By Nick Talbot and Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
The pass sailed high and long. Underneath it ran Salado's Shannon Ponder, who was wide open down the sideline.
The immediate result was a 91-yard touchdown pass from Cole Brentham to tie the game at 13-13.
The end result was the emergence of the Eagles' passing game and Salado (3-2 in District 25-2A) getting itself back in the playoff hunt as Brentham threw for a season-high 210 yards in the 20-13 win over Academy.
Salado coach Jeff Cheatham did not hesitate to say that the game was the best the junior quarterback has had this season.
"They did a good job of taking some things away from us underneath," Cheatham said. "We got fortunate and got past them on a (stop and go) and faked them out."
Brentham was only averaging 83.5 yards per game through the air coming into the game and had only completed 52.5 percent of his pass attempts. In Friday's win he completed 16 of 21 (76.2 percent).
"We had it all year, but little things held us back," Brentham said. "... It just seemed to click."
Getting to 1,000
Even though Florence lost to Lexington, 48-26, Brian Ross continued to establish himself as one of 25-2A's best running backs. Ross ran for 206 yards on 29 carries and is now fifth in the district with 758 yards. And that is only because he did not start at running back for the Buffaloes until Week 4 against Rosebud Lott. In the first three weeks of the season, he had seven carries for 23 yards. In the last five games, he has rushed 106 times for 735 yards – an average of 147 yards per game. If he averages that in the Buffaloes' last two games against Lago Vista and Academy, he will cross the 1,000-yard mark with ease.
Bulling for the Badgers
Edward Hall fits into Lampasas' new slot-T offense better, maybe, than he should.
The senior tailback, who can also play fullback or halfback, ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns – 52 and 66 yards – to help the Badgers (3-5, 2-2 25-4A) beat visiting Marble Falls, 31-27.
The Mustangs (4-4, 1-3), who trailed 24-7 at halftime, scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to lead 27-24 in the fourth quarter. But Brode Dubose, who finished with 90 yards on 13 carries, bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out for his second touchdown of the game and gave the Badgers a fighting chance at their first playoff appearance since 2000.
Same result, different year
The scary part for Gatesville moving toward Friday's game with West is the Hornets have seen this scenario before.
Last year to be exact.
Gatesville won its first two District 7-3A games last year before losing to Glen Rose, West and China Spring to end the year and its playoff hopes. The Hornets opened district play with wins over Whitney (16-6) and Hillsboro (46-7), but lost to Glen Rose 42-7 in a first-place showdown.
It doesn't get any easier for the Hornets (6-2, 2-1), who are in a three-team tie for second place behind Glen Rose. Gatesville faces West (6-2, 2-1) at home Friday before ending the year at China Spring (6-2, 2-1).
Ash attack is back
Belton junior David Ash should be back on the field Thursday when the Tigers face rival Temple in a nationally televised game on ESPNU, according to Tigers coach Rodney Southern.
But while last season's District 12-5A newcomer of the year still leads the district in passing with 1,003 yards and 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions, despite missing three games, his backup has ably managed the offense. Jonathan Paysse is 12-5A's sixth-leading passer with 394 yards while completing a district-best 62 percent of his throws. Belton (7-1, 4-1) is 2-1 under Paysse, who nearly led the Tigers to a win over district-favorite Copperas Cove.
By the numbers
22.25 – The average number of points the Badgers have scored in eight games this season, including 25.75 in four District 25-4A games; up from 7.7 points in 10 games last year and 7.3 points in six district games.
16 – The number of interceptions Salado has this season, which includes Hunter Ward's 72-yard, game-winning interception return with less than a minute remaining Friday against Academy.
7 – The number of turnovers (four fumbles and three interceptions) Gatesville had in its 42-7 loss to Glen Rose. The Hornets had just one turnover in their first two District 7-3A games (both wins).
7 – The number of turnovers Florence had in its 22-point loss to Lexington. Coming into the game, the Buffaloes had only lost two fumbles. They coughed up three Friday to go with Doak Hensley's four interceptions.
6:07 – The amount of time Belton took to build a 21-0 lead over Ellison on the way to a 47-20 win. The Tigers scored on their opening three drives, while the Eagles has just two offensive plays during the stretch.
Lampasas at Killeen – While the Badgers (3-5, 2-2) are still seeking their first playoff berth since 2000, they cannot clinch with a win, nor can they be eliminated with a loss. Either way, Lampasas has to beat Hutto, which is idle, next week in the final regular season game.
Belton at Temple – These two local rivals meet for the 41st time and do so on ESPNU as the nation gets a look at standout running back Lache Seastrunk. Belton (7-1, 4-1) will be heavily favored as Temple (3-5, 2-3) is in must-win mode to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Florence at Lago Vista – The Buffaloes (2-6, 1-3) are coming off a 22-point loss to Lexington and now face district-leading Lago Vista. The Vikings have only given up six points to Salado and Rogers, which are a combined 6-3 in 25-2A.
West at Gatesville – The Hornets (6-2, 2-1) will need to win at least one of their next two games to avoid missing the playoffs for the eighth straight year, and may have its best chance at home Friday against West (6-2, 2-1).
Angel Verdejo contributed to this report.