TERRELL - Much like grabbing hold of a rank bull, the White Oak Roughnecks grabbed a two touchdown lead over the Pottsboro Cardinals and held on for dear life. In the end, the Roughnecks put the ball in the hands of reliable halfback Connor Hearron and the senior workhorse responded.
Clinging to a most precarious 17-9 advantage with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter, Hearron got the call six times in the pivotal 7-play, 59-yard drive. His final dash from 20 yards out sealed the fate of the previously undefeated Cardinals and sent White Oak to the regional quarterfinals with a 24-9 Class 3A, DI area victory Friday at Memorial Stadium.
White Oak improves to 10-2 overall and advances to the third round of postseason for only the second time in 45 years. The Roughnecks face Sunnyvale, which defeated Daingerfield Friday night. The regional contest is slated for Friday in Van at a time to be announced later.
Hearron found the going rough at the start with 32 yards on 10 carries in the first half. But, much like a fine wine, Hearron got better with time. He simply wore down the Pottsboro defense and wound up with 88 yards on 20 carries.
The game-clincher came when Hearron took a handoff from Cade Palmer and slipped into the second level and beat defenders to the flag. Arthur Nakai drilled the point after to cap the drive and leave White Oak with a two-score lead with 2:35 left to play in regulation.
Pottsboro completes its season at 11-1.
The two squads swapped turnovers in the beginning as Caleb Hampton picked a pass by Cardinal quarterback Zane Pritchett. The Roughnecks gave it right back when Palmer was hijacked in the end zone by Cody Copeland at 7:07 of the opening period.
An ankle injury to White Oak sophomore Wyatt Smith delayed play for about 15 minutes. Once play resumed, Palmer connected with Colby Siegley, who pitched perfectly to Dax Davis in full stride. The play covered 43 yards and put the Roughnecks on the board with 5:35 in the first.
Swade Smith collected a deflected pass from Pritchett and set in motion the next Roughneck score. Six plays and 16 yards later, Hearron was finding the pay window with 1:56 showing in the quarter.
A field goal by Pottsboro cut the deficit to 3-14 with just under two minutes left in the first half. White Oak answered that when Nakai drilled a 27-yarder just ahead of the halftime horn to make it 17-3.
The Cardinals drove 77 yards in seven plays and scored when Trevor Travis raced in from 16 yards out at 2:54 of the third frame. The point after was blocked by the Roughnecks and the score stood 17-9 with still a quarter to play.
Credit the White Oak defense with relentless pressure all night on Prichett. The combination of Smith, Austin Iske, Chris Bloyd and Jaylon Jeffery kept the Pritchett running for his life. The Roughnecks managed no less than seven quarterback sacks on the evening.