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Pottsboro outlasts Whitney in high-scoring Class 3A Division I area playoff, 62-49

Cardinal defense forces four turnovers, converting three of those into TDs

By Buck Ringgold 

MESQUITE - There were more than a thousand yards and a hundred points in Thursday’s Class 3A Division I area playoff between Pottsboro and Whitney.

The Cardinals, though, clearly won one key statistic - turnover margin - which proved to be the difference in the game.

Pottsboro didn’t turn over the ball, while its defense forced four interceptions - three setting up touchdowns, including a game-turning pick-six in the second quarter - as the Cardinals outlasted the Wildcats, 62-49, at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.

“It’s huge, because they had a great offense,” said junior cornerback Cohen Rekeita, who had a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first half. “But the less they have the ball, the less they can score. … We’ve had our struggles, but just to get this win, it definitely hypes us up.”

Rekeita’s play came with Pottsboro (11-1) up 27-14 a few minutes into the second quarter, shortly after the Wildcats had a first-and-goal at the Cardinals’ 1-yard line.

Pottsboro’s defense stuffed a running play back to the 2. Then on the next play, a potential bubble screen pass to the right side was read by Rekeita, who jumped the route to make the catch.

He proceeded to race down the other end of the field untouched for a 94-yard TD, and Connor McDonald’s subsequent PAT kick extended the Cardinals’ lead to 20, 34-14, with 7:20 left in the first half.

“The (receiver) ran a bubble, the quarterback gave it away real easy and looked at (the receiver) straight away, so I just had to come up and I had to take that from him,” Rekeita said. “I had to be quick on my feet to get that thing.”

But initially after making the big play, Rekeita wasn’t sure he was going to take it to the house.

“(I thought) I’m gonna get caught. … But I just had the wheels,” he said.

In the first quarter, Pottsboro senior defensive back Andrew Chapman picked off two passes.

His first came on Whitney’s opening offensive series, which led to the game’s initial score, a 36-yard TD pass on the very next play from quarterback Halen Flanagan to senior receiver Reid Thompson. That gave the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.

The Wildcats (8-4) went in front, 7-6, several plays later before Pottsboro answered on its ensuing series to retake the lead. Then later in the first quarter, Chapman came up with another interception, returning it to the Wildcats’ 35.

Two plays later, Flanagan found receiver Jude Bentley on another deep ball, and Bentley finished off a 35-yard TD as Pottsboro built a 20-7 advantage.

“We had a couple of guys just make plays on the ball,” Pottsboro coach Matt Poe said. “The first two interceptions from Andrew Chapman; he hadn’t intercepted a pass all year, and he was in the right place at the right time and made plays for us."

After Rekeita’s pick-six, Whitney came back to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 13 twice before halftime. But each time, Pottsboro came right back with touchdowns.

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Down 34-21, Whitney attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Pottsboro’s Jaxson Jester. On the very next play, junior tailback Major McBride darted up the middle for a 45-yard TD.

Then with Pottsboro up 41-28 in the waning seconds of the first half, the Cardinals faced a fourth-and-3 from the Wildcat 44. Pottsboro went for it, and Flanagan found McBride streaking wide open over the middle.

McBride caught the pass and went in untouched to put the Cardinals back up by 20, 48-28, with 11 seconds left until halftime.

“We ran a post before, and so we saw the safety move over (and left) the middle of the field wide open,” McBride said. “So our coaches said, ‘Run up the middle,’ and it was wide open.”

Whitney got within 13 once more, 48-35, after fielding the second-half kickoff, marching 54 yards in 14 plays, with running back David Haynes III capping the drive with a 5-yard TD burst.

Two plays later, though, Pottsboro grabbed the momentum right back, as Flanagan hit Thompson in stride for a 66-yard TD. McDonald’s PAT made it 55-35.

The Cardinals held the Wildcats on downs on the next possession. When Pottsboro took over, it put away the game with a 14-play 73-yard drive.

On the second play of the final quarter, McBride had his third rushing TD, from 4 yards out, as Pottsboro went up 62-35.

McBride finished the night with 163 of Pottsboro’s 202 rushing yards on 23 carries and three TDs, to go along with his 44-yard TD reception.

Flanagan, the senior quarterback, was 12-of-21 passing for 233 yards and five touchdowns.

“I can tell you, the best way to describe Halen is he’s a warrior,” Poe said. “He’s going to do whatever he can to help this team and sacrifice his body, and he’s just a great leader for us.”

Thompson caught three of Flanagan’s five TD passes, ending up with eight receptions for 140 yards. In addition, Thompson also had Pottsboro’s final forced turnover, intercepting a pass in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.

“The first half, we played really well offensively; executed extremely well,” Poe said. 

“They came out in man coverage and were going to get up in our face, and we’ve got some guys that can run and got a quarterback that can go deliver the football, so we were fortunate enough to make those plays.”

Whitney actually out-gained Pottsboro, 577-435, with the Wildcats passing for 373 yards and running for 204 more.

Wildcat sophomore quarterback Mason Seely was 20-of-39 passing for 368 yards and four TDs. Three of those went to junior receiver Jairdyn Anderson, who caught 10 passes for 176 yards.

Whitney senior tailback Demarion Johnson also carried the ball 33 times for 145 yards, scoring once.

Pottsboro will move on to next week's regional semifinals next week, facing the winner of Friday’s area playoff between Mineola and Grandview, also in Mesquite.