WHITESBORO — Brooks Barker had a pair of touchdowns, one coming on an interception return, as the Whitesboro Bearcats clinched a playoff spot by defeating the Howe Bulldogs, 34-12, in District 5-3A (I) action on Friday night.


The teams played a defensive struggle in the first half before Whitesboro (5-3, 3-0) broke out with four of its touchdowns after holding only a 7-0 lead over Howe (0-8, 0-3) at half-time.


The Bearcats, who forced five turnovers, had the first score at 2:39 in the first quarter on an 18-yard run by Weston Hickman, who led Whitesboro with 56 yards on six carries.


Whitesboro was unable to add to its early lead. The Bearcats attempted a 32-yard field goal attempt and after the teams traded punts, Nolan Frith came up with an interception for Whitesboro but the Bearcats couldn’t turn that into points either and settled for the seven-point advantage at the break.


Howe came out throwing in the third quarter and on the third play of its drive Chase Harvey connected with Mason Riggs for a 63-yard touchdown but the extra point failed and the Bulldogs still trailed by a point.


Whitesboro recovered a fumble on its 31-yard-line and Scout Sanders ran in the touchdown from the 26-yard-line two plays later to take a 14-6 lead by the end of the quarter.


Whitesboro’s defense kept holding off Howe and the Bearcats extended the advantage to 21-6 on a drive that started at their 22-yard line. Barker, who had nine carries for 48 yards, scored from the eight with 9:06 remaining in the fourth. The Bearcats finished with 37 carries for 185 yards.


Howe went back to the air and Frith came up with his second interception and returned it 54 yards for a score.


Barker followed that up on the next drive with a 30-yard interception return touchdown and a 34-6 lead.


Howe scored with 1:14 left as Andrew Griffin plunged in from the one-yard-line.


Griffin led the Bulldogs with 110 yards on 19 carries.


Whitesboro will travel to Callisburg on Friday while Howe plays at Pilot Point.