Leonard stuns PHS in bi-district

Bulldogs suffer 6 turnovers in playoff-opening upset loss; Ferris’ year also ends

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light

FARMERSVILLE — Even when a district champion is facing a No. 4 seed in the playoffs, turnovers and penalties can be a killer.  The Palmer Bulldogs found that out the hard way Thursday night against Leonard.

The Bulldogs had several opportunities late to pull out bi-district survival at Farmers Stadium in the Class 3A Division II playoffs. But the heavily-favored Bulldogs made numerous mistakes and suffered a stunning 26-20 loss to the Tigers, ending their season.

After the Tigers had taken a 26-14 lead with 8:21 left, the Bulldogs made the game interesting with 3:51 to go as senior quarterback Julian Villasenor scrambled 18 yards for a score. But Palmer was unable to get the ball back until with 51 seconds left, and an attempted hook and lateral on the final play went awry.

Leonard (5-4) advances into the area round and will face either Wichita Falls City View (6-4) or Comanche (8-2) at a site and time to be determined. Those two teams were scheduled to play Friday night in Joshua.

Leonard junior quarterback DJ Brown rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more, both to sophomore Cameron Armstrong. Brown finished with 211 rushing yards on a whopping 35 carries and threw for 77 more yards.

Villasenor ran for two touchdowns and passed for another to Arturo Gonzalez for the Bulldogs (9-2). But Villasenor was sacked six times and Leonard’s defense forced four interceptions.

Leading rusher Bralen Lopez was held to 53 yards and receiver Jacob Berumen, who had 83 combined first-half yards, was held without a catch in the second half.

The Bulldogs also committed a total of 12 penalties for 90 yards, but managed to clean most of those up at the intermission after 10 for 80 in the first half alone.

The Tigers scored on their opening drive but missed the 2-point conversion, and Palmer answered by taking the lead on Villasenor’s 16-yard keeper and Joe King’s extra point. Early in the second quarter, Leonard’s Brown rolled right and hit Armstrong on a 10-yard pass to give the Tigers a 14-7 halftime lead.

Palmer got the ball to start the second half and immediately tied it on a 64-yard post pattern from Villasenor to Arturo Gonzalez. But an interception later gave Leonard a short field, and the Tigers cashed in n Brown’s 9-yard run up the middle for the go-ahead TD late in the third.

Leonard was to play Whitewright last week for the fourth and final playoff slot out of District 8-3A (II), but Whitewright forfeited due to a positive COVID-19 test and several close contacts within its program, giving Leonard the berth. Had the Tigers played Whitewright and lost, they would have been eliminated.

If misery loves company, the Bulldogs shouldn’t feel so bad as two other 7-3A (II) colleagues fell even harder. Edgewood lost to Bells, 38-12, and defending state champion Gunter steamed Rice, 62-0. Blooming Grove was to carry the district banner into Friday night’s game against Sadler S&S Consolidated in Mabank.

Three more small-school playoff games involving Ellis County teams were on tap for Friday night: Maypearl vs. Malakoff at Groesbeck in Class 3A Division I; Italy vs. Rio Vista at Waco Connally in 2A Division I; and Avalon at Abbott in a 1A Division I rematch.

Sunnyvale 38, Ferris 14

SUNNYVALE — Max McAda accounted for 309 yards and three touchdowns and led Sunnyvale to a dominant 38-14 win over Ferris in a Class 4A Division II bi-district matchup on Thursday night at Raider Stadium.

McAda completed 12 of his 14 pass attempts as the Raiders racked up 438 total yards.

Jake Taylor scored the game’s first points on a four-yard run—giving Sunnyvale a 7-0 lead with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter. Ferris answered with an eight-play scoring drive and cut the deficit to 7-6 when quarterback Nate Aguinaga snuck it in from a yard out.

Landry Laird returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards-setting Sunnyvale up at midfield. Two plays later McAda burst up the middle for a 44-yard run to make it 14-6 with 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Sunnyvale added to its lead with 5:48 remaining before half when McAda passed 24 yards to Noah McDill—making it 21-6.

Aguinaga accounted for 230 yards and two touchdowns to lead Ferris (5-5).

Sunnyvale (5-4) will face the winner of Friday’s night contest between Mexia and Longview Spring Hill in the area round.