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Iola falls to Tenaha

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Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 2:45 pm

PALESTINE — The #1 ranked Tenaha Tigers (13-0) remain undefeated, moving past the fearless Iola Bulldogs (8-5) 35-14 in the third round of the 2A Division-II playoffs.

Tenaha moves into the State Quarterfinals to face the Timpson Bears (11-2) at Carthage ISD’s Bulldog Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.

On paper Tenaha was expected to run through Iola with ease, favored to win by 28-points. On the field the Tigers had to endure a dogfight to advance.

Tenaha pounced into the end zone first on its opening-drive on a 17-yard run from Tiger quarterback CJ Horn. Christian Castillo booted in the extra-point for the only score in the opening-quarter.

Iola opened the second-quarter with a drive that began at its own 48-yard line. Senior Tyler Dykes caught a five-yard pass from Kaiden Halley on a two-and-15 play to set-up a three-and-10. Dykes toted the ball on the next play, and scooted 34-yards downfield to pick up the first down at Tenaha’s 18-yard line.

Zack Dyer connected with a wide-open Dylan Stanley all alone in the end zone on the ensuing play to bring the Bulldogs within a point. J.D. Funderburk split the uprights to tie the game with 10:12 remaining in the first half.

Both teams came up empty in its next couple of possessions. Iola began marching backwards before the end of the half, following a false start penalty, and a negative pass play for a nine-yard loss. The Bulldogs were forced to punt from its own 18-yard line, and Tenaha took over with 3:11 remaining at the Iola 48.

Onterio Thompson escaped a tackle for a 16-yard gain to move the ball to Iola’s 32-yard line. Horn connected with Trai Gardner for a 21-yard gain, and Thompson capped off the drive with an 11-yard carry to regain the lead. Tenaha held a 14-7 lead heading into halftime.

The Tigers received the opening-kick of the second-half, and began its drive on its own 45, following the squib kick.

Horn slipped out of the grasp of an Iola defender in the backfield, and darted into Bulldog territory for a 21-yard gain. Tenaha reeled of consecutive runs of five and nine yards, and Thompson jetted to pay-dirt for his second touchdown on the night, good for 19 yards.

Iola was forced into a three-and-out, and had to punt the ball back to the Tigers.

Thompson reeled-off a 19-yard run, but Iola’s Cameron Degrate picked of Horn on the following play to give the Bulldogs the ball back.

Iola capitalized on the turnover, on the ensuing possession. Dykes connected with Cody Ozbolt for 16-yards, and eventually called his own number for a 12-yard touchdown run, to bring the Bulldogs to within seven. Dykes carried the ball 21 times for 122 yards.

Tenaha didn’t need much time to extend its lead again. Thompson had another big gain for 18-yards, and Jay Lloyd got open behind an Iola defender and raced across the goal line for a 69-yard touchdown. The Tigers led 28-14 with 3:23 remaining in the third-quarter.

Thompson applied the final dagger with his third touchdown on the night, a 22-yard carry. He finished his night with 152 yards on 19-carries.

"Our kids did everything we asked them to do. We knew we had a daunting task tonight.  I think we were picked to lose by 28," stated Iola Head Coach Dwayne Ross. "We knew our kids were going to come out and fight. We didn't think there was any way possible that we were 28 point underdogs, just because we know how hard our kids are going to play. So no matter what took place tonight we knew our kids were going to give great effort and fight till the final horn went off, and that's what they did."

Iola graduates seven seniors including two that have been starters since their freshman season, Tyler Dykes and Colton Renick. Renick became the Bulldogs career-tackles leader this season.

Other seniors are Brayden Stanley, Levi Gariepy, Kody McKnight, Dylan Riojas and Ethan Perry.

"They're going to be missed tremendously. The biggest thing is they provide great leadership. They keep this team together. They might be the closest nit group of seniors that I've been around, and they've made the whole team that way,” said Ross. “Their leadership and what they've done keeping this team together through the one and four start, making sure that we were staying on track and trusting what we were doing, or trusting the process as everybody says now. Hanging in there, and we got on a roll once we got into District. We knew if we could make to District and stay healthy we could make a run, and you have to credit the seniors to doing that." 

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