FRISCO, Texas – “Focus, visualize, dominate.”
That was Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson’s pregame message to his players in the locker room. Gibson’s Hawks were obviously listening, routing Iowa Park in the 4A Division II semifinals Friday at the Ford Center, 49-14.
Pleasant Grove advances to play Cuero at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next Friday at 11 a.m. for possible back-to-back state championships. Cuero edged Silsbee in the other semifinal, 29-24.
”All three phases played super well tonight,” a jubilant Gibson said. “All three were dominant, and that’s why the game ended up this way. This is the first team in Texarkana to do this back-to-back.
”I’m so proud of where we’re at as a program. We reloaded with some kids who might not be as talented as last year’s group, but they’re getting the same rewards because they worked their butts off, and put their hearts and souls in the program. I’ve said it before, I think this is the best program in the state.”
The Hawks, Pleasant Grove Hawks that is, had so many heroes against Iowa Park that there’s not room to mention them all.
Senior safety Tyler Kelley intercepted a pass, his eighth of the season. He also recovered a fumble to set up a PG score.
Junior quarterback Ben Harmon passed for 149 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 30 TD passes this season. Bruce Garrett moved closer to the 2,000 yard mark this season with 108 yards. He also caught a pass for 32 yards. Jackson Cobb caught two touchdown passes.
Hawks dominated play in the trenches
PG’s offensive line was dominating, and the defense limited Iowa Park to two second half touchdowns, the second against backups.
Pleasant Grove took the opening kickoff and romped 73 yards for its first points, a 2-yard pass to Brett Walker on fourth-and-goal with 7:06 left in the quarter.
Harmon and Cobb built the Hawks’ lead with 17 seconds left in the first period on a 44-yard pass play.
After a fourth down gamble by Iowa Park failed, PG was driving again. Fullback James Wiggins broke free and raced 32 yards before two defenders caught up and forced a fumble that went through the end zone for a touchback.
Blocked punt ignites PG explosion
The celebration for Iowa Park didn’t last long. PG forced a punt, which was blocked by Kamren Woods. Junior Dylan Hopkins caught the fluttering kick, sprinting 14 yards for six points with 4:29 left in the first half.
Another fourth down gamble came up short, giving PG field position at its own 49. On second down Cobb hauled in a strike from Harmon and danced 49 yards for a touchdown with 1:19 left.
There was still more to come. Iowa Park quarterback Trent Green romped 28 yards on first down, but fumbled when he was hit. Tyler Kelley recovered at the Hawks’ 47 with 32 seconds remaining. Two plays later Ryan Pickelman took a pitch from Harmon and sprinted 38 yards for six points. Dillon Williams’ PAT made it 35-0 at intermission.
Senior Will Cullipher and Nick Martin scored PG’s two second half touchdowns. The Hawks finished with 516 yards, using 13 running backs for 367 yards on the ground.