Another classic Class 1A Division I semifinal matchup between Happy and Westbrook ends the same way it has the last two times these two squads met as the Wildcats took advantage of a costly mistake in the fourth quarter to down the Cowboys 32-16 on Friday night at Masked Rider Capital Field in Lubbock.
The Wildcats (13-1) now move on to the state finals to try and capture a third straight title Wednesday, December 13 against either Gordon or Jonesboro at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Happy ends the season at 12-2 and have been eliminated by the Wildcats in this round for three straight years.
In what has become one of the best respectful rivalries in Six-Man football, the Cowboys and Wildcats battled each other tooth and nail for three quarters with Westbrook holding a 24-16 lead heading into the fourth. After forcing a turnover on downs, the Cowboys took over at the Wildcat 38-yard line early in the quarter but couldn’t capitalize after picking up a first at the 22. Three plays later though, Joey Blackmon stripped the ball from Westbrook’s Grayson Jeffrey at the midfield stripe and Cutter Hodges finally reeled in a ball that ping-ponged around on the turf at the Westbrook 36.
On the next play Noe Juarez found Quay Hodges open at the 14 for a first and goal situation. Blackmon then put the Cowboys at the doorstep of a score by racing through a hole off the right tackle before getting stopped at the three. After a dive play to Cutter Hodges disaster struck for Happy.
Looking at a third and goal from the four, Juarez turned to quick pitch the ball to Blackmon going around the left end but Parker Matlock of the Wildcats timed his blitz perfectly and forced Juarez to deliver an errant pitch that went off the leaping finger tips of Blackmon and took one bounce on the turf into the waiting arms of Ethan King who raced 66 yards for the back breaking score and a 32-16 Westbrook lead with 4:34 remaining.
The Cowboys still had opportunities after that finding itself in Westbrook territory twice in the waning minutes, but a dropped touchdown pass with just under two minutes remaining didn’t allow Happy to capitalize on great field position. The loss marks the fifth time in eight years Happy has been at this step in the playoffs before falling short as they continue to look for their first ever state finals appearance.
Defense on both sides were outstanding as Happy held Westbrook’s potent offense was held to 220 total yards while the Cowboys only registered 214 yards of offense. Juarez and Blackmon toted the rock a combined 16 times for only 61 yards and a score while Juarez was 11-of-22 through the air for 147 yards a lone score to Quay Hodges who finished with 47 yards receiving.