CARTHAGE -- Bullard celebrated its first playoff berth in 18 years after the regular-season finale. The party hasn't stopped.
In a gritty performance at the home of champions, Bullard pulled away in the final quarter to beat Center, 24-14, in a Class 3A Division II bi-district playoff Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.
With much of Bullard's population converged on the Carthage High School venue, the Panthers captured their first playoff win in school history with the dramatic triumph. Bullard (7-4) advances to meet Waco Robinson in the area round at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Athens.
Center finished the season 4-7.
Bullard scored 10 points in the final quarter to break open a tied game.
The Panthers' go-ahead score came when Houston Alexander capped a 15 play drive on a 2-yard plunge with 5:58 left. The insurance points came when Weston Gray made a 32-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
Bullard's defense set up the final score by stopping the Roughriders on downs near midfield. Defensive back Jesse Duplechin got into the backfield and dropped Center quarterback Cameron Cloudy for a loss on fourth down.
The Panthers rushed for almost 200 yards on the night, led by Alexander's 18 carries for 75 yards and two scores.
Bullard fought back throughout.
Center defensive lineman Austin Mosby changed the course of the first half, during which Bullard took the first lead on a 3-yard pass from Mebane to Haden Bryant with 1:02 left in the first quarter. The Panthers moved the ball 98 yards on the drive, coming close to getting a safety on the first play.
The game was tied 7-7 with 1:29 remaining when Bullard forced the Roughriders to punt. The Panthers got the ball at their own 11 with a little time left, but Mosby got through the offensive line and leveled Mebane, forcing the ball loose and recovering it at the 5.
Center needed only one play to take its first lead of the night, thanks to K.J. Garrett's 5-yard touchdown run. Cloudy scored the Roughriders' first TD to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:56 left, benefitting from personal foul and pass interference penalties on Bullard that contributed 30 yards to the drive.
Bullard 24, Center 14
Class 3A Division II Bi-District
At Bulldog Stadium, Carthage
Center 0 14 0 0 -- 14
Bullard 7 0 7 10 -- 24
BUL -- Haden Bryant 3 pass from Colton Mebane (Weston Gray kick), 1:02
CEN -- Cameron Cloudy 4 run (Felipe Parra kick), 4:56
CEN -- K.J. Garrett 5 run (Parra kick), 1:14
BUL -- Houston Alexander 3 run (Gray kick), 4:51
BUL -- Alexander 2 run (Gray kick), 5:58
BUL -- FG Gray 32, :19
First Downs 16 21
Rushes-Yards 46-187 44-195
Att.-Comp.-Int. 9-14-0 12-17-0
Passing Yards 42 138
Penalties-Yards 8-55 3-35
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Punts-Avg. 4-37.5 3-40.0
RUSHING -- Center, Cameron Cloudy 14-60, K.J. Garrett 15-54, Johnny Sudds 11-52, Shaquille Ingram 4-12, Miles Netherly 2-9. Bullard, Houston Alexander 18-75, Colton Mebane 11-67, Tanner Schmidt 13-50, Haden Bryant 1-3.
PASSING -- Center, Cloudy 9-14-0--42. Bullard, Mebane 12-17-0--138.
RECEIVING -- Center, Tony McCollister 6-30, Ingram 2-8, Garrett 1-4. Bullard, Bryant 6-105, Zack Holladay 4-15, Schmidt 2-11, Jess Wood 1-7.