Surprising & young Iredell Dragons dethrone preseason favorite Cranfills Gap to claim District 12-2A, DII six-man runner-up spot, Morgan Eagles capture District 10-2A, DII title for third straight playoff berth
As Bosque County’s surprise qualifier for the Class 1A, Division II six-man football playoffs, the young Iredell Dragons will ride back-to-back District 12-1A, DII upset victories into the postseason as the runner-up to district champion and ninth-ranked Bluff Dale.
Qualifying for their third straight trip to the playoffs, the Morgan Eagles captured the District 10-1A, DII crown to complete the Bosque County field of representatives in the postseason as Cranfills Gap, Walnut Springs and Kopperl will be staying home.
In the Class 1A, DII Bi-District playoff matchups, Iredell (5-5) will take on fourth-ranked and undefeated Oglesby (10-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Valley Mills, while Morgan (7-3) will face Fannindel (5-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Irving Nimitz.
“We have a tough matchup against Oglesby,” Iredell head coach Luis Guereca said. “They’re a solid team, and we look forward to the challenge that it is going to bring.”
After advancing to the playoffs for the third straight season, Morgan feels good about its chances in the postseason.
“We are very fortunate to be in this position, and I know this team is very excited to experience the journey they are about to embark,” Morgan head coach Eduardo Aviles said. “I am really proud of this team’s efforts and determination to make a goal, and then achieve it. Now, we have set our minds to extending our season week by week.”
IREDELL 86, CRANFILLS GAP 50
Freshman Jordan Gutierrez ran for eight touchdowns while freshman Cole Heutzenroeder scored three times to lead the young and surprising Iredell Dragons to a convincing 86-50 shootout victory over defending district champion Cranfills Gap at home last Thursday night.
“It was a great game by both teams,” Iredell head coach Luis Guereca said. “We were fortunate to get some turnovers in the second half, and I believe that was the difference in the game. Early, it was back and forth. Our guys really stepped up when we needed them to.”
After battling to a 42-38 lead at halftime, the Dragons (2-1 in district, 5-5 overall) surged further ahead in the third quarter and put the game away in the final frame. Heutzenroeder led Iredell with 277 yards rushing, followed by Gutierrez with 197 yards, while freshman Caleb Garland added another rushing touchdown.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” Guereca said. “It is a great feeling to be able to get back to the playoffs. It is great for our program, school and community. Thank you to all those who helped along the way.”
Cranfills Gap senior Aiden Doty threw for 192 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with senior Haydn Kirby for three scoring strikes, while junior 3 receiving Blake Allen ran for two touchdowns and caught a scoring pass for another in the losing effort for the Lions (0-3, 5-5).
“I thought overall we had a good game plan coming into the game,” Cranfills Gap head coach Rodie Johnston said. “We were able to keep up with them until midway through the third quarter, and then the wheels started coming off. Iredell is a physical team that plays very fundamental, and they were able to wear us down over the course of the game.”
MORGAN 68, MOUNT CALM 30
Sophomore EJ Aviles ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more, while senior Adrian Ver-Rico rushed for three score and threw for another as the Morgan Eagles soared to a 68-30 road victory over Mount Calm last Thursday night to claim the District 10-1A, DII championship.
“Overall, our season was a shaky start, but that is normal when moving personnel around early,” Morgan head coach Eduardo Aviles said. “It is the process, and we have had some growing pains. But we finally were able to put it together and be in the position to win the district.”
Aviles completed five of seven passes for 133 yards and rushed for 75 more, while Ver-Rico led the Eagles (3-0, 7-3) on the ground with 155 yards rushing and 65 more through the air. Sophomore Zach Mitchell caught two touchdown passes while senior Kason Sims cashed in on a 65-yard scoring strike.
“The offense has been able to put up points by everyone buying into what we are doing,” Aviles said. “We try to be a balance attack by running and throwing the ball. It has really come together by the efforts of our players coming together.”
Defensively, Aviles led the Eagles with 17 tackles, followed by Mitchell with 11, Vera-Rico with eight as well as Sims with seven tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Mount Calm (1-2, 4-6).
“Our defense really took some time to develop each week,” Aviles said. “It was a growing pain of what we needed to do and how we would fix it. But overall, it has really come up big against some really big teams that were bigger than us.”
BLUFF DALE 50, WALNUT SPRINGS 0
Leaving little to doubt, the 10th-ranked Bluff Dale Bobcats sprang past the Walnut Springs Hornets, 50-0, at home last Thursday night to claim the District 12-1A, DII crown and eliminate Walnut Springs in the regular season finale.
With junior Diego Muniz going down with an injury on the Hornets’ first offensive play, Bluff Dale (3-0, 9-1) took advantage of injuries and mistakes to bury Walnut Springs’ hope of making the playoffs. Playing with only eight players by the end of the game, the Hornets (1-2, 4-6) coughed up two fumbles and suffered untimely penalties to take away any chance of remaining competitive in the game.
“We were inside the 10-yard line on two occasions in the first half with an opportunity to score,” Walnut Springs head coach Lonnie Flippen said. “But mistakes and the aggressive play of the Bluff Dale kids ended those opportunities.
“I am very proud of the Walnut Springs Hornets and their season. These kids played through adversity all year long. At one point early in the season, we had 14 athletes. We finished the season with eight. They gave it their best effort.
“Our opponents may need to take notice that of those last few kids, none of them are seniors. Everyone returns next year, and I can only hope they will return with a new purpose to make a run deep into the playoffs.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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