PARIS — Daingerfield used a Hail Mary pass at the end of the half and a miraculous, 99-yard run-and-catch in the third quarter to break open a close, hard-fought contest and put away Pottsboro 56-10 in a Class 2A Division I, regional semifinal on Friday.
The Cardinals finish at 11-2. Daingerfield (10-3) advances to the regional championship against district rival New Boston (12-1).
New Boston’s lone loss was a 40-16 beating at the hands of Daingerfield.
Friday, it was quarterback Keris Alexander who put the nails in the Cardinals’ coffin, hitting on eight of 13 passes for 207 yards and those two, back-breaking touchdowns. The first, a 24-yard rainbow to Keynon Whetsone at the right pylon on a play that began with a half a second remaining in the first half.
The second came at the 4:44 mark of the third quarter, with the Tigers facing third-and-16 from their own 1-foot line and the Cardinals still clinging to hope. Alexander lofted a perfect spiral to Keaten Key, racing down the right sideline. The ball hit Key in the hands at the 35 and bounced up. The senior wideout plucked the ball pigskin out of midair and sprinted down the sidelines to make it a 35-10 contest.
Cordarius Anderson keyed an explosive Daingerfield rushing attack, picking up 166 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. He was aided by Whetsone, who added scoring runs of 13 and 64 yards en route to piling up 112 yards on just four carries.
Pottsboro got solid quarterback play from Hunter Mullinex, who hit on 11 of 15 passes for 103 yards and the Cardinals’ lone TD, a 50 yard fade route to Kory Walker. Zack Lovelady had 90 yards on nine catches.
Despite a balanced attack, the Cardinals only had one long score and could not maintain long drives against a pounding defense that delivered crushing hits after short gains all night long. Defensive end Kelshin Neal led the assault with eight unassisted tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for loss.
Ramius Wallace and Calvin Bryant were in on 22 tackles.
The halftime score belied a hard-fought, close contest. With 22 second left, the Cardinals were driving deep into Tiger territory, looking to whittle down 21-10 Daingerfield lead.
In an instant, the Pottsboro faithful were watching Whetsone come down with a Hail Mary pass at the pylon, the referee raising his hands, and the scoreboard showing them down, 28-10.
It all started when the Tiger defense snuffed out a Cardinal drive at the 36.
With 12 seconds left, Alexander handed off to Anderson, who broke through a whole over left tackle, juked a linebacker and ran 40 yards to the Cardinal 24. That set up the Alexander-to-Whetsone Hail Mary.
Daingerfield had started the game looking like the storied playoff veteran that it is.
The defense forced a punt and the offense promptly mounted a 13-play, 66-yard drive that was finished with a 1-yard, quarterback sneak by quarterback Alexander.
It was fit ending for a drive engineered by the senior signal caller. Twice the Tigers had faced fourth downs, and both times Alexander bailed them out. On the fourth-and-5 at the 36, he hit Denzel Mims in stride going down the right sideline for a 20-yard pickup.
Four plays later, Alexander dropped back, was pressured and, needing two yards, scrambled for four to keep the drive going.
Pottsboro came right back, putting together a 16-play, 66-yard drive that finally ran out of team at the Tiger 14. Kory Walker’s 31-yard field goal pulled the Cardinals to within 7-3 with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cardinals tried an onsides kick, which Neal covered at the 47. Five plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone again. A jet sweep around the left side by Whetsone had Daingerfield up, 14-3 at the 8:23 mark of the second.
A great kickoff return put the Cardinals in business at midfield, and one play later the senior receiver hauled in the pass from Mullinex to make it 14-10.
Daingerfield came back with a 56-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard Anderson run.
The Cardinals looked like they would keep pace, driving from their own 27 to the Daingerfield 36. That’s where Lady Luck stepped in.
After Key’s 99-yard miracle, the Tigers put the pedal to the metal, getting a 60-yard TD run from Anderson, Whetsone’s 64-yard burst – set up when he faked the handoff to Anderson – and a 30-yard fumble return for score from Spencer Anderson.