SPRINGTOWN — Fortune favors the bold, even when it doesn’t feel like the time to act that way. The Gunter Tigers certainly didn’t need to be bold late in the second quarter against the Comanche Indians.
Following a one-hour weather delay with a three-touchdown advantage and getting the ball to start the second half, there was no real reason for Gunter to show an adventurous side with a possession beginning at its seven-yard line and less than 20 seconds on the clock.
There was no real reason for Ethan Everson to drop back into the end zone looking to throw when a kneel-down would have been a proper and prudent course of action. But the Tigers liked what they saw when they lined up. It was a play they were going to call whether at the seven-yard line or the 47-yard line.
“We felt like we could make that play,” Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. “We muffed the kickoff which didn’t help. We had two timeouts in our pocket. Dylan and Ethan made a great play.”
When the Indians showed the coverage, there was no hesitation. Everson’s pass to Dylan Jantz deep over the middle as the speedy receiver went right to left across the field was right on target and 93 yards later put an exclamation point on what turned into a 53-14 victory in a Class 3A Division II Region II semifinal on Friday night.
“First of all, it was a great throw,” Jantz said. “We knew it would be wide open with a double move. I hit it moving and hoped for the best.”
Added Everson: “We wanted to take a shot at them. We didn’t figure it would go 93 yards.”
The Tigers (13-0) will face Holliday (12-1), which beat Buffalo 38-9, in the region final at 7 p.m. on Friday at Munson Stadium in Denison. It is a District 5-3A (II) rematch from earlier this season when Gunter earned a 30-13 victory and the second straight year the teams have met in the playoffs.
Jantz had four catches for 115 yards and the score, ran seven times for 70 yards and a touchdown and gave Gunter a 53-7 margin with a 17-yard TD pass to Everson on the first play of the fourth quarter. Clayton Reed added a pair of touchdown runs as the Tigers averaged nearly 10 yards per carry, finishing with 34 attempts for 302 yards and 464 yards overall.
Trendon Morin ran 15 times for 53 yards and a touchdown for Comanche (9-4), which gained 140 yards on its two touchdown drives, including a four-yard run by Morin with 25 seconds left, and had just 63 yards on its other nine possessions.
“We really challenged our defensive line this week. We knew they were going to have to play well,” Fieszel said “(Comanche) had the size advantage and were strong up front. We used our quickness really well.”
Sitting on a large half-time lead, Gunter got a 26-yard field goal by Evan Gonzalez in the middle of the third and then Reed tumbled into the end zone on a one-yard run late in the quarter.
Colby Brown’s second recovery of a muffed kickoff at the Comanche 21-yard line set up Jantz for a throw-back to Everson on the left side and the touchdown.
The only thing that was able to slow the Tigers was Mother Nature with the delay halting the game with 4:01 remaining in the second quarter and Gunter holding a 28-0 advantage.
After waiting exactly an hour to get back on the field, Comanche finished off its best drive of the night with a two-yard, fourth-and-goal touchdown pass from Kade Mercer to Price Odom along the right sideline of the end zone with 29 seconds remaining in the half. It was a nearly 10-minute possession.
But that turned out to be plenty of time for the Tigers to score once as Jantz went almost the length of the field with nine seconds left on the clock.
Everson, who had nine carries for 77 yards and was 7-of-12 passing for 145 yards, ran in the conversion as Gunter pushed its lead back out to 36-7 going into the third quarter, which began immediately since the delay served as a half-time break.
The Tigers forced a three-and-out to open the game and needed just four plays to take the lead. The drive covered 57 yards with the last two being a Jantz 20-yard option run down the left sideline before Everson got to the end zone on a keeper around the right end from 13 yards out.
Gunter took a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter when a 23-yard punt set the Tigers up at the Comanche 42. The drive made it to the edge of the red zone and Gunter was facing fourth-and-inches when the Tigers faked a run to the right so Jantz could use the misdirection to gain 21 yards and a touchdown with a dive at the left pylon.
Comanche had not run a play in Gunter territory by its fourth drive and with a fourth-and-one at its own 34 the Indians decided to go for it. The Tigers swarmed the toss to Zach Rodriguez to the left for a one-yard loss.
Three plays after that Reed went through the left side and made a move on a defender for a 28-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
Things got worse for Comanche when Gonzalez’s ensuing kickoff got caught in the wind, and as it fell to the turf bounced off an Indian and right to Brown, who recovered on the bounce at the Comanche 29-yard line.
Despite a penalty that backed Gunter up, the Tigers cashed in on the turnover when Mitchell Brewer scored on a 37-yard draw with 10:09 left in the quarter.
Comanche’s following possession was its best of the half until the rain arrived. The drive started at the 20 and went 11 plays before the teams were pulled off the field. Comanche had 80 of its 114 first-half yardage in that series.
“We really started fast,” Fieszel said. “They were giving us some different looks defensively. It was good our kids adjusted.”