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Tigers win Regional semifinal title

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Malakoff dominates Gladewater, advances to Regional final

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TYLER–The Malakoff Tigers won the Regional semifinal championship over the No. 9-ranked Gladewater Bears at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler Dec. 1.

The game was moved from Friday, Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 due to weather concerns.

It seemed like the Bears would get on the board early in the first quarter as they ran the ball in for a touchdown, only to have the score called back on a holding call to keep the game scoreless.

Just over halfway through the first quarter, Malakoff junior defensive back Andreas Garrett came up with a huge defensive play as he intercepted a Gladewater pass on the Tigers’ own one-yard line as Malakoff took over possession.

After both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter, the Bears finally cashed in on a short seven-yard rushing touchdown to take a 7-0 lead with 4:21 remaining in the second quarter.

The Tigers answered 56 seconds later as quarterback Darion Peace connected on a perfect 70-yard pass to Garrett for a touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

An interception late by the Bears on the 40-yard line was run all the way back to the 13-yard line to set up Gladewater for a late opportunity to take a lead heading into halftime.

The Malakoff defense came up huge with a stop on third down to force a Bears’ field goal attempt with three seconds remaining.

The Gladewater kick missed wide from 27 yards out as they game remained tied 7-7 heading into halftime.

After a big stop by the Tigers’ defense on their own 24-yard line, Malakoff took over possession on downs with 7:33 left in the third quarter.

As the Tigers’ offense drove down the field, the Peace-Garrett connection was at it again as Peace dropped a perfect pass over the shoulder of Garrett for a 36-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.

The Tigers picked up a late score on a 13-yard rush by Keevie Rose to add to their lead, bumping it up to 21-7 as the two teams entered the fourth quarter.

With the Bears hemmed in their own zone, the Tigers’ defense once again came up huge with a fourth down stop on the Bears’ own four-yard line.

Just a few plays later, junior running back Dedric Davis picked up a four-yard rushing touchdown to increase the Malakoff lead to 28-7 as the Tigers began to put the game out of reach.

Just 16 seconds later, after the Malakoff kickoff, on the first play of Gladwater’s offensive drive, Malakoff linebacker Colby Rush recovered a Bears’ fumble on their own 25-yard line.

The Tigers converted on the turnover on the first offensive play seven seconds later as Peace hit Parker Busch with a 33-yard touchdown pass to seal the victory for the Tigers and give them the Regional semifinal championship over the Bears.

Sophomore quarterback Darion Peace seemed to play well under pressure and Driskell says that is all due to Peace’s efforts on and off the field.

"He’s a heck of a competitor," Driskell said of Peace. "He’s a great kid, he’s a sponge, he just wants to learn everything. He’s got a great arm and a great talent, but most of all he’s a great kid with a great work ethic."

With the game at an offensive stalemate early in the first half, Driskell says his defense did a good job of keeping Gladewater at bay.

"Offensively, we just made some mistakes early but our defense kind of kept us in it. That’s the sign of a good football team. We cut out a few of the mistakes offensively and we mixed it up a little bit and our kids executed it and things worked out."

Malakoff Head Coach Jamie Driskell expressed how he felt to be one of the eight remaining teams in the 3A, Division 1 football playoffs.

"It feels great," Driskell said. "The kids are playing hard. I’m just proud of the kids and if we can keep our focus and keep it going, the sky is the limit for us."

The Tigers, who sit at 10-2 overall after the win against Gladewater, will face a tough test in the Atlanta Rabbits (8-5) next week in the Regional finals with a trip to the 3A, Division I State semifinals on the line, a place where the Tigers were just two seasons ago in 2016.

The Tigers and Rabbits will face at Pine Tree ISD’s Pirate Stadium in Longview Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

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