LUBBOCK-COOPER – Canadian hit big plays when needed and used a defense that bent a bit but never broke that helped the Wildcats keep a firm grip on Region I after taking down Wall for a second straight year this time 31-12 in a Class 3A Division II state quarterfinal matchup at First United Park on Friday night.
The Wildcats decade of dominance rolls on as No. 2-ranked Canadian (14-0) advances to the state semifinals for the ninth time in 10 years to face a very familiar rival in No. 1-ranked Gunter at 6 p.m. on Friday at Abilene Christian University.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Canadian head coach Andy Cavalier said. “Getting back to the state semifinals for the ninth time in 10 years says we live in a great community, and we have a great program that was established by people before me. We now get to fill those shoes and I’m thankful to be coaching where I’m at.”
This is the seventh meeting with arch-rival Gunter since 2016 with the Tigers leading the series 4-2 including a stunning 21-20 thrilling victory last season.
Canadian got off to a very Canadian start against the Hawks, who finish the year at 11-3. On the second drive of the game, Wildcat quarterback Camren Cavalier called his own number from 17-yards out capping a seven-play, 67-yard drive that gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter.
Canadian extended that advantage early in the second on a toss sweep to Slayden Dickinson who hurdled a defender and was flipped into the endzone for a touchdown from nine-yards out as the Wildcats claimed a 14-0 lead with 10:25 to play in the half.
For the rest of the half, Canadian only had the ball for 30 seconds, however, was able to put one more TD on the board. After Wall drove to the Canadian 39-yard line, the drive stalled when quarterback Gunnar Dillard was sacked on a fourth and 11 by Abraham Moreno giving the ball back to the Wildcats.
Cavalier wasted no time making Wall pay going only two-plays in 30 seconds that was highlighted by a 32-yard pitch and catch from Cavalier to Preston Neumeier that pushed the lead, 21-0.
“We had a good week of preparation,” Camren said. “We executed what offensive coordinator coach (Hayden) Merket put in and had it going even though Wall was very physical and didn’t allow us the ball much.”
The story from that point forward became a chess match between the Hawks offense and Wildcat defense. Running its option offense, Wall milked the clock starting in the second quarter but anytime they’d try to wear Canadian down the defense had answer.
Right before the first half ended, Wall was knocking at the Canadian door with the ball at the 17-yard line with 30 seconds to play until a Dillard pass was intercepted by Max Dumbald that closed out the first two quarters.
In the second half, the Hawks took the opening drive inside the 20 once again but stalled which became the theme.
“We tried to limit Canadian’s possessions,” Wall head coach Houston Guy said. “We played them a lot better than we did last year. But we missed some opportunities especially before halftime and in the third. We battled till the end but Canadian is a great football team.”
Coach Cavalier echoed Guy’s comments.
“Wall is a team that is extremely difficult to stop,” Cavalier said. “Wall is a very well-coached team and option oriented. They love to run the ball and control the clock. I did feel like we had some fourth down stops and the defense stepped up when we needed them the most.”
When Canadian did get the ball in the second half the Wildcats made the most of it scoring 10 points on only three valuable possessions. Canadian had two possessions in the third quarter coming away with a 20-yard field goal from Emiliano Hernandez making it 24-0 to close the third.
After Wall did score to open the fourth, Canadian put a nail in the coffin on their only meaningful drive in the fourth quarter thanks to a big pass play from Cavalier to Neumeier of 40 plus yards that set up Cavalier’s second touchdown run of the night on a three-yard plunge putting the game out of reach at 31-6 with 7:56 to play.
“We made big plays when we needed to,” Cavalier said. “Wall did a great job of keeping the ball away from us but we executed and played a very physical game.”
Canadian, which has yet to trail in all 14 games this year, racked up 437 total yards. Cavalier went 13-of-15 through the air for 237 yards with a touchdown pass and ran for 132 yards on 18 carries with two more scores. Luke Flowers had five catches for 98 yards and Neumeier snagged three catches for 74 yards with a TD.
The Wildcat defense held Wall to 58 yards in the first half and 260 for the game.