Cats rally past Sanger, 47-36
By Richard Greene Assistant Editor
The Pilot Point Bearcats defense got a late start, but responded when it was needed Friday night.
The unit picked off Sanger quarterback Chris Higgs three times in the second half and held the Indians just one touchdown over the final 24 minutes. That defensive effort and a season-high five touchdowns from Jarail Johnson allowed the Bearcats to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit and score a 47-36 comeback win at Indian Stadium.
"The kids just got after it in the second half," said Pilot Point coach G.A. Moore. "They pinned the ears back and got after it.
"We just came out and played with a lot of hard [in the second half]. I couldn't be more proud of the kids."
The victory gave the Bearcats (8-2, 4-1) the top seed from District 6-3A into the Class 3A Division II playoffs. The Bearcats will open the playoffs Saturday, Nov. 13 against Breckenridge, the third-place team from District 5-3A, at Denton's C.H. Collins Stadium at 1 p.m. Brekenridge upset Vernon 32-21 Friday night to get the playoff berth.
In the first half against Higgs and the Indians, the Bearcats defense looked overmatched. The Bearcats were lit up for 313 yards and 28 points in the first 24 minutes. Higgs threw for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing 10 of his 15 first half attempts. Higgs also had 81 yards rushing in the first half.
Higgs booted through a 35-yard field with two seconds left in the first half to give Sanger a 16-point halftime lead 28-12.
After Pilot Point took the second-half kickoff and marched 64 yards on 10 plays to trim the deficit to 10, the Bearcats defense arrived. Pilot Point defensive back Ricky Henderson picked off Higgs' first pass attempt of the second half at 33-yard line.
"I just saw the ball coming and grabbed it," Henderson said.
Henderson intercepted Higgs twice, adding the second pick in the final minute.
After turning Henderson's first interception into quick points, the Bearcats' John Grumbles picked off Higgs' second pass attempt of the half at the 44-yard line.
The Bearcats turned Grumbles' pick into a 22-yard Johnson touchdown run to give Pilot Point its first lead of the game, 31-28.
The lead lasted 10 seconds on the clock. Sanger regained the lead on the final play of the third quarter with Nathan Peques' 52-yard dash to the end zone. It was the Sanger offense's lone highlight of the second half.
Sanger managed only two first downs and 62 yards in the second half. Higgs was 3-for-7 with three interceptions. He was also sacked twice. Higgs finished the game 13-for-22 with 206 yards. He ran for 76 yards on 16 carries.
Pilot Point regained the lead for good with 7:09 left in the game. Johnson hit Adam McBride on a 23-yard pass on a fourth-and-three for the go-ahead touchdown. Johnson added a two-point try, putting Pilot Point ahead 39-36.
Johnson scored his fifth rushing touchdown with 1:03 left in the game on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Johnson finished the game with a season-high 30 carries for 179 yards. Johnson ran for 120 yards on 19 carries in the second half, scoring four of his five touchdowns.
"We ran him to death," Moore said about Johnson. "We told him at the half he was going to have to get after it and he did."
Johnson also went 2-for-2 passing for 29 yards. He caught one pass for seven and returned a kickoff 52 yards to finish with 267 all-purpose yards.