LONGVIEW, Texas – Malakoff is getting a reputation for being a giant killer in the Region II-3A Division 1 playoffs.
The Tigers have beaten Jefferson, Gladewater and now Atlanta (37-22) on consecutive weeks to win the Region II championship. Malakoff (12-2) built a 21-0 cushion on its way to eliminating the Rabbits from the postseason Saturday at Pine Tree’s Pirate Stadium.
It appeared a rout was in the making when junior A.J. Carr scored to give the Tigers their biggest lead at 37-6 with 5:53 left in the third quarter. However, Atlanta (8-6) answered with two quick scores, and had opportunities for more in dominating play the final 17 minutes.
“Malakoff had a little size on us, and I thought they really won the battle in the trenches,” said Atlanta coach Matt McClure. “I’m so proud of my kids, who kept fighting. Today the wind was a factor, and the cold rain hurt us when we tried to pass.
“I’m just so proud after starting the season 0-4, and then winning eight of nine to get in this position to be playing among the final eight in the state. It was really amazing. When you play teams you’ve never played before, it can take you a while to figure out just what they’re doing. I thought we made some good adjustments at halftime.”
The linemen were not the Tigers only big people. The 225-pound Carr ran over Atlanta defenders at-will. He mysteriously disappeared and didn’t play in the fourth quarter, finishing with 180 yards on 10 carries. Carr scored on a 44-yard run 10 seconds into the second quarter, and again on a 7-yard run in the third quarter for Malakoff’s final points.
Malakoff’s ground assault was difference
Keevie Rose also had a big game for Malakoff, running for 124 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers finished the game with 467 total yards, 432 on the ground. Atlanta rushed for 170 yards in the final two quarters, finishing with 213 on the ground and 100 via the airways. Quarterback Andrew Samples completed 5 of 15 passes in the rain and cold.
It took Atlanta only 1:07 to answer Carr’s second touchdown. Caleb Hamilton raced in from 13 yards, but the PAT attempt failed. Rose scored on the Tigers’ ensuing possession, and Hector Romero’s 20-yard field goal with nine second left made it 31-6 at intermission.
Atlanta took over at its own 28 after’s Carr’s final score, and senior Jawan King exploded for 57 yards to the Tigers’ 15. Four plays later King plunged over from a yard. The PAT attempt was blocked, but sophomore lineman Tyrell King picked the ball up and plowed in for two extra points that made it, 37-14.
The Rabbits’ fired-up defense forced a punt, Atlanta getting good field position at Malakoff’s 48. On the first play from scrimmage junior Dra Nelson raced around the Tigers’ left end and sprinted the distance for the game’s final touchdown. Jawan King took a pitch from Samples and scored two extra points with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
Malakoff advances to the state semifinals to play Brock.