West Mesquite falls victim to playoff hungry Tigers, 41-14

West Mesquite
Texas High senior Tracy Cooper accounted for more than 250 yards and 4 touchdowns Friday against West Mesquite.
By Johnny Green
Texas High’s biggest moment of the night came postgame after the Tigers destroyed West Mesquite, 41-14, in the regular-season finale at Tiger Stadium Friday night.
After taking care of the Wranglers, Texas High’s players gathered in the north end zone awaiting the final score of the Sherman-John Tyler game that would determine the fourth-place playoff qualifier in District 7-5A, Division I.
Sherman, tied with Texas High in the standings going in, defeatedJohn Tyler, but its 32-27 margin fell four points shy of the total needed by the Bearcats in the event of a three-way tie for third place. Therefore, JT will represent the district as seed No. 3, while Texas High travels to Lufkin bi-district play next week. Despite its win Sherman was eliminated.
“It sure seemed like a long time,” elated Texas High coach Gerry Stanford said of his team’s wait for the score that tipped in the playoff scales in the Tigers’ favor. “But it was worth it.”
It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Tigers would take care of business on their end after forging a 34-0 halftime advantage. Tracy Cooper’s career-best fourth touchdown of the game three minutes into the third quarter added insult to injury.

Fisher steals two West Mesquite passes

Marquavius Fisher’s first of two second-half interceptions set up Cooper’s final TD, a 9-yard run that followed his 41-yard burst on first down. Fisher’s second INT was returned 40 yards to the Mesquite 15, but he was hit hard and fumbled on the play, one of three turnovers by the Tigers in the second half.
A fumble at the THS 11 was negated by a diving interception on the next play by Jalen Jones, and a second long punt return by Ja’Kobe—his 57-yarder set up a third quarter touchdown—gave the Wranglers the ball at the Tiger 17, but Lajontae Wrigtner had an end zone interception on the next play. It gave the Tigers six interceptions and eight total takeaways, both firsts for a Stanford-coached team.
“I’ve never had a team with six interceptions,” he said. “Heck, I’ve never had a team with eight turnovers. I think it was all just preparation. The kids knew what was at stake and they practiced like a playoff team. I’m happy for the seniors, and I’m proud of the team as a whole.”
Cooper had 194 yards on 28 carries for the Tigers (6-4, 3-3). Rian Cellers completed 9 of 19 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns to Kobe Webster (4 catches, 110 yards). Cooper had three receptions for 71 yards.
As a team, Texas High amassed 26 first downs, 21 in the first half.

Tigers’ defense forces four first half turnovers

Once Texas High turned back an opening salvo by the Wranglers on the first interception by Wrightner at the THS 9-yard line, the Tigers took total control. West Mesquite managed just 85 yards total offense in the first half, turned the ball over four times and crossed midfield only one other time, reaching the 46 where Derrick Brown recovered a Wrangler fumble.
Meanwhile, Cooper reverted to his early-season ways of surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark in the first half. The senior running back carried 17 times for 129 yards, including TD runs of 23, 38 and 11 yards. His last two scores came after fumble recoveries by Brown and Christian Surratt.
The other two touchdowns came on passes by Cellers to Webster covering 25 yards in the first quarter and 43 yards in the second. Cellers was 8 of 16 for 180 yards, Webster grabbing three for 93.
Texas High reached the West Mesquite 36 as time ran out in the half. That possession was set up by Caleb Arnold’s fourth interception of the season.
West Mesquite
Lufkin gets to host next week’s bi-district game because the Panthers are the 8-5A champions, a recent rule passed in both the 6A and 5A classes. Stanford said he doesn’t mind the long trip.
“I like the rule. Two years ago we had the same chance in the other district,” he said. “So I don’t mind going to Lufkin. It’s certainly better than the option of staying home.”
West Mesquite 0 0 7 7 — 14
Texas High 14 20 7 0 — 41
TH-Tracy Cooper 23 run (Oscar Hernandez kick), 6:27
TH-Kobe Webster 25 pass from Rian Cellers (Hernandez kick), 1:26
TH-Cooper 38 run (pass failed), 11:15
TH-Webster 43 pass from Cellers (Hernandez kick) 5:15
TH-Cooper 11 run (Hernandez kick), 4:12
TH-Cooper 9 run (Hernandez kick), 9:09
WM-Ja’Kobe Walton 12 pass from Kevin Jennings (Austin Stout kick), 5:15
WM-Elijah Kovar 27 pass from Jennings (Stout kick), 1:24