FRISCO, Texas – Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson repeated to his players and attending media Friday night at The Star that his football team was one of eight left in the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
The Hawks (12-1) spoiled Sunnyvale’s perfect record with a hard-earned 49-28 victory in the Region II-4A Division II semifinals. Pleasant Grove makes its’ fourth appearance in the regional championship game next Friday at 7 p.m. against district rival Gilmer. That game will be played in Longview at Lobo Stadium. Gilmer advanced Friday with a 35-20 win over previously unbeaten Waco Connally.
“It was a fight tonight, and that’s the way it should be when you get in the third round,” said Gibson. “I thought our kids fought really hard, and I thought their kids fought really hard. It was a slobber-knocker in the ally.
“We did have a chance to go in leading 35-7 at halftime, but 28-7 was fine with me. In the third quarter we didn’t sustain drives, and couldn’t get our defense off the field. We still played good football. There were times when calls (officiating) didn’t go our way, or the score might have been different. There were some big plays that called back tonight, and that kind of hurt us.”
Pleasant Grove got off to a fast start, just like the previous week against Salado. Sergio Rodriguez caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ben Harmon on the Hawks’ opening drive. Less than two minutes later K.J. Hicks made it 14-0 with a 27-yard scoring run. The lead was 21-0 late in the first period after a 1-yard plunge by Harmon.
Raiders bow out in 4A Division II semifinal
The Raiders (12-1) got on the scoreboard with 38 seconds left in the first quarter of the 4A Division II game. Sunnyvale scored on a 4-yard run by Devin Sterling. It would be the first of two touchdowns for Sterling.
Sunnyvale’s defense made a couple of impressive defensive stands in the second quarter. The only points came on a sack by Marcus Burris, which forced a fumble that was scooped up and retruned 51 yards by Landon Jackson for six points with 4:26 left in the half. The Raiders outgained Pleasant Grove 350 yards to 328, holding the Hawks to 110 yards in the final two quarters.
“We held a really, really good offense down until their touchdown in the final seconds,” said Gibson. “This was a pretty respectable score against a quality opponent.”
Sunnyvale took the second half kickoff and drove for six points, a 6-yard run by Tripp Mcada. Mcada also scored the game’s final points on a 29-yard run.
It didn’t take the Hawks long to answer. They went 61 yards in three plays, with Hicks scoring his second TD of the game. Quinn Bingham added to that margin in the final second of the third stanza with a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown. Burris caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Harmon for PG’s final TD. Harmon completed 7 of 13 passes for 136 yards. Senior Bruce Garrett finished with 99 yards on 14 carries.
“That was Bingham’s second big play this season,” said Gibson. “He didn’t get to play the first six or seven weeks, and he comes out and makes a big play. He’s only a junior, so he’ll be back next year. I’m really proud of all the guys, and it’s great to be one of eight teams still left.”