West Rusk football

West Rusk running back James Greenalch (left) follows the block by Clayton Keith (31, center) in a UIL Class 3A second-round game Thursday night against Hughes Springs, in Gladewater. West Rusk beat Hughes Springs, 52-28, and will play Waskom next Friday afternoon at Hallsville in round three.

In 2003, the Atlanta High School Rabbits had a horrible non-district schedule and lost almost all of them – they were 1-4 at the start of their district schedule.

They went on to not only run the regular season table and win a district title, but they won out, winning a 3A state championship.

West Rusk may be channeling a bit of that energy.

The West Rusk Raiders have put together a masterful run, after starting the season with an 0-3 record. The Raiders have won every game since, eight straight, and Hughes Springs is now a believer. The Raiders beat Hughes Springs, 52-28, on Thursday night, in a UIL Class 3A, Division II second-round game at Jack V. Murphy Stadium in Gladewater.

Jimmie Harper scored four times for the Raiders (8-3), who advance to round three next week, and find a familiar program, and face, awaiting them: Whitney Keeling’s Waskom Wildcats, a former district rival of West Rusk, who edged out Daingerfield, 28-27, on Thursday night in their own playoff game.

West Rusk will play Waskom (10-1) on Friday at 3 p.m. at Hallsville’s Bobcat Stadium.

Harper had three touchdown runs, including the first one of the game on a 4-yard score. The Raiders led early by the touchdown. Hughes Springs (6-4) got onto the scoreboard with a 67-yard run by Tyson Daigle, but then Harper scored twice more: another 4-yard run and a 1-yarder, giving West Rusk a two-touchdown lead (21-6) midway through the second quarter.

Hughes Springs got closer, scoring with just over a minute left on a 1-yard run by Trevor Bolden, but the Raiders had one more left up their sleeve before halftime. Quarterback Andon Mata hooked up with Will Jackson for a 15-yard scoring pass with just 26 seconds left in the half.

It was still a tight game in the third quarter. Alexis Magallanes hit a 23-yard field goal, but Hughes Springns got within nine, 31-22, on another touchdown by Bolden, also from a yard out, and his two-point conversion.

James Greenalch would give West Rusk a little more cushion before the third quarter was up on a 7-yard run, but again, Bolden scored early in the fourth quarter, his third of the night, a 5-yarder, to keep the Mustangs’ hopes alive, a 38-28 game with much of the quarter left. In fact, they were driving to cut into the deficit more, but a fumble, recovered by West Rusk, pretty much sealed their fate.

Jamal Ford iced the game with a 48-yard touchdown run, and then Hughes Springs fumbled the ensuing kick return – Harper picked it up and scored, finishing it off.

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