WALLER, Texas — The legs of Marquez Perez powered College Station to a 49-47 win over Fort Bend Marshall in a 5A Division II quarterfinal Saturday at Waller ISD Stadium. But the Cougar quarterback who had five rushing touchdowns lined up on defense for one play to help save the day.
College Station came from a 13-point deficit to take a 42-34 lead in the fourth quarter, and Marshall scored a long touchdown to make it 42-40. The Buffaloes lined up for two, aiming to tie the game and put the pressure back on the Cougars.
Perez entered the game to aid a depleted College Station secondary. Marshall quarterback Jabari Jones took the snap from the shotgun, rolled right and then back left to avoid the College Station pressure. Jones then saw daylight and made a break to the end zone, only to get tackled by Perez short of the goal line.
“I just want to be the best athlete I can be out there and help us win the game,” Perez said. “As a dual-threat quarterback myself, I know I need to stick with the receiver. When I saw the quarterback break, I knew I needed to make a move. I saw him and made the tackle.”
Perez then guided the Cougars on a clock-eating drive for a touchdown to pull ahead by nine points, and the Cougars recovered a Marshall onside attempt to seal the game with 10 seconds on the clock.
College Station (12-2) returns to the Class 5A Division II state semifinal, where it will face Austin McCallum (14-0). The Knights beat 2016 state runner-up Corpus Christi Calallen, 20-7, in the other quarterfinal. Calallen defeated College Station in least year’s semifinal, and it still burns inside the Cougar seniors.
“We were disappointed last year because we were one game away, and this year started from the bottom and worked our way back,” Perez said.
The College Station-McCallum game will be at 7 p.m. Saturday night (Dec. 16) at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Marshall, which ends its season at 10-3, looked unstoppable in the first half while rolling out to a 34-21 lead at intermission. The Buffaloes marched 43 yards in nine plays and took a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard run by Jerry Davis on the game’s opening drive. College Station blocked the extra point, which proved to be rather pivotal by the fourth quarter.
College Station responded with a 10-play, 44-yard drive capped by a Perez 1-yard leap into the end zone. Like most drives all game, the Cougars used a mixture of running plays with Perez and DaDa Anderson.
Marshall regained the lead on another score by Davis — this time from 5 yards. Then later in the quarter trailing, 14-13, Marshall faced a fourth-and-3 from the 20. Buffaloes sophomore running back Devon Achane took a handoff and had little running room at the line. He took a quick step to his right, found a hole and burst his way 20 yards to put Marshall back ahead, 20-14.
College Station couldn’t find rhythm on offense early in the second quarter, and punter Brandon Williams pinned Marshall on its own 7-yard line. On a third-and-10 at the 7, James mishandled a snap in the shotgun, regained possession in the end zone, dodged a would-be tackler and found senior Henry Thomas wide open for a 93-yard scoring strike to take a 27-14 lead.
Like it’s done so many times this year, College Station made adjustments at halftime and then held Marshall scoreless for nearly 19 minutes to start the second half.
“We told our guys to just keep playing,” said College Station coach Steve Huff. “We told them to keep running and playing hard, and good things will happen. First downs became critical as well.”
College Station scored on its opening drive of the third quarter — a 27-yard scamper by Anderson — and then forced Marshall’s first punt of the game. College Station’s Ryna Stapp grabbed an interception that led to the Cougars taking a 35-34 lead on a Perez run, and the Cougars got another interception when junior Brandon Joseph snared a floater downfield.
The Cougars then slowed it down, using more than seven minutes of clock on a 15-play drive capped by another Perez run. Perez kept the ball on 11 of those plays.
Achane scored on Marshall’s second play of its next possession on a 67-yard run. Going for two, that’s when Perez’s heroics on defense shined.
Perez led the Cougars on a 13-play drive that ate nearly six minutes of clock, and the quarterback kept the ball on nine of those. Facing a fourth-and-goal to go at the 8, Perez faked a quarterback keeper and tossed a soft pass to Justin Moore on a slant route with 1:40 to go to take a 49-40 lead.
Marshall made it interesting by scoring on a James 25-yard pass from James to Henry Thomas with 10 seconds remaining, but College Station recovered the onside kick to seal the game.
This is the second-straight year these teams met in the regional final, and the second time College Station prevailed. The Cougars now seek their first state championship appearance.
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