LONGVIEW – The West Rusk Raiders won seven games in coach Nick Harrison’s first season at the helm, but the Jefferson Bulldogs proved to be a little too much here at Longview High School’s Lobo Stadium in a Thursday night playoff game.
The Bulldogs, behind the running and passing of quarterback Kylan Thomas, defeated the Raiders, 36-13, in this UIL Class 3A, Division I bi-district playoff contest. Thomas ran for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and passed for 95 yards and another score.
West Rusk finishes the 2019 season with a 7-4 record. Jefferson (9-2) moves on to round two, to face the Malakoff-Commerce winner.
After exchanging the opening two possessions, Jefferson scored first on a sevenplay drive that covered 66 yards. The big gainer of the drive was a 32-yard run on a reverse by Bryson Johnson that got the Bulldogs down to the Raiders’ 23-yard-line.
Four plays later, Thomas scrambled in from 5 yards out to score with 5:54 in the first quarter. Landon Fuquay added the extra point.
After turning the ball over on their next series, the Raiders got the ball back on an interception by Jamal Ford at their own 46. West Rusk was unable to convert the turnover to any points. The Raiders forced the Bulldogs to punt on their next series, but turned it over three plays later via a interception by Jefferson's Carlos Jackson at the Raider 47.
Jefferson covered that distance in just two plays, with Thomas dashing for 45 yards to the 2. Dee Black got the touchdown on the next play, with 8:19 left in the half. The point after was blocked by Talon Winings.
After the pursuing kickoff, the raiders drove from their 44 all the way to the Jefferson 1. The big gainer on the drive was a 29-yard pass from Gavin Smith to Winings to the Bulldogs’ 10. But the Bulldogs defense stiffened and stopped the Raiders on fourth-and-1 at the 1.
After six runs that got them to their own 24, Thomas connected with Johnson, streaking down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown, with just 48 seconds showing before halftime. Fuquay's extra point was good this time, to put Jefferson in front, 20-0.
After a good return by Carson Martin on the ensuing kick to the Jefferson 48, the Raiders – behind a 23-yard run by Tyrell Moore, managed to get to the Bulldogs’ 21 on three plays. But an interception in the end zone by Thomas, with eight seconds left in the half, stopped the drive, and sent Jefferson into the half with that same 20-0 lead.
West Rusk took the second half kickoff and wasted little time in scoring, going 66 yards in just eight plays. The Raiders converted a fourth down on a fake punt pass from Andon Mata to Clayton Keith for 13 yards. Martin ran for an 11 yard gain from the 36 to the 29, to set up Smith's 29-yard touchdown run with 8:28 left in the third quarter. The extra point by Alexis Magallanes was good, and the Raiders cut into Jefferson’s lead, 20-7.
After an unsuccessful onside kick, the Bulldogs scored in just three plays, on runs of 10, 37, and 2 yards. Black scored from the 2 and extra point was good, allowing the Bulldogs to climb back in front by three touchdowns, 27-7.
The Raiders drove from their 20 to the Bulldog 16, but were stopped short on a fourth down reverse by Winings at the Bulldog 15. West Rusk stopped the Bulldogs on their next possession at their own 37 on fourth down. A 15-play scoring drive followed, with the touchdown coming from a 16-yard pass from Martin to Mata. This time, it was West Rusk’s extra point that was blocked and returned by Jefferson’s Johnson to make it 28-13.
Jefferson drove 53 yards in eight plays to score once more with only 1:37 left to play, the final score of the game.
Smith was West Rusk’s leading rusher. with 17 carries for 118 yards and the touchdown. The Raiders finished with 213 rushing yards and 76 through the air.