GLADEWATER — The Malakoff Tigers traveled to Jack Murphy Stadium in Gladewater on a gorgeous Thursday night, taking on the Jefferson Bulldogs in the area round for the second straight year.
The first half featured plenty of offense, with both teams exchanging leads before the Tigers took the lead at halftime. Malakoff built up a two possession lead and even though the Bulldogs tied it up, Malakoff never trailed again as they knocked off Jefferson, 53-41.
After Jefferson struck first, 7-0, Andreas Garrett tied it at 7-7 with his 27-yard touchdown catch.
The Bulldogs responded right away as Kylan Thomas dashed for a 66-yard TD run and Jefferson led 14-7.
In a Tiger drive that took just under six minutes, Dedric Davis capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown run and it was 14-14 with 24 seconds in the first quarter.
Chris Shepard had a big catch all the way to Malakoff’s 26-yard line as the first quarter ended.
Facing 3rd-and-goal at the Tiger 1, the Bulldogs punched in and led 21-14 with 10:15 until halftime.
Following another long Tiger drive, Garrett put in his second touchdown on a 17-yard run with 3:56 and it was tied at 21-21.
With the Bulldogs at Malakoff’s 36, facing 4th down, the Tiger defense made the first stop of the night, forcing a turnover on downs with 1:14.
The Tigers capitalized with a big 36-yard catch by Riggin Smith to Jefferson’s 5 and a five-yard TD run by Nathan Jones to lead 27-21 at the break after a failed two-point attempt.
The Tigers received the second half kickoff and took advantage as it only took four plays for Smith to score a 41-yard touchdown catch and lead 33-21 after another missed two-point attempt.
Shepard cut the lead to 33-27 with 7:55 in the third quarter with a huge 66-yard touchdown catch. Jefferson missed the extra point.
With 2:28, inside the Bulldog red zone, Darion Peace dashed in for a seven-yard rushing touchdown and converted two points as Malakoff had their largest lead at 41-27.
Jefferson marched down the field, including a 45-yard run by Dee Black, and possessed the ball at Malakoff’s 5 going into the fourth quarter. Facing 4th and goal at the 1, Kylan Thomas punched it in and they trailed 41-34.
Malakoff’s next drive began at Jefferson’s 48 and would reach the Bulldog 17, but after Darion Peace took a loss of yardage out of bounds, the Tigers would eventually settle for a field goal, but it missed.
Moments after the Tigers could not make a 4th down stop, Shepard got his second touchdown on a 61-yard run and it was all tied up at 41-41 with 7:47 to play.
The Tigers faced 4th-and-1 at Jefferson’s 46 and Davis converted in a big way with a 43 yard run to the Bulldog 3. Two plays later, he scored a five-yard touchdown run, his second score, and Malakoff took the lead back at 47-41 after a missed extra point.
Jefferson reached Malakoff’s 40 on the next drive, but the Tiger defense made the critical stop, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Tigers iced it when Davis picked up his third touchdown on a 59-yard run for the 53-41 lead, and that would be the final score, clinching a second-straight area championship for Jamie Driskell’s squad.
Malakoff improves to 11-1 and will take on the winner of Pottsboro and Sabine in the regional quarterfinals.