Brian Tyl, Texarkana Gazette
GLADEWATER - The special teams and defense came up big for Texarkana Pleasant Grove.
The Hawks’ special teams and defense scored 13 points to boost Pleasant Grove over Rusk, 26-14 in a Class 4A II bi-district playoff game at Jack V. Murphy-Bear Stadium on Friday.
The Hawks improve to 5-6 and will face the winner of the Bonham-Wills Point game in the area round.
Rusk ends it season with a 4-7 record.
The Eagles had 245 yards through the air, but Pleasant Grove made the big plays when it needed to and used the run to control the game.
Carson Cox grabbed a 78-yard pass from TJ Cole to put the Hawks up 20-14 in the third quarter.
Xavier Benson scooped up an Eagles’ fumble and scampered 101 yards for a fourth quarter score, and PG took a 26-14 lead. The score came on a play when Rusk went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
The Hawk defense played tight, and Jacolbee Smith made a sack for a 9-yard Eagle loss with 2:33 left in the game. PG’s defense shutout Rusk in the first and fourth quarters.
Pleasant Grove went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead.
Rusk’s Jake Hugghins went back to punt from the Eagles’ 29 yard line. The Hawks blocked the punt, and Ryan Pickelman scooped up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone from 10 yards out.
The Pleasant Grove defense forced a punt on the next Rusk possession.
T.J. Cole broke free on a run of 10 yards, and Wesley had two carries for 20 yards as the Hawks drove from their own 25 to the Eagles’ 24.
Matt Day hit a 40-yard field goal to give PG a 10-0 lead.
Day attempted an onside kick, but Rusk recovered and set up at its own 46. A few plays later quarterback Hugghins passed to Joseph Francis on a 49-yard touchdown pass to inch the Eagles to within 10-7.
Chauncey Martin intercepted a Hugghins pass and returned it 20 yards to the Rusk 49. Wesley had a 15-yard run to inch the Hawks closer to paydirt.
PG attempted a Wesley run on fourth-and-goal from the Eagles’ 3. One referee ruled Wesley’s run a touchdown, but another did not. The refs huddled together and determined Wesley was shy of the end zone by about three feet.
With under two minutes to go in the second quarter, the Hawk defense held Rusk to just two yards as the Eagles had to work out of their own end zone.
A 31-yard punt by Rusk put Pleasant Grove kicker Day in position to try a 50-yard field goal with just 1.7 seconds left until the half.
Day connected to put the Hawks up 13-7.
Pleasant Grove totaled 109 yards of offense in the first half and held Rusk to just 80.