ROYSE CITY — There was little worry in the Gunter locker room. After a season of blowout victories, the Tigers struggled through their second straight playoff first-half but stayed the course with a punishing ground game and suffocating defense.
“We talked to the kids at half-time about how we had two turnovers, we had untimely penalties and we’re winning 8-3,” Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. “There’s a reason you play all four quarters. No team has won anything at half-time.”
Dylan Jantz and Peyton Lowe each ran for a pair of touchdowns in the decisive final two quarters and Gunter allowed just 174 yards in a 38-3 victory against Daingerfield in a Class 3A Division II Region II area round game on Friday afternoon.
“Second half, we came out hard-nosed, ready to go and execute,” Jantz said. “We know how to win. We just do what we do. If we execute it’s really hard to stop.”
Gunter (12-0), which has won 28 consecutive games, will take on Holliday (11-1) in the region semifinals this week at 7 p.m. on Friday at Springtown.
Daingerfield (7-5) held the lead for five minutes in the second quarter but after the break the possessions went stopped fake punt, punt, fumble, turnover on downs and turnover on downs.
Jakauri Woods led the team with 60 yards but needed 19 carries to get there. Daingerfield averaged just 2.8 yards per rush on 44 attempts.
“That’s a testament to our kids,” Fieszel said. “We pride ourselves on being able to play really good defense.”
Jantz finished with 12 carries for 83 yards as Gunter gained all 327 yards on the ground and didn’t attempt a pass in 49 snaps.
“That’s the good thing about our offense. We have a lot of options and there’s someone to back it up if you try to take away somebody,” Jantz said.
Gunter sandwiched a pair of touchdown drives around a punt in the second half. Less than two minutes into the third quarter Lowe scored from a yard out and Daylan Bower had one of his three conversions for a double-digit advantage.
When Daingerfield faked a punt on fourth-and-19, Gunter took over at midfield and scored in four plays as Jantz took a toss around the right side for the six-yard touchdown in the middle of the quarter. Braiden Clopton, who had a team-high 99 yards on 10 carries, had a 34-yard run to set up the score.
The teams traded punts — Gunter nearly scored on all its relevant second-half possessions but Bower had a 34-yard TD run called back on a penalty, which led to the kick — before Adrian Martinez recovered a fumble for Gunter and a penalty after the play set it up at the Daingerfield 15. Jantz closed out that series with a three-yard TD toss to the right early in the fourth quarter.
Lowe finished off the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run with 4:17 left in the game.
Gunter took an 8-3 lead into half-time with a touchdown drive right before the second quarter ended.
Clopton finished off an 11-play, 35-yard possession that spanned five minutes with a nine-yard touchdown run around the left end with 1:21 remaining in the half.
All 11 plays came on the ground, including Zach Lowe’s four-yard carry on fourth-and-a-long-one just shy of midfield to keep the series going.
The score was a response to Daingerfield’s only points of the half. Jose Bello kicked a 35-yard field goal with 6:20 left in the second quarter.
A 12-yard pass from Woods to Reggie Jeter on fourth-and-seven at the Gunter 34 prolonged the drive. It was the third time in the half Daingerfield converted on fourth down but decided for the field goal when facing fourth-and-six at the 18.
Gunter only had two other possessions in the first half and both of them ended on fumbles in Daingerfield territory.
Gunter forced a three-and-out to open the game, only to have Zach Lowe’s fumble recovered at the Daingerfield 43 by Trodarius Lynn.
It looked like it would lead to a touchdown as Daingerfield had a 12-yard drive but on first-and-goal at the four, Kennon Magers recovered a fumble for Gunter.
After picking up three first-downs and getting back across midfield, Zay Parker jumped on a Jantz fumble and Daingerfield was able to capitalize on that turnover with the field goal.
“Their game plan was to run the ball right at us and they had success early in the game. They were going to use all four downs if they needed,” Fieszel said. “We made some adjustments and were able to clean up some things.”