BALLINGER, TX — Christoval's defense made the difference in Thursday night's game against Cross Plains. The Buffaloes could not overcome a pair of takeaways from sophomore Beau Jolly and another pick six from Brayden Wilcox. The two teams were very evenly matched, but the Cougars made plays when they needed to and outlasted their gritty opponent.
Cross Plains brought out the trickery right away. On the opening kick, QB Caleb Hernandez caught the ball and immediately reversed field to hand it off to Casen Conlee who was sprinting toward him. The misdirection worked and Conlee ran to the 47 before being brought down.
Right off the bat, the Buffaloes tried to impose their will in the run game. Corey Proctor picked up 5 on first down, but was met behind the line of scrimmage on the next play by Christoval's Clay Chappell.
On 3rd and 7, Hernandez was stopped two yards shy of the sticks to force a 4th down try. They decided to go for it and put in Casen Allen who was making his return to action after nursing a leg injury the past two weeks. The sophomore took the direct snap and burst through the middle of the defense to the Christoval 36.
Back to back carries by Hernandez and Cody McWilliams had the Buffaloes inside the red zone at the 16. On third and 3 from the 19, Allen was given the ball again and fought his way through the Cougar defense to the three yard line. Hernandez punched it in two plays later to put Cross Plains up 7-0 halfway through the first.
Christoval took their time responding. Beginning at their 34, backup Kyle Loehman was given the start in place of junior phenom Brayden Wilcox who was being disciplined following an unsportsmanlike penalty against Eldorado last week.
Head Coach Casey Otho eased the freshman QB into the playoff action with four straight handoffs to Josh Fava. The runs gave them a quick first, but the Cougars found themselves in a throwing situation with a 3rd and 11.
Loehman answered the call and fired a dart to Ketcher Joiner on a rollout picking up 8. On 4th and 3, they let him throw again and he hit Joiner at the marker to move the chains.
Once the first quarter ended, Wilcox took his place on the field and quickly changed the game with his athleticism. Wilcox hit Fava on a running back screen that he carried to the Cross Plains 33 right at the first down marker. The referees measured the spot and gave the Cougars a first down.
On the next play, Fava was dropped by Jody Collier and Logan Proctor for a loss of nine. Wilcox then picked up ten on an easy ten yard scramble. Christoval decided to go for it on 4th and 9 from the 32, and the decision paid off as Wilcox showed his burst and ran out of bounds at the 8.
Sophomore Beau Jolly had his number called on 1st and goal and took a screen into the end zone to tie the game at 7 with 7:55 to play in the half.
Cross Plains had a promising drive going on the next possession, until Hernandez decided to throw a pass across his body. Rolling right on 3rd and 11 from the 47, he tried to fit a pass to a receiver that was making his way from the right sideline back to midfield.
The ball was well placed, but Beau Jolly had the angle and dove to make an incredible interception. Christoval ball at their 45. On 2nd and 7, Wilcox danced his way through the Buffaloes’ defense to the Cross Plains’ 36. Fava got them to the 30, where Wilcox outran the entire defense to pay dirt. 14-7 Cougars with 2:03 in the second quarter.
Cross Plains’ only attempt to tie the game before the break was blown up by Wilcox. With 1:07 remaining and coming out of a timeout, Cross Plains called a double play-action, throwback screen that was executed to near perfection. Their running back caught the ball in the backfield and had three linemen to pave the way, but Wilcox, who was the only one near the ball, slipped through the Buffaloes’ wall and made the tackle.
14-7 Christoval at halftime.
Christoval opened the half at their own 32. After picking up a quick first down, Wilcox dropped back to pass and, after bouncing in the pocket for a while, saw an open #2 who had gotten behind the defense. Wilcox’s eyes out-threw his arm, though, and the pass was broken up by a recovering Hernandez.
The official’s decided that he got there a bit too early and gave Christoval a first down at the Cross Plains’ 42 with a pass interference call. Four plays later, on 4th and inches, Wilcox found space again and was brought down at the 19. Two plays after that, he scrambled to the 14.
An incompletion on the next play set up 4th down, and Cross Plains knew exactly what was coming. They stuffed Wilcox at the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs.
The next drive was all Allen. Four straight direct snaps to the sophomore had them at the 41 after starting on the 13. Cross Plains then tried some trickery again and called a pass from Allen to Hernandez that fell incomplete.
The next play, on 3rd and 8, Hernandez connected with Conlee on an out route that he took to the Christoval 40.
Two plays later, the momentum shifted completely in Christoval’s favor. Hernandez rolled right and had an open receiver in the flat, but he waited to long to throw it and gave Wilcox enough time to make a play. He did just that and returned the interception 60 yards for a touchdown. 21-7 with 3:14 left in the third.
Cross Plains tried to respond and marched down the field with a mix of Hernandez and Allen runs. On 3rd and 5 from the Christoval five yard line, Allen took a sweep down to the two but came up limping on the same leg he had just recovered from. In obvious pain, he fell to ground before he could make it to the sideline and would not return.
His absence put all the pressure on Hernandez, and Christoval knew it. On 4th and 1 from the 2, Cross Plains decided to throw it, and Hernandez’s pass was picked off in the end zone by Beau Jolly. With no one in his way, Jolly coasted to the other end zone for a 100+ yard pick six. 28-7 Christoval with 7:23 to play in the game.
That second interception return proved to be the final nail in the Buffaloes’ coffin, and they had no chance to comeback.
Cross Plains would score one more time before it was all said and done, but it was too little too late. The Cougars kneeled the ball out to move on to the second round.
Here is a link to the photo gallery from the game.
Their next opponent, 10-1 #5 Wellington, defeated Electra 56-12 Thursday night. The Skyrockets have not lost since their week three game against now #6 and 10-1 Abernathy.
Christoval and Wellington will meet next Friday at the Mustang Bowl in Sweetwater at 7 PM.
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