By TONY EIERDAM
COMANCHE – For the first time in his four-year head coaching career, Gordon coach Shane Mallory has his Longhorns in the state semifinals, a spot longtime Gordon football fans are used to being in.
Paced by an eight-touchdown effort by senior Michael Cherry – which included four TD runs, three passes for a score and a touchdown reception – the Longhorns overpowered Santa Anna, 70-35, here Friday night and have earned a berth i the six man Division I state semifinals.
With the win. Gordon advances to the state semifinals and will play Abbott. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Saturday in Hico.
“It feels real good (to reach the semifinals),” Mallory said. “We were 1-9 in my first year when our current seniors were freshmen, and to get to this ... this is fun.”
Perhaps Gordon’s defensive efforts out-shined its offense. The Longhorns held Santa Anna spread back Michael Valencia to well under his season average of 246 rushing yards a gain and only allowed the talented junior – who has run and passed for a combined 67 touchdowns entering the contest – to reach the end zone three times.
“We played disciplined, stayed in front of (Valencia) and kept our shoulders square when we attempted tackles,” Mallory said. “We just played Gordon football. I thought (junior) Garrett Collins had an outstanding game.”
Valencia hurt his ankle late in the third quarter, and when the back ever so valiantly returned, he just wasn’t the same as his speed was reduced and cuts were almost impossible to make.
“They were in a man scheme, and we had some good plays for it,” Mallory said. “When Valencia got hurt they actually went to a zone, and we just tried to pound it out.
“Michael, oh my gosh, is an unbelievable runner. When he has the ball the defense has to respect his passing ability, and if you give him a lane he takes off.
“But our offensive line dominated (Friday). I am very proud of those guys.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Gordon scored on its first two possessions of the second period for a 16-0 lead on TD runs of five and three yards by Cherry.
On the first drive, Cherry passed for a first down and had runs of 18 and four yards to move the chains.
On the second drive, Jake Wigington’s 47-yard sprint to the SA 5 set up Cherry’s second trip to the end zone.
Both TDs were followed by PAT kicks from freshman Jeremy “Jorgy” Jorgenson, who was true on all but one conversion kick for the entire game.
Bottled up on the Mountaineers’ first two drives, Valencia finally zigged and zagged his way around the Longhorns’ defense and scored on 28-yard run to cut the lead to 16-8.
Cherry got into the aerial act on Gordon’s next drive, completing a four-play, 50-yard drive when he threw to Wigington for a 33-yard score and a 24-8 advantage with 4:26 left in the half.
The Longhorns’ defense then got into the scoring act as Wigington returned a Valencia fumble 20 yards for a score as Gordon led 32-8.
Valencia came back and scored on a 31-yard sprint, but Cherry answered with a 48-yard TD pass to Emory Allen as Gordon led 40-16 with 2:56 left in the second quarter.
Gordon held SA on downs again and used timeouts to stop the clock. Starting at the SA 38, Gordon moved to near the goal line on two completions by Cherry the first to Brandon Gonzales for 15 yards and another to Allen for 16 yards.
Allen passed to Cherry for an eight-yard score as the ‘Horns took a 46-16 lead into the locker room at the half.
It appeared the ‘Horns would impose the 45-point mercy rule early in the third quarter.
Gordon received the second-half kickoff and needed just five plays to reach the end zone, scoring on a two-yard blast up the middle by Cherry for a 54-16 lead.
The Mountaineers suffered a blow when Valencia had to leave the game with an ankle injury following a 40-yard run. He would return to the game, but not at 100 percent.
The Longhorns forced the ball over on downs and were driving toward possibly a game-ending score when Cherry coughed up the ball and SA recovered.
The Mountaineers scored on a 71-yard fumble recovery to cut the lead to 54-22.
SA turned another fumble into a score, with Valencia capping the drive on a five-yard TD run to cut the lead to 54-28.
Gordon put the game away on its next possession. Cherry finished the six-play, 52-yard drive on a nine-yard TD run to increase the GHS advantage to 62-28.
SA answered with a score but it was too late. Gordon closed the scoring when Cherry threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Plowman with 3:19 left in the contest.
By TONY EIERDAM
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