No. 5 Strawn (9-4) won “round two” and the Region 3 championship for a third consecutive time as the Greyhounds used a strong first half Thursday to stop No. 4 Gordon (11-2) 64-40 in Hico.
In “round one,” Gordon topped Strawn 27-26 for the District 10-1A D2 title, but that was without a fully healthy JW Montgomery who played the game in a wrist cast. Thanksgiving night, it was a different story as a fully healthy Montgomery threw for three scores and ran for three more.
“JW came through when he needed to make some plays for us,” Coach Dewaine Lee said. “He’s a senior, and he’s got the experience, and we want to get the ball into his hands.”
Strawn wasted little time in doing just that as the Greyhounds responded to Brandon Mahan’s four-yard touchdown on Gordon’s initial drive of the game.
Montgomery carried three straight times and ate the up yardage through the Longhorns’ defense to score on an 11-yard run. Montgomery then booted the first of his five successful point-after touchdown kicks to knot the score at 8-8.
Before the dust settled in the first quarter, Montgomery tossed an 18-yard touchdown to Speedy Lopez to give the Greyhounds a lead they would never give surrender. Before halftime, Montgomery tacked on a 14-yard scoring run and hooked up with Luke Eli on a 51-yard touchdown to push the Hounds’ lead to 28-8.
While Strawn may have able to run out to a 20-point lead, Lee was far from comfortable.
“They did a great job and battled throughout the whole game. Gordon never gave up,” Lee said. “I’m proud of their team. They were better than us at the end of the game, and they kept coming for us. They had some injuries and fought through them.”
The scoreboard doesn’t always reflect how a game goes, and Gordon outgained Strawn 492-409 in total yards, and Longhorns averaged 9.8 yards per play to the Greyhounds’ average of 8.7. Gordon even converted 54.5 percent of its third downs but the Longhorns also coughed up the ball via fumble and interception – both of which ended up turning into Strawn touchdowns.
“We were a few bounces away from a win,” Coach Mike Reed said. “We had those injuries late, and we fought through it. I’m proud of these guys because Strawn is an excellent football team, and to stay within two strikes of them says something about our kids.”
Strawn wasted little time in extending its lead with Marco Lopez’s score making it a 36-8 game, but the Longhorns didn’t panic and used a quick-strike score as Mahan hit Brody Scrivner for a 41-yard touchdown.
The teams began to trade blows with Montgomery scoring on a 19-yard run and Mahan finding Charles Mowles on a one-yard pass.
Lorenzo Garcia’s 33-yard scamper pushed the Hounds out front 50-20 only to have the Longhorns score two consecutive touchdowns as Morgan Mahan found Tyler Wyatt on a 30-yard pass and B. Mahan targeted Mowles on an 18-yard touchdown to make it a two-score game 56-40 with 3:49 remaining.
The Greyhound fans were still on the edge of their seats until Montgomery iced the game with 17 seconds to play hitting Matthew Garcia in the end zone for the game’s final touchdown.
The loss ended a year of success for Gordon after going 4-7 last year and getting drummed 80-0 by Strawn in the regular season. This year, the Longhorns finish out with an area title after downing Fannindel 66-21 and Bynum 52-6.
“Strawn is a great football team, and they have the experience it takes to win big games,” Reed said. My hat is off to them. They weren’t ever really able to slow us down, but we weren’t able to capitalize when we needed.”
Brandon Mahan’s 16-21 passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns reflected what Reed was saying. The scatback also pounded out 127 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Mahan had MVP numbers, but so did Strawn as a whole team with Montgomery going 5-9 through the air for 120 yards and three touchdowns. It was on the ground where the Greyhounds did the most damage as Montgomery turned 14 carries into 114 yards and three touchdowns. He had plenty of backup as Garcia had 89 yards on nine rushes, and Lopez ran for 74 yards on 11 attempts.
David Shugart led Strawn’s defense with 15 stops. Montgomery also came up big on defense as he recorded 14 tackles and an interception.
While the two-time defending state champion Greyhounds may have claimed their third straight regional title Lee was far from pleased.
“I think we are trying to get better,” Lee said, “We didn’t play as well as we could have in areas.”
That may sound harsh, but Lee knows what it takes to get to the last step in the six-man playoffs, and the Greyhounds can’t afford to let off the gas considering their most likely opponent will be 11-0 Richland Springs.