WACO — Darius James was just happy to be out there playing again.
Unfortunately for him and the Harker Heights Knights, Dontre Wilson had bigger goals and the speed to see them through.
Seeing his first action since the first half of the season opener 2½ months ago, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound senior lineman provided a big boost, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Wilson, a fellow Under Armour All-American, and No. 2 DeSoto.
“I didn’t know if I was going to play today, so I couldn’t condition how I wanted to, but it was real nice to be out here on the field again against some talent like that,” James said.
Wilson scored a season-high six touchdowns three different ways — including a 55-yard strip-and-score — as his Eagles rolled up 48 straight points from the second quarter on for a 62-15 victory in their Division I-5A bi-district playoff game Saturday afternoon at Waco ISD Stadium.
“He was fast — lightning fast and real good,” said James, who saw time on both sides of the ball.
Making its first playoff trip since 2006, many of the Knights (4-7) seemed unaccustomed to the playoff atmosphere and as a result committed costly penalties — 11 for 77 yards, including two separate 12-man violations and three personal foul penalties.
And outside of its two first-quarter scoring drives, each highlighted by 50-plus yard plays, the Heights offense was held in check, especially on the ground where the Knights managed just 108 rushing yards on 45 carries, including negative-1 yard on 20 carries in the second half.
“We felt like if we could control the ball a little bit, but man they’re just so explosive with 2 (Wilson) and 12 (quarterback Desmon White), we just didn’t have enough bodies to run with them,” Knights coach Mike Mullins said.
“You just can’t practice that pace, and … whatever bullets I had we used up pretty quick.”
Whether it was a double- or even triple-pass, an onside kick or a fake punt, Mullins and the Knights coaching staff pulled out all the stops in hope of knocking off DeSoto (11-0). Unfortunately, even when Heights’ trick plays worked, Wilson managed to find his way into the end zone.
Trailing 34-15 late in the second half after both teams traded turnovers, the Knights went for it on fourth-and-17 as Damaria Moon took the snap from the punt protector position and ran for it. Quickly engulfed by both DeSoto and Heights players, the Knights managed to push the rugby-like pile forward across the first down mark before the unexpected happened — Wilson snatched the ball from Moon and returned it 55 yards for the touchdown.
“We had the fake punt and the pile was moving and next thing I know they’re playing the DeSoto fight song,” Mullins said.
Scoring was almost that simple for the Oregon-committed Wilson, who combined on 242 total yards offensively and defensively, including 99 rushing and four scores on the ground and another 95 return yards.
The Eagles offense flew circles around the once-stout Knights defense, racking up 497 total yards and scoring on eight of its nine offensive series with the first-team players on the field.
“They just wore us down defensively and offensively,” said Heights senior linebacker Naashon Hughes, a Texas greyshirt commit.
Making an impact from the coin flip, James’ presence was felt right away, including back-to-back goal-line stops to force DeSoto into a third-and-goal on its opening offensive series. But Wilson was not going to be denied, barreling his way into the end zone on fourth downfrom the 1 four minutes into the game.
Underdogs from the moment the game was announced, the Knights managed to keep pace early, even pulling ahead 15-14 with 1:55 left in the first quarter after converting a two-point conversion and an extra point try on back-to-back scoring drives. The first of Heights’ scores was highlighted by a 56-yard quarterback keeper by Smith and capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Marcus Anderson II, while the pair connected on a 59-yard screen on the ensuing series and fullback Tyler Brown punched it in from 5 yards out for the Knights’ only lead of the contest.
“It was expected, we thought we had a chance from the get-go, but the wheels fell off and they turned on the speed,” James said.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566