PROSPER — Gunter’s big-play offense and an opportunistic defense stopped any momentum that upset-minded Whitesboro could muster as the Tigers rebounded from a loss to rival Pottsboro with a 42-10 win in non-district action at Children’s Health Stadium.
"I give Whitesboro a lot of credit," Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. "They ran the ball right at us. I’m really proud of the kids because they made plays when we had to make plays."
Two moments turned the game in favor of the Tigers (2-1). Late in the second quarter while leading 14-3, Gunter used two timeouts with less than a minute remaining to force the Bearcats (0-3) to punt from their own 17-yard line. The Tigers got the ball with 23 seconds left at just short of midfield and on third-and-11 from their 48, Cole Lemons ran behind the Bearcats defense and quarterback Hudson Graham threw a strike for a 52-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the half and a 21-3 advantage.
Lemons led the Tigers with 101 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three catches. He also scored on a 40-yard pass from with 3:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Graham finished the game completing 11-of-16 passes for 225 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and one interception.
Gunter’s second big play came after Whitesboro opened the third quarter with an almost eight-minute drive down to the Tigers eight-yard line before Ethan Sloan intercepted a Jake Hermes pass at the goal line.
Although Sloan’s 60-yard return was called back because of a holding penalty, the Tigers still capped a nine-play drive with a Graham-to-Cannon Lemberg 24-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the third quarter.
In addition to his timely interception, Sloan also made several big plays on offense for the Tigers, scoring on a three-yard run in the second quarter. He finished with 26 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving on 11 touches — five rushing and six receiving.
"We were five plays away from playing with the state champions," Bearcats head coach Cody Fagan said. "We played really, really good for moments, but just didn’t string enough of them together."
Ashton Bennett was Gunter’s workhorse, rushing for a game-leading 131 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He opened the scoring and his other came on a 35-yard scamper in the middle of the fourth quarter as the Tigers began to pull away.
The Bearcats also had two big plays of their own, starting with Kayden Unclebach’s interception deep in Whitesboro territory. But the ensuing drive stalled at the Gunter 26 and the 43-yard field goal attempt fell just short.
However, with 3:36 left in the first half, Jorge Montes cut the Tigers’ lead to 7-3 with a 26-yard field goal, capping a 13-play drive that reached the Gunter seven-yard line.
The Bearcats couldn’t maintain that deficit, however, with the touchdowns by Sloan and Lemons giving Gunter breathing room at the break
In the fourth quarter, Whitesboro came up big on special teams as it trued to get back in the game. Sterling Gartin blocked a punt that was recovered at the Tigers one-yard line.
Two plays later, Hermes powered over for the Bearcats’ touchdown and it was a 28-10 margin with just under eight minutes remaining. Hermes completed just 9-of 18 throws for 74 yards passing with a pair of interceptions.
Greyson Ledbetter led the Bearcats with 37 yards rushing on 16 carries and Devon Price added eight carries for 35 yards. Sean Schares caught four passes for 35 yards to lead Whitesboro, which has scored just 19 points in three games but came against Bells, Aubrey and the Tigers — who have a combined 8-1 record.
Whitesboro has a bye this week before opening District 4-3A (I) play at home against Ponder.
Gunter will take on Pilot Point to close out non-district action on Friday back at Children’s Health Stadium. The Tigers moved their two home games to open the season to Prosper because of the limited capacity restrictions due to COVID-19 rules. The 16,000-seat venue provided plenty of room for what normally would have been a packed stadium on campus.