ALLEN — When Leonard found itself in a fight for the District 7-2A (II) title against S&S, the Tigers tried to match the Rams run for run in a defensive slugfest that ended with Leonard coming up just short. In a rematch with much bigger stakes, Leonard went to the air and found a successful formula.

ALLEN — When Leonard found itself in a fight for the District 7-2A (II) title against S&S, the Tigers tried to match the Rams run for run in a defensive slugfest that ended with Leonard coming up just short. In a rematch with much bigger stakes, Leonard went to the air and found a successful formula.


"Execution-wise we were outstanding," Leonard head coach Shane Fletcher said. "I thought coming in we could catch them off guard throwing the ball. It worked and it was a blessing."


Solomon Titus and Dylan Monck each scored three touchdowns and Justin Bennett completed 13-of-14 passes, three going for TDs, as Leonard defeated S&S, 55-44, in a Class 2A Division II Region II semifinal at Eagle Stadium on Saturday afternoon.


"We had some kids that we ask to do a lot of different things," Fletcher said. "We had some huge plays. Our offensive line was outstanding."


Leonard (10-3) will face Cooper in the region final on Saturday with the location and time still to be determined. The Tigers are in the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time in school history after getting to the region semifinals for the second and only other time since an appearance in 1986.


"To come in here with three losses and still be playing in the final eight, it’s amazing," Fletcher said. "You can’t describe it."


It was the best season in school history for S&S (12-1), which had never won more than nine games in a season, claimed a district title or won more than one playoff game before this year had started.


"We had great leadership from our seniors. We had kids growing up all the time," Rams head coach Garrett Patterson said. "The way they represented our school district, it’s hard to see them go."


When the teams met in the regular-season finale, the offenses relied on the run and S&S came out on top 19-16 with a late field goal. By the middle of the second quarter in this one, that score had already been surpassed.


"If we executed our game plan, we could score a lot of points," Fletcher said. "That last time we played, the field was muddy and there was a lot of running on both sides."


Leonard scored on the game’s opening possession when Titus had a 40-yard TD run one play after a 31-yard catch by Ty McKinney on third-and-long. But S&S responded with the ensuing kickoff, which Trenton Nolan returned 98 yards for a touchdown. Nolan let the ball bounce over his head and retreated to the two before finding a seam and bouncing outside to the left.


The teams traded touchdowns on their next possessions. Monck caught a 64-yard touchdown from Bennett and then Willie Winborne scored on an 18-yard run with 4:19 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 14.


S&S had a chance to take the lead but Nolan’s 82-yard punt return for a score was called back by a penalty, one of 14 for the Rams, and both defenses forced punts until Bennett hooked up with McKinney for a 30-yard TD pass with 2:08 left in the half.


McKinney’s extra point attempt was blocked by Winborne and Nolan picked it up on a bounce and returned it for two points, giving Leonard a 20-16 advantage. Cody Crane came up with an interception at the S&S 42 and the Tigers were able to cash in with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Bennett to Titus with just under a minute left in the quarter and take a 28-16 lead.


"We just didn’t play well from the beginning. Made too many mistakes," Patterson said. "In this round, nobody’s a bad team and you can’t do that. Mistakes got us."


The Rams came out of the locker room with a much-needed touchdown drive. S&S went 75 yards in seven plays, the last a 48-yard touchdown pass from Reed Collum to Drew Dutton along the left sideline that cut the deficit to 28-23.


"We felt like if we could come out and score, shut them down after we scored, we’d keep it right there," Patterson said.


But that was as close as Leonard let the Rams get the rest of the way. Bennett scored on a 10-yard keeper just three plays later to push the lead back to 12 and then a bad snap on a punt gave the Tigers the ball at the S&S 19. Monck finished the short series with a three-yard TD run at the 3:36 mark of the third quarter.


Titus had 174 yards on 23 carries and caught three passes for 75 yards, Monck had 104 yards receiving and another 57 rushing and Bennett’s only misfire of the day came in the middle of the second quarter and he completed his last nine attempts.


Winborne, who finished his stellar career with 141 yards on 21 carries, scored on a 26-yard carry following on convoy just a minute and a half later. The Tigers continued to match the Rams when Monck caught a 22-yard TD pass from Ryan Nixon on the first play of the fourth quarter.


Titus came up with a 45-yard interception return down the left sideline for a score and Leonard led 55-30.


"We just got out of our game plan," Patterson said. "We had to. They were putting up points and we had to answer."


Winborne returned the kickoff 92 yards and Cameron Prewitt recovered an onside kick to give the Rams a glimmer of hope. But Cason Riley recovered a fumble just after S&S had crossed midfield and the Tigers were able to burn four minutes off the clock. Winborne caught a nine-yard touchdown with just over two minutes left to finish the scoring.


Collum was 12-of-19 passing for 212 yards with most of that going to Dutton, who had eight catches for 139 yards.