DESOTO — In a matchup that carried a facade of possibly swapping No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, more than the playoffs were on the line between DeSoto and South Grand Prairie High Schools on Thursday at Eagle Stadium.
The Associated Press No. 10 Eagles entered the game looking to avoid its second consecutive home upset — District 7-6A Champion Duncanville beat them 24-14 on Oct. 27 — in three weeks. The Warriors looked to pick up a win against DeSoto for the first time in more than five years.
And despite a 79-yard sprint down the middle of the field by Jachin Like and 1-yarder by junior quarterback Nakia Brown, the most influential group on the field may have been DeSoto’s defense that earned a 17-14 win to bolster it entering round one of the playoffs.
“We noticed he hadn’t completed a pass during the game. That wasn’t anything spectacular to us. It was a no-fly zone,” senior defensive back Byron Hanspard, Jr. said about forcing South Grand Prairie to become one-dimensional. “We came in with the mindset that they don’t get any completions. They don’t get any passing yards. They don’t get any receiving yards. They better do something else.”
Hanspard, Jr., twin senior cornerbacks German and Gemon Green, dominating defensive linemen Viramontes Pippens-Redic, safety Jabbar Muhammad, and DeSoto held Brown to 0 for 13 passing and sacked him twice. Pippens-Redic had one of those takedowns.
It was enough to negate a first-half interception and fumble by DeSoto starting quarterback Courtney Douglas, more than 20 minutes of scoreless football and a handful of fruitless drives and one failed drive that came less than 30 yards from landing the first strike of the game.
“We just need to click [on the offensive side]. Once we did, it was a done deal. Once we click, it’s over,” said senior wide receiver Vonte Shenault, who had 67 yards in the first half and 53 in the second.
Vonte, whose brother and current University of Colorado Buffalo Laviska Shenault was a superstar on the 2016 state championship team, noted how they adjusted in the second half, using the pass to set up the run and drain seconds off of an all-important winding clock.
“For us, the balance is pass-run. If we can get the ball down the field, our running backs will get them in,” Vonte continued. “We have to catch teams off guard by running random, unpredictable plays.”
He also noted the increase of pace and how that kept South Grand Prairie’s Warriors back peddling and on their heels.
Douglas finished 16-for-30, with 223 yards and an interception through the air and 12 rushes for 29 yards and a fumble on the ground. One-hundred and twenty-seven of his aerial yards belonged to Vonte. Still, it took a long range bomb to sway the score in the Eagles’ favor.
Not the 54-yard Vontae touchdown wiped away by an inadvertent whistle and turned into a 44-yard gain. To beat a South Grand Prarie Warrior team looking to break a streak of losses and upset a state-ranked team in the same breath, it required a moon shot from the leg of a special teamer.
Sparked by Kelan Walker, who finished with 116 yards on 14 carries and ran for 40 of the 47 yards on the game-winning drive, Gerrit Blodgett drove a 40-yard field goal through the uprights with little more than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter left. It would be the final points for either team.
South Grand Prairie gained 206 total yards with six different backs — including Jachin Like (7 rush, 95 yards, TD) and Brown (15 rush, 74 yards, TD). Deamikkio Nathan, Terrell Lightfoot, Elias Sanchez, and Keodrick Young combined for 37.
South Grand Prairie, had a 14-7 halftime lead, but struggled in the final two quarters and fell prey to DeSoto’s rush and went scoreless.
DeSoto, the defending 6A Division II champions, will return to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year since moving to the UIL Class 6A in 2014. The Eagles are slated to face either District 8’s Killeen Harker Heights or Copperas Cove at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at Eagle Stadium.
“It was big for us to win like that on Senior Night on the last night we’ll play in this stadium during the regular season,” Walker said. “It was a pretty special moment because we battled through all the adversity to have this moment and win tonight. We stayed focused and relied on each other. We’ll have to keep doing that in the playoffs.”
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