DENTON, Texas — Behind senior Jhett Jones’ standout game, the Brock Eagles earned a 30-19 win over rivals Whitesboro in the UIL 3A DI Region 1 Finals Thursday night.
The win propels the Bearcats (11-2) into the Texas High School Football State semifinals for the fourth time in two years.
“We knew it was going to be a fight,” Jones said after the game. “We beat them by half a meter in the previous game, so we knew they weren’t going to give it away just like that. So we came out just as excited as they were. They started the game hard, we started the game slowly, but in the last two games we obviously developed into a second-half team.”
Jones caught 9 passes for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 3 tackles and a key interception on the defensive side of the ball.
Both teams traded punts to start the game before Whitesboro took an early lead when Mac Harper threw Karter Sluder low over center for a 93-yard touchdown. A missed extra point led to the final score of 6:0.
Harper had a great game for the Bearcats, completing 12 of 26 passes for 256 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added 60 yards and ran for 17 carries.
The Bearcats’ next drive fumbled with the ball and put Brock in a great field position. Three plays later, Tyler Moody climbed out of the pocket and fired a pass at a skidding Jones, who caught up with him for a 13-yard score. The extra point gave the Eagles a 7-6 lead after one quarter.
Moody finished the game 18th of 32 for 245 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air and had 10 carries for 16 yards.
After two games in the second quarter, Whitesboro scored again on a fade from Harper to Jace Sanders (5 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns) from 46 yards. The two-point conversion failed and it remained at 12-7.
Midway through the second quarter, it seemed like the Bearcats would score again, but a miscommunication resulted in a botched snap that Brock was able to recover. Both teams traded punts before the end of the first half.
“Coach [Billy] Mathis didn’t make any adjustments, if I’m being completely honest,” Jones recalled. “He sort of said, ‘It’s up to us.’ Just like he said last week. He told us, “At the end of the day, it’s up to all of you. If you all want to go home, go home. But never give up and we’ve got this game in the bag.’ And we had the game in the bag.”
The Eagles got the kick in the second half and drove to the Whitesboro 16-yard line for a 33-yard field goal from Brody Baker to close the gap at 12-10. Both offenses were able to put together a few drives before the quarter was over, but they all eventually ended in punts.
Early in the fourth quarter, Moody found Jones again from 33 yards to put Brock back 16-12 after a failed two-point conversion.
On the ensuing drive, the Bearcats got right back to work. Harper drove his team deep into Brock territory before the Eagle defense finally brought down a fourth. Lined up with four receivers to one side, Whitesboro fooled the defense, leaving Sanders wide open for goal.
Brock needed a hit in the final minutes and was able to concede. After a long pass from Moody to Carson Finney, Reid Watkins did the rest from four yards to finally put Brock ahead.
The drive that followed saw only one play as Harper lofted a pass down the center of the field and Jones read it perfectly, positioning himself under the ball and coming down with the interception. Five games later, Watkins put the final touchdown on the board to make it 30-19.
The Bearcats made one last drive, but Colt Matlock came up with a pick to put the finishing touches on the win, propelling Brock to the semifinals for the second straight year.
“We’re battle-hardened,” Jones said. “We were battle hardened from week one. We’ve seen close games everywhere. Some district games that shouldn’t have been that tight, the first four games of the season we played against some top 4A teams, we’re battle hardened and I think that will help us through those last few games.
Brock (10-4) plays the winner of Grandview and Malakoff on Thursday, December 8 at 7 p.m. at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.