LONGVIEW - With the potential of putting the game away in the fourth quarter, Nick Ballard knew his West Rusk team needed him.
After sitting out the second half with a leg strain, the senior running back converted a crucial fourth down to help salt away a 31-12 win over Omaha Paul Prewitt in a Class 3A Division II regional playoff win on Thanksgiving night Thursday at Lobo Stadium.
The Raiders (11-1) advance to the state quarterfinals to meet a fellow District 8-3A Division II mate next week. Arp and Waskom play at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium in Longview. The winner will play West Rusk.
Paul Pewitt ended its season at 8-5.
Next week's game is tentatively set for Friday at Lobo Stadium.
Ballard had helped the Raiders to a 21-12 halftime lead but was on the bench in the third and most of the fourth quarter with a quad strain. But with 6:36 left in the game, Ballard came back on the field as the Raiders faced fourth-and-1 at the Brahmas' 25-yard line.
After a time out, Ballard came into the game and got the 1 yard needed for the first down. The next play he ran for 11. The drive eventually ended in a 28-yard field goal by Jose Cerda for a West Rusk lead of 24-12 with 4:27 to go in the game.
Ballard, with his offensive line leading the way, rushed for 124 yards on 16 carries. He also had a 20-yard TD run in the second quarter. He had 113 yards in the first half.
Quarterback Dee Starling threw for 178 yards and two TDs - 84 yards to Breyon Thurman and 28 yards to Kevin Jones.
Paul Pewitt quarterback Tyran Betts rushed for 164 yards on 27 carries, including a 2-yard TD run, while running back Lamon Hillis rushed for 107 yards and scored on a 2-yard run.
However, the Brahmas failed to complete a pass all night.
Class 3A Division II Regional Playoffs
West Rusk 31, Omaha Paul Pewitt 12
At Lobo Stadium
West Rusk 14 7 0 10 - 31
Paul Pewitt 0 12 0 0 - 12
WR - Breyon Thurman 84 pass from Dee Starling (kick failed), 8:14
WR - Kevin Jones 28 pass from Starling (Nick Ballard run), 2:58
PP - Tyran Betts 2 run (kick failed), 11:57
WR - Nick Ballard 20 run (Jose Cerda kick), 9:55
PP - Lamon Hillis 1 run (run failed), :52
WR - FG Cerda 28, 4:27
WR - DeVonta Medford 7 run (Cerda kick), 2:11
EST. ATT. - 5,000.
First Downs 18 19
Rushes-Yards 45-221 53-314
Passing Yards 178 0
Com.-Att.-Int 9-12-0 0-8-0
Punting-Ave. 2-41.0 3-37.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 5-45 4-20
Rushing - West Rusk, Nick Ballard 16-124, DeVonta Medford 12-66, DJ Hicks 15-43, Team 1-(-1), Dee Starling 1-(-1). Paul Pewitt, Tyran Betts 27-164, Lamon Hillis 15-107, Antwan Heath 9-35, Tristin Nevels 1-14, John Terrell 1-(-6).
Passing - West Rusk, Starling 9-12-0 178 yards. Paul Pewitt, Betts 0-8-0, Hillis 0-1-0.
Receiving - West Rusk, Kevin Jones 4-50, Breyon Thurman 2-96, Hicks 1-24, Dylan Walker 1-5, Levi Hughes 1-3. Paul Pewitt, none.