Corsicana Daily Sun
ATHENS — Too much speed and quickness, too much size and too many weapons.
Just too much Big Sandy, period. The sixth-ranked Wildcats looked everything like a squad only two years removed from Class 2A in a convincing 55-0 victory against Dawson in a Region III-1A semifinal contest Friday night at Athens’ Bruce Field.
Big Sandy (12-1) showed its speed with scoring plays of 38, 48, 27, 54, 40, 11 and 23 yards. The Wildcats used bulky offensive and defensive lines to win the battle in the trenches, and 21 points off turnovers did not hurt either against a Bulldog team that finished with negative-17 yards rushing and only 113 yards of total offense.
“We knew they were big,” Bulldogs head coach Johnnie Richey said. “They were strong and quick. They’ve done a good job with their program. A lot of people are probably envious of what they’ve accomplished.”
The final score failed to taint a 9-4 campaign for Dawson, which found a way to overachieve all year long on the way to its first postseason berth since 1999 and its furthest playoff trip since a regional semifinal appearance in 1998.
“It’s painful for them right now,” Richey said. “The sun is going to come up tomorrow. We try to teach them things other than what the game is all about. The game of football is life. It has been a challenge all year. It has been a challenge getting them ready. We accepted the challenge, and it is a time they will enjoy for the rest of their lives. ...
“We are excited about the direction we are headed. The kids have taken on the challenge. It is good for themselves. They are hurting right now. When they look back on what they’ve accomplished, it will be something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
The Wildcats shook off a fumble on their first drive to score on five of their next six possessions en route to 439 yards of total offense — 421 on the ground behind the legs of senior quarterback Deroderick Strickland (nine carries for a game-high 115 yards and two scores) and junior tailback Brandon McCleveland (10 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown).
“I am proud of them,” Wildcats head coach Scott Callaway said. “Coach Richey and I talked after the game about this being a game of breaks. Once we got going, we were OK. Our kids create a lot of things and we got some momentum going.
“All due respect to Dawson. The score does not indicate what kind of football team they have. They are a very good football team. We just created a lot of momentum builders, we built on it and we were lucky.”
Big Sandy scored three times in 3:04 to turn a 7-0 lead after one quarter of play into a comfortable 27-0 advantage with 8:02 still remaining in the first half.
Senior bruiser Braylon Johnson (6-0, 270) started the scoring blitz with a 48-yard run up the middle on fourth-and-1 that capped an eight-play, 89-yard drive. Dawson turned the ball over for the first time on its next series when Ross Braziano picked up a Michael Medrano fumble at the Bulldog 27.
Two plays later, McCleveland found some daylight around the right side and broke two tackles in the secondary on the way to the end zone from 27 yards out. Dawson turned the ball over again just seconds after picking up its initial first down of the contest as Bryan McCleveland returned a Medrano interception 54 yards for a touchdown.
“When you get to the playoffs, you cannot allow the turnover bug to go against you,” Richey said. “That’s what happened to us tonight. They made the plays. We were a few inches away on some plays.”
The Wildcats added salt to the wound with scoring runs of 40 yards by Strickland and 11 yards by Johnson before intermission. Johnson finished with three carries — all scores — for 79 yards. He added a 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Devotric Johnson rounded out the scoring with an 18-yard tote in the final period.
“I feel the trenches are where football games are won,” Callaway said. “I thought our offensive line played well. They gave us some different looks defensively, but our offensive line responded to it and our backs found the lanes. ...
“We won the field position battle and the turnover battle. Consequently, we were able to put points on the board and win the ballgame because of it.”
Sophomore tailback Jordan Hill paced Dawson with three carries for 32 yards as the Bulldogs failed to get the running game going. Medrano finished 9 of 24 for 109 yards despite being under constant duress.
Fellow seniors Wesley McCulloch and Brett McCrory each caught three passes for a combined 74 yards, but Medrano could not connect with the pair for the big plays that had helped fuel Dawson’s Cinderella playoff run.
“I am proud of you,” Richey told his charges after the game. “Dawson is proud of you. ... You’ve done what nobody thought you could do. Use it as a stepping stone for your life. You will learn how to handle things in life through the game of football.”
Big Sandy moves on to face either district rival and ninth-ranked Harleton (10-2) or District 22-1A runner-up Iola (10-1) in next week’s Region III-1A championship game. The Wildcats beat Harleton, 10-0, in last year’s regional final before losing to eventual state champion Shiner in the state semifinals.
Big Sandy 55, Dawson 0
Dawson 0 0 0 0 —0
Big Sandy 7 34 14 0 — 55
BS — Deroderick Strickland 38 run (Strickland kick)
BS — Braylon Johnson 48 run (kick blocked)
BS — Brandon McCleveland 27 run (Strickland kick)
BS — Bryan McCleveland 54 INT return (Strickland kick)
BS — Strickland 40 run (Strickland kick)
BS — Johnson 11 run (Strickland kick)
BS — Johnson 23 run (Strickland kick)
BS — Devotric Johnson (Strickland kick)
First downs 9 22
Rush-yards 23-(-17) 45-421
Passing yards 130 17
C-A-I 10-27-3 4-8-1
Fumbles-lost 6-3 2-1
Punts-avg. 3-47 2-47
Penalties-yards 2-25 13-75
Rushing — D: Jordan Hill 3-32, Wesley McCulloch 1-9, Johnathan Williams 10-3, Jerome Tennison 3-(-9), Brett McCrory 1-(-16), Bubba Medrano 2-(-17), Michael Medrano 3-(-19). BS: Deroderick Strickland 9-115, Brandon McCleveland 10-106, Braylon Johnson 3-79, Devotric Johnson 12-65, Vincent Montgomery 4-48, Austen Lee 5-13, Darrell Scott 1-0, Zach Massengill 1-(-5).
Passing — D: Michael Medrano 9-24-3-109, Bubba Medrano 1-3-0-21. BS: Deroderick Strickland 4-8-1-17.
Receiving — D: Wesley McCulloch 3-50, Brett McCrory 3-24, Jerome Tennison 2-29, Bryan Coleman 1-19, Cody Golden 1-8. BS: Vincent Montgomery 2-15, Bryan McCleveland 2-4.
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