PARIS — In a game where Pottsboro and Sabine started by marching up and down the field, the margin of error could have ended up being just a single series.
By the time Pottsboro had come away with a 47-35 victory in the Class 3A Division I Region II area round match-up, it was the defensive plays in the second half that made all the difference.
“We felt like we could score every possession,” Pottsboro head coach Matt Poe said. “It was starting to come down to who could get a stop or two.”
Three of the four turnovers forced by Pottsboro came after the break and combined with what has been a record-setting offense for the program, it led to another victory.
Pottsboro (12-0) will face Malakoff in the region semifinals at 2 p.m. on Friday at Wylie. It is the team's first appearance in the third round since 2016 and it is just the third time the program has 12 victories, joining 2014 and one short of the school record 13 in 2008.
Braden Plyler completed 19-of-29 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown and ran 19 times for 129 yards and two TDs, Cy Shope totaled 128 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, Titus Lyons finished with eight catches for 88 yards and a TD and Keatyn Eitelman returned a fumble for a score.
“We've got guys who can make plays and guys up front who do a really good job,” Poe said.
Landon McKinney completed 20-of-34 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions and also ran 23 times for 93 yards and two TDs while A.J. Gresham finished with five catches for 98 yards and a score for Sabine (10-2), which had the best season in school history by getting to 10 wins for the first time and earning the program's first playoff victory.
“Their offensive line did a great job,” Poe said. “There were times we were sitting back in zone and they picked us apart. There's definitely things to work on.”
Jasek Hooker picked off a deep throw along the right sideline on the fourth play of the third quarter and Pottsboro headed the other way with a 15-play, 65-yard drive where Plyler scored around the right side from four yards out and a 34-18 lead.
Sabine was forced to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Fernando Jaimes late in the third quarter but was looking to cut into the deficit even more when it recovered the onside kick.
The momentum swung back the other way two snaps later when Eitelman picked up a loose ball just short of midfield and ran it back 52 yards for the score.
The quarterbacks traded touchdowns on the next possessions — McKinney with a 13-yard run up the middle and Plyler answered on a weaving 54-yard run with 38 seconds remaining in the third for a 47-28 advantage.
A 30-yard catch by Clayton Simmons on fourth-and-10 came up just short of the end zone and McKinney punched it in on the next play to fashion the final score with 10:51 remaining.
Pottsboro melted six minutes off the clock with the ensuing drive but turned it over at the Sabine 12 when Plyler's fourth-down scramble came up a yard short of the marker. Sabine's chance to make it a one-score game ended when Tyler Farris intercepted a deep throw on fourth-and-seven from the Pottsboro 42 with 3:14 remaining.
Pottsboro held a 27-18 half-time lead when Jaimes missed a 40-yard field goal as time expired. It was one of the few possessions in the first half were no points were scored.
Shope had just pushed Pottsboro's advantage to nine when he bulled into the end zone on a one-yard keeper with 1:02 to go in the quarter. It was a quick four-play drive that started at the Sabine 44 after Silas Barr recovered a fumble.
The previous Pottsboro possession was the only one in the half which didn't reach the end zone. After Sabine pulled within two, Pottsboro eventually had a first down at the Sabine 35 but Plyler's pass on fourth-and-three was incomplete with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
Sabine took nearly five minutes off the clock with a 13-play march that covered 69 yards and ended on McKinney's eight-yard pass to Simmons in the back of the end zone on third-and-four in the middle of the second.
On the third play of the second quarter, Plyler connected with Lyons on a fourth-and-10 pass down the right sideline as he got behind two defenders for the 29-yard touchdown and a 20-12 lead.
Jaimes kicked a 45-yard field goal late in the first quarter to trim Sabine's deficit to a point.
Pottsboro opened the game with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Shope's 23-yard TD run a little more than four minutes into the contest.
Sabine blocked the extra point try and Kile Stripland returned it 91 yards for the two-point conversion.
McKinney hit Gresham deep over the middle on third-and-10 from the Pottsboro 46 to give Sabine the lead at 9-6 in the middle of the first.
Pottsboro responded in just five snaps, the last a 28-yard touchdown run when Shope gained the corner down the right sideline for a 13-9 advantage with 4:15 to go in the frame as the teams were in the middle of scoring points on the opening six series of the game.