ABBOTT — Unbeaten through 11 games, the Blanket Tigers’ season reached its conclusion Friday night in the Class A Division II Region IV semifinal round of the playoffs.
The No. 7 Oakwood Panthers forced three turnovers and limited Blanket to 176 yards, while amassing 296 yards, with 257 coming on the ground, in a 51-6 triumph.
“I’m not disappointed in the way our kids played, we got beat by a better team tonight,” said Blanket head coach Tyler Tabor. “Oakwood is so talented, so fast and so physical, a lot more physical that I thought they were going to be. Our game plan was to control the ball and we didn’t do that, we didn’t get it done tonight. We had some drives going tonight and had a couple of fumbles that we lost, or had a penalty, or missed a block here and there and you can’t do that at this stage of the this season against a team like that.”
Oakwood (9-3) received 153 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Key Davis, 84 yards and a rushing score from Garrett Bean and a pair of touchdown passes from Trisdon Bynum. Bean caught one of Bynum’s scoring tosses and also returned a fumble for a touchdown.
“I give Oakwood a lot of credit, they’re a tough football team and I expect them to win next week,” Tabor said. “But our kids did fight hard and that’s something to build on for the future. You’re either winning or you’re learning and we learned a valuable lesson tonight. You can’t make mistakes against a state caliber team like Oakwood, you have to play a perfect game.”
Blanket (11-1) was led by Kameron Spivey’s 101 rushing yards and 45 passing yards, which included a 36-yard scoring toss to Tyler Simpson for the game’s only points, while Hector Castaneda caught three passes for 9 yards and rushed for 9 yards on three carries. Logan Wheeler returned to action and rushed for 40 yards on eight carries.
“We worked him out for a week and half, and he’s not there yet, but he was good enough to play,” Tabor said of Wheeler. “There was no injury danger so we let him get some snaps but obviously being off nine weeks his legs are not where they should be. But a two-headed monster is better than a one-headed monster, and I’m looking forward to that next year.”
After Blanket’s opening drive stalled at the Oakwood 32, the Panthers took 11 plays to drive 48 yards before Bynum connected with Bean on a 2-yard scoring toss on fourth-and-goal for a 6-0 Oakwood edge at 3:05 of the first period.
The Tigers lost a fumble on their second possession at their own 37, which later resulted in a 6-yard touchdown run by Davis for a 12-0 Oakwood advantage on the first play of the second quarter.
Oakwood extended its lead to 20-0 on the ensuing possession, as Bynum found Bastion Pickens for an 18-yard scoring connection, stretching the Panthers’ cushion to 20-0 with 5:09 to go in the first half.
Blanket then struck for its only points at the 1:35 juncture of the second period on a 36-yard pass from Spivey to Simpson, who pulled down the touchdown reception in double coverage.
Trailing 20-6, the Tigers gave up a touchdown on Oakwood’s next snap — a 43-yard scoring sprint by Davis for a 28-6 lead, which the Panthers carried into the locker room at halftime.
Oakwood fumbled on the first play of the second half, but Blanket later coughed up the ball on its initial drive of the third quarter, which Bean scooped and returned 15 yards to the end zone to boost the Panther advantage to 36-6 at 7:39 of the third. The Tiger fumble came after a 35-yard touchdown run by Wheeler was negated by a holding penalty.
The Tigers punted from their own 10 on the next drive, and Oakwood was in the end zone a play later on a 44-yard gallop by Davis.
Down 44-6, the Tigers drove to the Oakwood 4 before losing the ball on a fumble. Three plays later, Blanket got the ball back on an interception by Castaneda, but the Tigers’ march stalled six plays later.
Oakwood then traveled 58 yards for the final points, as Bean scored on a 17-yard carry, then tossed the game-ending extra-point pass to Jerimiah Sargent to enforce the 45-point mercy rule with 4:35 left in the contest.
“It was a great year and I think the first time in the history of Blanket High School they’ve won 11 in a row,” Tabor said. “District champions, bi-district champions with a loss to a Top 10 team. I wish it wouldn’t have ended that way, but I’m tickled to death and proud of these guys. And the community support today and all year was outstanding.”
Oakwood will face No. 8 Richland Springs (11-1) — a 60-47 winner over No. 6 Calvert Friday night — next week for the Class A Division II Region IV championship.