KJ Armstrong

Daily Sun File photo/Ron Farmer

Corsicana's KJ Armstrong and the Tigers play at Ennis Friday night.

FORNEY -- It has come down to this: If Corsicana's Tigers beat Crandall Friday night they'll be in the playoffs.

That's where the Tigers are today after beating North Forney 43-34 Thursday night at First Bank Stadium, where -- once again -- Hal Wasson's team won a game in which they never trailed.

Still, there was nothing easy about it.

If you follow the Tigers you already know drama lives in their huddle and there was plenty of it in this rare Thursday night game that the Tigers had to win to keep on their road to the playoffs. 

After starting the district season at 0-2, here they are at 3-2 with a chance to control their own path to the postseason with a victory on Friday over Crandall, which takes a 2-2 district record into this Friday's game against unbeaten Royse City (7-0, 3-0 in district).  Win or lose, Crandall will have to beat the Tigers next week at Community National Bank & Trust Stadium to reach the postseason. A Tiger victory next Friday seals a spot in the playoffs.

Expect a close game. After all, these Tigers thrive on them.

They've rebounded from that 0-2 star with a three-game winning streak, and all three games have been Rolaids-close as they edged Greenville 20-14, survived Sulphur Springs by coming back five times to win 41-38 in overtime, and held off North Forney 43-34.

They're now 6-2 with two big games left after going 4-6 a year ago in a season ravaged by injuries.

They didn't put the Falcons (1-7 and 0-5) away until Jovany Torres nailed his second 22-yard field goal with 2:21 left in the game to lift the Tigers to a 43-34 lead. Jacobe Jackson finished off North Forney when, with the help of a big pass rush from Jesus Mendoza, he sacked Falcons quarterback Landon Heath on fourth down to put an end to North Forney's final drive of the night.

Wasson, who has a special place in his heart for this team, has called his Tigers "resilient" and "amazing" all year, and has often talked about how far these kids have come this season. He was beaming again Friday.

After all, there's no blueprint for winning a must-win game when you turn the ball over four times. Three of those were interceptions and two were returned for touchdowns. The other pick set up a touchdown.

Nope, when you give the other guys 21 points you almost never win. But these Tigers did. And they won with a rookie quarterback and their best running back on the bench in the second half as injuries continued to plague the Tigers and Anthony Young, who ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with an injury with five minutes left in the first half.

Of course, you know all about the Tigers' freshman quarterback Ja'Marion Lewis, who was thrown into the fire a week ago after the Tigers lost Adrian Baston for the season with a collarbone injury in Greenville.

Lewis went through some growing pains Friday with three interceptions. Wasson blamed himself for the first pick and pointed out the second one came off a tipped ball, and left Forney with all the confidence in the world in his young quarterback, who stepped up and completed 9-of 15 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Lewis threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns in his debut against Sulphur Springs. 

He's growing up fast -- just like the Tigers.

No one has made the strides KJ Armstrong has made in the last two weeks. With Young sitting out the game against Sulphur Springs, Armstrong took over as the Tigers' go-to-back and the talented junior knew just what to do when he saw the flash of daylight -- he ran right into stardom.

He carried the Tigers and the ball last week, rushing for 85 yards, including all 25 yards in overtime, where he broke tackles and Sulphur Springs' hearts with a 12-yard run and a 13-yard burst for a TD, scoring on just two plays to lift the Tigers to the victory.

That was just a warmup. Armstrong, who hadn't scored a touchdown this year, scored two TDs last week, and two more in Forney. He finished the night with a career-high 171 yards on 21 carries and took over in the second half rushing for 102 yards -- IN THE THIRD QUARTER -- to set the tone for the second half.

He scored his first TD with 3:26 left in the first quarter on a 4-yard run to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead. The fast 14-0 start looked even bigger when the Tigers drove quickly to midfield on their next possession but a fumble at the end of a first-down run stopped the drive and turned the game around when the Falcons scored on a Marquis Edwards' 2-yard run, and Larmarcus Kirk picked off a pass and returned the ball 40 yards for a TD 32 seconds later.

Young scored two first half touchdowns, a 46-yarder on the fourth play of the game, and a bullish 3-yarder with 7:49 left in the half to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead. The Tigers added two points on a safety when a high snap by the Falcons sailed into the end zone to give the Tigers a 23-14 lead.

But the Falcons killed a drive with an interception at the Falcon 40 and Edwards ripped off a 40-yard run on the first play and later scored on a 9-yard run with 1:07 left to close the gap to 23-20. The Falcons' two-point conversion pass was incomplete, leaving the Tigers with a three-point lead.

Armstrong's 102-yard third quarter performance included a 26-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 30-20 lead, which looked even bigger when North Forney's Gus Rubio returned an interception 70 yards to close to 30-27.

Lewis came right back and connected with Da Da Daniels for a 56-yard TD to push the lead to 37-27. Daniels had another big game, catching six passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. He has caught three touchdown passes in two weeks and has 17 receptions for 276 yards in the two wins.

The Tigers took the 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and Torres nailed a 22-yard field goal to make it a 40-27 game with 8:38 left. The Tigers held on despite a questionable pass interference that wiped out Isshiah Hawkins' interception in the end zone and gave the Falcons a first down at the Tiger 12. They scored two plays later on a 14-yard TD pass with 6:53 left to close to 40-34.

But Torres nailed his 22-yard field goal and Jackson got the sack to nail this one down and open up the playoff road to next Friday's home game against Crandall ...

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