FRISCO, TX — It’s State Semifinals week this weekend in the 2023 Texas High School Football Playoffs. On Thursday, December 7, the Brock Eagles and the Malakoff Tigers battled in an explosive contest featuring multiple touchdowns on both sides of the ball. Brock jumped out to an early lead before turnovers allowed Malakoff to climb back into the game.
3A Football doesn't get any better than this as the two teams battled at an elite level all evening. Despite falling behind early in the contest, the Tigers took the lead late in the 4th and held on to advance to the 3A Division I State Championship game, 38-31.
After Brock opened up the scoring with a field goal early in the first quarter, both defenses locked down and put points on the board. First, the Eagles’ cornerback Colt Matlock picked off Malakoff and returned the interception to the house for a touchdown. Brock took a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Malakoff returned the favor following a punt by the Tigers. Malakoff’s Josh Garcia stripped Brock’s quarterback, Brody Woods, on a designed QB run. Parker Poteete scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 64 yards for a Tigers’ touchdown. Malakoff trailed 10-7 with 2:15 remaining in the first.
Brock’s offense would respond early in the second quarter. Senior runningback Brett Tutter took an inside handoff up the middle, squeezed through a tiny gap in the line, and then took off down the field. Nobody could catch the young speedster, and Brock scored another touchdown.
The Tiger’s quarterback, Mike Jones, answered with a touchdown on the ground. Malakoff’s signal caller ran the ball to the outside, followed an excellent block, and broke out down the sideline. Nobody could catch him on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run. The Eagles led at halftime, 17-14.
For anyone who says momentum matters in football, Thursday night was an excellent example. Malakoff exploded in the third quarter. The Tigers’ defense came through early in the third when they blocked a punt from Brock in the shadow of their end zone. The offense failed to punch it in, but Malakoff tied the game with a field goal. On the subsequent kickoff, the Tigers ripped the ball away from an Eagles’ returner for another takeaway. James Studley took the fumble recovery into the end zone for another Malakoff touchdown. The Tigers took the lead for the first time in the contest and led 24-17.
Brock kept pace and scored a touchdown on the following drive. After the Eagles had an excellent kick return, the offense went on a drive. Brock had to convert a 4th down and six to keep the drive alive and managed to move the ball inside the 10-yard line. Brett Tutter scored from four yards out to tie the game at 24-24.
Malakoff kept its foot on the gas near the end of the third quarter. Mike Jones launched a deep ball to the Tigers’ tight end, Doc Renberg. Renberg bobbled the deep ball but displayed some impressive focus when he hauled it in. Renberg ran into the end zone to give the Tigers back the lead.
Brock responded early in the fourth with a touchdown run from Brody Woods. The Eagles defense stepped up and forced a punt to give the offense the opportunity to win the game. Then Malakoff made the play of the state semifinal. One of the big boys on the D-line took advantage of a golden opportunity. The Tigers hit Woods as he threw the ball, and the football ball popped up in the air. Daniel Norrell snagged the wobbly pass and took off down the sideline. Brock prevented the pick-six, but the Tigers had the ball in scoring position nearing the end of regulation.
Brock held up well, but the Tigers could not be denied. Jones pushed the ball into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to give Malakoff a 38-31 advantage with 19 seconds remaining. Brock drove to midfield but ran out of time. The Tigers down the Eagles 38-31 in the 3A Division I State Semifinal and head to AT&T Stadium next week to play for a state championship.
This game came down to turnovers. Malakoff took advantage on four different occasions to keep hope alive. Brock did a great job on defense for most of the night, but when a team creates four extra opportunities to score, it’s hard to win in that situation. Brock’s head coach, Billy Mathis, talked about the turnovers after the game.
“Those turnovers, they got us tonight,” Mathis said. “We had a chance to stop them, and, you know, it takes a whole team to do it right. You can't turn balls over against good teams.”
Despite the loss, Coach Mathis said he was proud of how his team competed.
“It breaks your heart seeing these seniors hurt,” Mathis commented. “I love them. They gave everything in their heart and soul. I’m proud of them, and I love them.
Brock now heads to the offseason after another season where the Eagles fell just short. Where do the Eagles go from here? What do they focus on this off-season? Coach Mathis had a message for his underclassmen.
“Don’t forget this feeling,” Mathis said. “Every morning when you wake up and have to go run 10 200s, lift weights, or whatever it is, do not forget this feeling. We do it every day to go win and win big. Go and try to be like these seniors. Lead like these seniors led. On the field and off the field, these seniors led by example.
Malakoff heads to the State Championship next week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington against the defending state champion Franklin Lions. Kickoff is scheduled for Thursday, December 14, at 3 p.m.