Friday, December 8, 2023

Argyle Eagles win, head to semi-finals

After an intense game last week versus Kennedale, the Argyle Eagles defeated the Liberty Eylau Leopards 45-42 on Friday, Dec. 5, at Royce City Stadium. The Eagles overcame adversity with a consistent ground game and clutch defense.

The Eagles started off the game with their trademark power running attack, matched with some deep passes.

“We’re really confident that we can go down and score every single drive,” Wide Receiver Hunter Markwardt said. “Especially with Nick running the ball.”

Running Back Nick Ralston was responsible for five of the teams’ touchdowns, four of which came in the first half as the Eagles grabbed a 38-21 lead heading into the break.

“We just had to keep answering them,” Ralston said. “In the first half we did that; in the second half we struggled a bit more. I just have to give the credit to the play of the offensive line. They were making holes, kept fighting and we squeezed out a win.”

After scoring 38 points in the first half, the offense struggled in the second half, only putting up one additional touchdown. Despite this, the Eagles still boast an offense that can pound away yardage at any time or go over the top of the defense, as evidenced by J.C. Chalks’ 68-yard touchdown catch in the first half.

“Our offense looked good,” Markwardt said. “It’s looked good throughout the playoffs. No one can stop our offense lately, so we’ve been doing great.”

Quarterback Cooper Rodgers has been a big reason for that offensive success, torching teams so far in the playoffs. This week however, Rodgers had two momentum shifting interceptions on an otherwise solid day that kept the Leopards within comeback distance.

“He’s going to be fine,” Ralston said. “He’s going to come out next week against Graham and play really well. He’ll shake it off. Sometimes things like that are going to happen but he’s going to play great next week.”

With their defense stepping up, Liberty was able to get some spark from their offense on some long pass completions, prompting some halftime adjustments for the Eagles.

“In the second half we started jamming them off the line to slow them on their routes,” Cornerback Zach Zembraski said. “They’re fast wide receivers so we had to do something to slow them down.”

With 1:40 left in the game, Liberty was down three points with a chance to drive for a game-winning touchdown. On their first set of downs, they gained zero yards on the first three downs.

“We’ve done that a lot this year,” Zembraski said. “Whenever we’ve needed to make plays we’ve made plays because the offense has done their part all day long. The important thing is when we needed stops we got stops. As long as we can keep doing that, we’ll be good.”

On fourth and ten, the Liberty pass flew off target and was picked off by Zembraski, sealing the victory.

“We had just switched to Cover 3 on that last drive,” Zembraski said. “It was fourth down, and we knew we had to keep them from getting those ten yards. We had to play our coverage right, and we did.”

Next week, Argyle will face Graham in the state semi-finals, a huge rematch after Argyle defeated Graham earlier this year.

“My focus is on Graham next week, and that’s my only focus,” Ralston said. “We’re going to watch film, focus in practice and be prepared to face Graham.”

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