By Pat Turner
Now, football really gets fun for Harlan, O’Connor, Brandeis, Brennan and Warren.
The five NISD teams are headed to the playoffs in their respective divisions and classifications with hopes of hanging around as long as possible.
Qualifying for the post-season was a major accomplishment for all five teams, especially Harlan, which is making its varsity debut.
First-year coach Eddie Salas took over the program and after a JV campaign last season, he saw progress made on a weekly basis. This year, bigger strides occurred as the Hawks (7-3, 4-2) developed a reputation as a playoff contender right off the bat in District 15-5A Division I. Despite losses to Eagle Pass Winn (7-3) and league champion Southwest, the Hawks made it to the post-season and face Sam Houston in the first-round at Farris Stadium.
Points were hard to come by, but thanks to a swarming defense led by Alex Gil, Nathaniel Cedillo and Zane Svovoda, the Hawks got the advantage.
Quarterback Kannon Williams got Harlan on the board with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Esparza.
Martin countered with a field goal and cut Harlan’s lead to 7-5 when a bad snap on a punt led to a safety.
Harlan’s defense tightened up and even provided points with a safety. Later, Aubrey McDade burst through Martin’s defense for a 32-yard touchdown run.
District 28-6A champion O’Connor (10-0, 9-0), Brennan (7-3, 7-2), Brandeis (8-2, 7-2) and Warren (8-2, 7-2) appear to ready for the next step.
In Division I, O’Connor takes on Reagan and Warren plays 27-6A champion Madison. The Division II contests have Brennan taking on Johnson and Brandeis going against Churchill.
The four 28-6A teams qualified for the playoffs the previous week. However, they all tuned up for the upcoming week with wins.
O’Connor rolled to a 33-3 win over Stevens, which was highlighted by interception touchdown returns by Christian Estrada (68 yards) and Grant Rustan (55 yards). The defense also provided a safety.
Offensively, David Dodd tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Eric Lopardi and Jordan Maye scored on a 1-yard dive. Ethan James added a 29-yard field goal.
Brennan 38, Holmes 7
Jordan Flores helped the Bears go into the playoffs in convincing fashion by throwing for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
The Brennan quarterback started with a 52-yard TD strike to Jordan Smith and tossed three to Derryon Tolefree covering 13, 63 and 31 yards.
Brennan also struck on the ground with Anthony Clay’s 14-yard run’
Jonathan Swisher added a 27-yard field goal.
Holmes got its lone TD on DQ Haney’s 99-yard kick return.
Brandeis 41, Taft 13
Returning to the playoffs was a huge step for Brandeis after missing out last year.
After clinching a spot, prior the regular season finale, the Broncos spent this week building momentum. They did it quickly by erupting to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
Christian Medina scored on a 27-yard touchdown run and Jordan Battles fired a 16-yard TD pass to Oscar Cardona.
Xavier Lopez kicked a 29-yard field goal.
Brandeis continued its hot pace after the quick start with J. Nova Rangel’s 9-yard touchdown run and Battles’ 5-yard scamper.
Lopez added a 39-yard field goal and Brett Marthis crossed the end zone from 20 yards out.
Warren 38, Clark 7
Warren showed its strength in all phases against Clark.
Warren struck first with Anthony Cisneros’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Segovia. Clark (3-7, 3-6) countered with the game-tying touchdown on Benjamin Hooper’s 37-yard strike to Luke Gibson.
At the point, Warren revved up its game. Cisneros scored on a 10-yard run (check) and connected with Eric Rascoe for a 30-yard touchdown.
Kingowen Cabrera booted a 24-yard field goal, followed by touchdown runs from Malaki Stevenson (28 yards) and Lanre Waju (2 yards).
Jay 41, Marshall 28
Jay closed outs its season by winning an offensive shootout.
Both teams had their highlights toting the football. Marshall got much of its spark from Bernard Dankyi, who rushed for 231 yards and touchdowns of 64, 25, 2 and 32 yards.
Jaylin Hastings led the Mustangs’ ground attack by rambling for 321 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Jacob Zeno scored four touchdowns on the ground for Jay.
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