In a battle between two star tailbacks and two undefeated 4A squads, the duel lived up to all the hype.
The Argyle Eagles defeated Kennedale 52-48 in a thrilling come-from-behind victory Friday night in the Region II semifinals.
Juwan Washington got it started for Kennedale (12-0), with a 70-yard burst on the first play of the game. One play later, Ronald Hayes was able to punch it into the end zone, and after a missed PAT, the Wildcats led the game quickly 6-0.
Argyle (12-0) was able to respond quickly with a heavy dose of Nick Ralston, but ultimately had to kick a 33-yard field goal to cut the lead to 6-3.
Washington, the San Diego State commit, answered right back, with a 75-yard touchdown run to increase the lead.
The Eagles were able to cut into it quickly, after a lengthy drive led to a Drew Estrada jet-sweep touchdown run.
On the next Wildcat drive, the Eagle defense managed to slow down Washington, but he eventually found the end zone from 7 yards out.
The Wildcats kicked it short, and the Argyle kick returner could not take control of the ball, so Kennedale had the ball deep in Argyle territory. Ronald Hayes was able to score quickly after on a 24-yard toss for his second score of the game, and just like that the Eagles trailed 27-10 after one.
The Eagles marched right back down the field, and senior QB Cooper Rodgers hit Estrada for a 37-yard touchdown. The Eagles were able to hold Kennedale on fourth down, but they went three-and-out on the next possession.
Kennedale was able to drive all the way down the Argyle 1-yard line, but a fantastic goal-line stand by the Eagle defense stopped them cold. Argyle drove the field, but a late Rodgers interception kept the score at 27-17 at the half.
On the first possession of the second half, the Eagles fed Nick Ralston over and over, and eventually the Arizona State commit pounded his way into the end zone for a 6-yard score to trim the lead. Ralston finished with 322 yards and 4 TDs.
Washington took the short kick, and sped down field for a 68-yard return. He would eventually find the end zone again to push Kennedale’s lead to 34-24.
Once again, the Eagles responded with a very nice drive led by Rodgers, and a short scoring toss to J.C. Chalk to climb back into the game. However, on the very next play, Kennedale QB Jake Michener scored from 65 yards out.
The Eagles as always, had an answer. Another drive by Ralston, and eventually he scored from a yard out to make it 41-38 heading into the final period.
The Eagle defense got a much-needed fourth down stop to begin the fourth quarter, and Ralston once again found the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Eagles the lead.
The Wildcats had a response ready, and another long drive of runs, runs, and more runs ended on a Ronald Hayes TD run with exactly 5 minutes left to play.
Argyle avoided near disaster as Gage McCook couldn’t handle the ball on the jet sweep, but was able to fall on it. On the very next play, Ralston was able to bounce off the left side, running over tacklers, and going all the way for 57 yards to give Argyle the lead again with 3:59 to play.
Kennedale was faced with a 4th and 8 at the Argyle 49, and they were able to convert on a wonderfully called double reverse pass from Washington to Michener.
On the final play of the ballgame with 6 ticks of the clock left, Michener felt pressure and heaved it to the end zone where it was batted down, concluding a wild game.
“We kept fighting. They were very resilient and I am very proud of the kids who showed greatness from top to bottom.” said Coach Todd Rodgers after the game.
Argyle will look for their 29th consecutive win as they face off with Texarkana Liberty-Eylau on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Region II finals at a location to be determined.