FORT WORTH — By this point in the season the end was going to sting regardless of the way the Tigers had lost. Only finishing with a championship would change that outlook.

FORT WORTH — By this point in the season the end was going to sting regardless of the way the Tigers had lost. Only finishing with a championship would change that outlook.


Leonard had put together an amazing run over the past month, one that saw them win by the slimmest of margins to open the postseason, avenge a district defeat and then endure a three-day weather delay for a victory against the team that had eliminated them the year before.


"These kids had a great year. They exceeded everybody’s expectations," Leonard head coach Shane Fletcher said. "We played some great football games this year."


The Tigers’ magical run was unable to continue after going up against a powerful program in Cisco and the Loboes defeated Leonard, 55-6, in a Class 2A Division II state semifinal at Saginaw Chisholm Trail on Saturday.


Cisco (15-0) will face Refugio, which beat Waskom 69-33 in the other semifinal, for the state championship at 8 p.m. on Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. It will be a rematch of Refugio’s 36-35 victory in the 2011 title game and is the fifth time in the last decade that Cisco is in the championship game.


It was the best season in school history for Leonard (11-4), which hadn’t won a playoff game since 1986 when it made the third round for the only other season before this one.


"I’m so proud of what these kids accomplished. I’m proud of my seniors. They really stepped up," Fletcher said. "We’ve got a lot coming back and there’s expectations so they can’t take it lightly. They have to go right to work."


Leonard’s lone touchdown was an 80-yard run by Justin Bennett on the first play from scrimmage early in the fourth quarter. Bennett kept on a read option and broke into the secondary, turning around a defender near midfield on a race to the end zone.


By that time Cisco had all the scoring it needed from the first half. The Loboes did get second-half touchdown runs by Tyler Callahan and Landen Lewis.


Bennett finished with 107 yards on eight carries and Solomon Titus had 23 carries for 86 yards. The duo was bested by its counterparts in Mason Reed and Colton Kent, who accounted for five of the Loboes’ touchdowns. Kent had 189 yards on eight carries, all but one coming in the first two quarters.


"They’re a great football team," Fletcher said. "It snowballed early. There wasn’t a whole lot that was working for us in any phase of the game."


The Loboes used a bevy of big plays to open up a 42-0 half-time advantage.


After forcing a three-and-out on Leonard’s opening possession, Reed took a toss 45 yards for a touchdown on Cisco’s first play from scrimmage.


It was the second play of the Loboes’ ensuing drive that led to a touchdown when Kent scored on a 49-yard keeper for a 14-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first quarter.


Leonard followed with its best drive of the half but came up three yards short of the end zone. The drive started at the Tigers’ 28-yard line and took 13 plays — and more than five minutes off the clock. Leonard picked up four first downs, including a 23-yard catch by Ty McKinney to the 10-yard line, but three straight runs and then a fourth-down pass from Bennett to Dylan Monck just inside the goal line was incomplete and the ball went over to Cisco.


"I don’t know how things would have turned out if we had scored. I would have liked to find out," Fletcher said. "That definitely was a big deal. You could see the wind come out of our sails when we didn’t score."


If the Tigers could have nabbed a touchdown there to cut the deficit in half, it might have changed the tenor of the game. But the Loboes went the other way in just five plays, the last a 39-yard TD pass from Kent to Kyle Green right before the quarter ended.


Cisco tacked on a special teams touchdown when Reed returned a punt 77 yards for a score. He fielded the 43-yard kick on a big bounce and headed behind a wall to the right. He cut back just past midfield to go untouched for the score less than a minute into the second quarter.


Leonard’s only turnover of the half — a fumble off an option play recovered by Mark Lara at the Cisco 34 — was turned into a scoring drive finished off by a Kent 21-yard run.


"We did put together some good drives," Fletcher said. "We just weren’t able to finish them off."


Kent finished off his stellar half with a weaving 77-yard run on the first play of the Loboes’ next possession for a 42-0 lead. Cisco had 318 yards on 16 carries in the first half while holding Leonard to 123 yards on 29 carries.