By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
GLADEWATER — And then there was one.
Malakoff became the last football team standing in Henderson County for the 2012 season when the Tigers beat the Redwater Dragons, 28-22, in a physical bi-district playoff game Friday night.
“The kids fought, that’s all I can tell you,” Head Coach Jamie Driskell said. “The offense fought, the defense fought, they just fought.”
The win marks the first time in school history the Tigers (8-3) have won playoff games in consecutive years, and continues the most successful run of football ever for Malakoff.
“It is a huge step for this program and for these kids,” Driskell said.
Friday night, the Tigers were helped along by getting a huge game out of junior running back Demontes Dowell, and two fourth down stops late in the fourth quarter by the defense.
Dowell exploded for 202 yards and three touchdowns, including a 78-yard run down the left sideline on the Tigers first play from scrimmage. His biggest run, however, may have come with 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter, when he powered into the end zone from four yards out to make the score 26-20.
Cesar Garcia came out to kick the extra point, but a penalty on Redwater moved the ball from the 3 to the 1-and-a-half yard line. That prompted Driskell to send the offense back on the field, and quarterback Tate Taylor ran in the two-point conversion to give Malakoff a 28-20 lead.
The margin loomed large as Redwater took the ensuing kickoff and held the ball for more than 9:30 of game time, driving 56 yards on 17 plays. As the clock ticked under three minutes, the Dragons went for it on fourth-and-eight from the Malakoff 9, but came up short.
That was the first big stop by the Tiger defense.
“They just run a smash-mouth offense and we just bowed up and stopped them when we had to,” said Driskell.
But this is the playoffs and the Dragons weren’t about to go quietly. Malakoff lost four yards on three plays and eventually Redwater was able to catch Damontes Dowell in the end zone for a safety to make the score 28-22. Malakoff was forced to kick the ball back to Redwater, and the Dragons had one more chance with 2:14 left and the ball on their own 49.
A couple of quick runs gave Redwater a first down at the Malakoff 40, but with time running out the Dragons had to go to the air. That didn’t work so well, and the Tiger defense got its second big fourth down stop with just seconds remaining on the clock.
In addition to Demontes Dowell’s outburst, Malakoff saw a big contribution from quarterback Tate Taylor, who scored the tying touchdown midway through the third quarter on a five-yard run. That drive was set up by an Isreal Chavez fumble recovery.
Redwater was led by junior fullback Dalton White, who ran for 134 yards between the tackles, and scored on runs of 5 and 23 yards.
Next up for the Tigers is 10-0 Pottsboro 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, in Royse City.