Last year, West Rusk and Gladewater entered this game with a big spotlight, as both were ranked in Class 3A’s top 10, and it lived up to the billing: the game, played in Gladewater, came down to the final seconds, and West Rusk escaped with a 27-26 win.
This year, though there’s no top-10 matchup and the scenery is different, fans are combining hopes for a similar game – but of course, rooting for two different results.
West Rusk (5-0) hosts Gladewater (3-2) in a District 8-3A, Division I game, Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium.
A week ago, both teams seemed to have their hands full. Coach Nick Harrison’s West Rusk Raiders went to Mineola, and got maybe their toughest test of the season, but still got out with a 26-21 win.
Gladewater had a home game, and staved off a last-minute comeback to beat Winnsboro, 16-12.
What’s on the line here is a potential district championship, although there is the somewhat-surprising Sabine Cardinals that both teams will have to deal with.
The Raiders came from behind for the second time in three weeks, allowing Mineola to score twice before getting onto the scoreboard themselves.
The Yellowjackets, state champions just a couple of years ago, got a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dalton Rogers and a 22-yard scoring run by Dawson Pendergrass to go up by two touchdowns.
West Rusk matched it with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jaylon Shelton to Andon Mata at the end of the first quarter, and then a 65-yard touchdown run by Gavin Smith.
Ultimately, although Mineola came back, it was West Rusk finishing in front with a 47-yard pass from Shelton to Talon Winings on a fourth-down play. Gavin Smith came through defensively late, intercepting a Mineola pass with about 30 seconds left to ensure it.
Gladewater went in front late, a 20-yard touchdown run by D.J. Allen, and then stopped Winnsboro on the Bears’ 24-yard-line with just over a minute and a half left in the game.
West Rusk doesn’t get an open date, oddly, until the final weekend of the regular season (Nov. 8), and plays at White Oak next Friday night.