defense we’ve played all year,” Goldthwaite defensive tackle Jaggar Parrish said. “In the second half, I think we got a little overconfident. I think we got a little winded, too. We had to pull ourselves together.”

De Leon ran 39 offensive plays to Goldthwaite’s 18 in the second half.

Goldthwaite led 14-0 after its defense held De Leon to 3 total yards during the first two quarters. Parrish sacked Bearcats quarterback Josh Brownlee twice for 23 yards in losses.

Jones’ 1-yard touchdown run made it 7-0 late in the first quarter and finished a deliberate 56-yard drive in which none of the 10 plays gained more than 11 yards.

Chavez’s touchdown made it 14-0 and finished a 43-yard drive set up by a Goldthwaite punt to the De Leon 10 and a three and out by the Eagles’ defense. Perry sparked the seven-play drive with a 20-yard run that converted a third-and-3.

———

GOLDTHWAITE 14, DE LEON 13

SCORE?BY?QUARTERS

Goldthwaite    7    7    0    0    - 14

De Leon    0    0    0    13    - 13

SCORING?SUMMARY

G: T.R. Jones 1 run (Brian McCasland kick), 1:52, 1st

G: Eric Chavez 4 run (McCasland kick), 4:45, 2nd

D: Auston Sadberry 11 run (Danny Cervantes kick), 11:00

D: Cervantes 9 run (kick failed), 2:49

TEAM?STATS

    G    D

First Downs    15    12    

Total Offense    267    164

Rushes-Yards    49-228    50-140

Passing Yards    39    24

C-A-I    4-6-0    1-4-0

Fumbles Lost    3    1

Penalties    4-35    5-25

Punts    3-32.0    5-37.0

PLAYER?STATS

Rushing

G: Dakota Perry 18-127, Joseph Paddock 16-55, Eric Chavez 8-24, T.R. Jones 6-24, Team 1-(-)2.

D: Auston Sadberry 19-88, Danny Cervantes 11-39, Robert Smith 10-37, Josh Brownlee 8-(-)26, Trent Lindeman 1-1, Robin Palmer 1-1.

Passing

G: Jones 4-6-0-39

D: Brownlee 1-4-0-24.

Receiving

G: Chavez 3-32, Ryan Wright 1-7

D: Sadberry 1-24.