Two touchdowns off turnovers in the first quarter staked Magnolia West to an early lead and the Mustangs went on to rout the Waller Bulldogs, 41-17 on Nov. 9, advancing to the UIL playoffs from District 18-4A.
West (6-4, 5-3) played undefeated and state-ranked Georgetown in Brenham on Nov. 16. Results were unavailable as of press time. The Mustangs finished fourth behind Brenham (9-1, 8-0), Montgomery (7-3, 7-1), and Huntsville (7-3, 6-2). Waller completed the season 4-6 and 3-5 for fifth place in 18-4A.
Junior quarterback Mark Logan ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more, while two Mustang tailbacks rushed for more than 100 yards and one touchdown each in wearing down the 'Dogs.
Waller came to West Stadium hoping to capture a playoff berth themselves, but the early blunders and a bruising Mustang ground game were just too much for the visitors.
"They're a good football team," said West coach Shawn Bell following the game. "We had a couple breaks, they had a couple turnovers that really hurt 'em, and the biggest thing is we capitalized on them." Bell has defeated Coach Brad Wright's Bulldogs in each of the three years he's faced them, and has led West to three consecutive playoff appearances.
Sophomore Chris Nicholson ran for 135 yards on 24 carries, and junior Austin Carroll added 118 yards on 16 totes, almost all of which came in the second half.
"Chris was a little bit banged up tonight, so Austin had to carry some of the load," Bell said. "They did a good job of taking care of the ball and running hard. It's a real credit to the offensive line when two guys are able to do that."
Meanwhile, the Mustangs' defense, led by senior Zeke Bronson and juniors Luke Knowles and Xavier Jones, had a big night of their own, holding Waller to 243 yards of total offense, including only 116 on the ground.
"That was the challenge-to limit the penalties, no turnovers, and stop 'em in the passing game," Bell said. "For the most part, we accomplished our three goals." West, indeed, never turned the ball over, had seven penalties for 61 yards, and held the Bulldogs to less than 130 yards passing.
On the second play of the game, Waller senior quarterback Rhett Loewe was intercepted by Bronson on a long pass down the left sideline, and West set up shop near midfield. Eight plays later, Logan snuck across the goal line with 8:00 left in the first quarter. The PAT snap sailed over the head of senior kicker Andrew Struthers and the score remained 6-0.
But on the Bulldogs' next possession, and again on their second play, senior running back Joseth McDade fumbled and Jones recovered for the Mustangs at the Waller 39. A bubble screen from Logan to Bronson on second-and-20 gained 17 yards. Four plays later, another one-yard keeper by Logan capped the 9-play drive, and Struthers PAT made it 13-0 at the 4:05 mark.
The Bulldogs responded with a 13-play, 95-yard drive to cut the margin to 13-7 when Loewe found junior Elijah Morrow for an 8-yard touchdown and junior kicker Denny Garcia's PAT sailed through the uprights with 21 seconds left in the quarter. A pass interference call on the Mustangs aided the drive on a third-and-8 at the 'Dogs' 44, and a long scramble by Loewe on second-and-25 set up Waller's eventual score.
Waller failed to muster much offense in the second quarter, but West made it 20-7 on a 13-play, 78-yard march and a 27-yard touchdown toss from Logan to senior Trevor Buckley with 1:58 remaining in the half. Nicholson ran nine times for 52 yards in that drive.
The Mustangs forced the 'Dogs to punt on their next possession, and with 1 minute remaining in the half, West moved 57 yards in three plays, missing a pass in the end zone before Struthers was short on a 41-yard field goal attempt on the last play.
Waller cut the deficit to 20-10 with 7:27 left in the third quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Garcia, and the two teams traded touchdown drives to make it 27-17 at the end of the quarter. West scored on 4-play, 51-yard drive (all on runs by Carroll) and Waller replied with a quick, 4-play drive of their own, assisted by another interference call on the Mustangs and a personal foul during a 10-yard sack of Loewe, who then used a swing pass left to Morrow on the next play for a 19-yard touchdown.
West scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory, one on a 22-yard pass from Logan to Bronson, and the other, after another interception off Loewe by sophomore Tyler Ray, on a 25-yard dash by Nicholson with 1:44 left in the game.
The Mustangs finished with 455 yards of total offense, including 300 yards rushing and 155 yards through the air on 10 of 18 passing by Logan. West had 24 first downs to only 12 for Waller. Loewe was 10 of 26 passing for 127 yards, but also had the two picks. He ran for 101 yards on six carries.
"I'm really proud of these kids, they deserve it," Bell said.