Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com

MIDLAND, Texas- El Paso Parkland used a strong offensive start and clutch plays defensively to hold off Lubbock-Cooper 45-34 in the Class 5A Division II area round on Friday in Midland.

“Our offense played well even though we sputtered a little bit at the end,” said Parkland head coach Eric Frontz, “Our defense was great and made plays when they needed to. We just have to finish better in the end but I’m super excited.”

The Matadors entered the game with one of the most explosive offenses in the state, but it was the defense who got things rolling. On the first Lubbock-Cooper drive, cornerback Zed Estrada intercepted a pass from Brenden Mehl. From there, the Matadors would cash in on a 13-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Briggs to Zarcarious Presha for a 7-0 lead.

“That interception really set the tone,” said Parkland cornerback Zed Estrada, “Our secondary was amazing and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”

After forcing another punt, Deion Hankins would add the first of three touchdown runs on the day from two yards out.

The Pirates would respond as Mehl found Zyketh Campbell for a 27-yard touchdown on a fourth down play near the end of the first quarter.

Parkland quarterback A.J. Briggs threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Lubbock Cooper. (Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com)

The offensive onslaught continued in the first half, starting with a statement 50-yard scoring run by Hankins. That opened up the passing game for Briggs who threw two long touchdown passes of 65 and 55 yards respectively to De’Quan Henderson, including one near the end of the half after Parkland had given up another Cooper touchdown.

Henderson finished with 167 yards on eight receptions and two scores while Briggs finished with 375 yards passing.

“We put together an extraordinary effort,” said running back Deion Hankins, “I liked how we pushed through it and everyone was doing our part.”

The other turning point came when Mehl left the game in the second quarter with an injury. Cole Carter came in relief and finished the rest of the game.

Lubbock Cooper quarterback Cole Carter came in relief after starter Brenden Mehl left the game with an injury in the second quarter. (Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com

The scoring pace would slow in the second half of the game as Hankins would add another touchdown run in the third quarter. The junior running back finished with 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The Pirates would not go away, however as Carter added another 42-yard touchdown run in the later stages of the third quarter.

As was the case on this Friday afternoon in Midland, the Matador defense rose tall, finishing with four sacks and two interceptions from Estrada and Nathan Mendoza.

Lubbock Cooper made things interesting late, as Carter threw another touchdown pass to Cameron Bednarz and they would even add a pick-six form Jarred Gibson late in the game. In the end, the Matadors were able to hold off the late rally for the Pirates and win their second area round playoff game in school history.

El Paso Parkland running back Deion Hankins (3) and cornerback Zed Estrada (5). (Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball)

“It was a total team effort,” Estrada said, “We did what we had to do and do our jobs and it all added up to a win.”

“We made it a little bit more interesting than it needed to be, but I’m proud of these guys,” Frontz said, “These kids are fantastic. Our community and our support is awesome and this is a great day for Parkland High School.”

Parkland will play the winner of Saginaw Boswell and Richland in Midland. As of posting, time and date has still yet to be determined.

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