Gunter cruises into region semifinals

By Rick Bailey
For the Herald Democrat
Gunter's Hudson Graham ran for three touchdowns and threw three TD passes in a Class 3A Division II Region II victory over Henrietta.

GRAPEVINE — Between the ball-hawking defensive secondary and quarterback Hudson Graham’s six-touchdown performance, Gunter jumped all over the Henrietta Bearcats for their second straight blowout, 59-6, in a Class 3A Division II Region II area round match-up at Grapevine-Colleyville Mustang Panther Stadium.

A week after a 62-0 win over Rice, the Tigers were again up 59-0 at half-time and the second half was played with a running clock. The only drama was if they could earn their third consecutive shutout.

“Very proud of our coaches and players. We had an excellent week of practice and I think that showed up tonight," Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. "Our kids did a fantastic job in their preparation and we need to continue to do that.”

Gunter (11-1) will now face either district opponent Leonard or former district foe Wichita Falls City View in the region semifinals.

“Leonard and City View are two excellent teams," Fieszel said. "Tough, well coached and have some great athletes. We will need another great week of preparation so we can go out and be at our best next week.”

Graham completed 8-of-10 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and ran six times for 59 yards and three TDs, Ashton Bennett had eight carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, Ethan Sloan caught two 78 yards and two scores and Cade Roller caught a TD pass for the Tigers.

Reese Essler was 9-of-25 passing for 67 yards and three interceptions and ran 15 times for 60 yards, Braden Bell was 6-of-8 passing for 60 yards and a touchdown and Bryce Sikes caught five passes for 71 yards and a TD for Henrietta (4-7).

After managing only one first down on the opening series, the Tigers used their defense to get going.

Saul Rodriguez picked off Essler and set Gunter up on the 26-yard line and from there on the first play Graham found Ethan Sloan for the touchdown.

It took just four plays on defense for the Tigers to snag another Essler pass with Cole Lemons returning it 22 yards to the Henrietta 14. Bennett scored from that spot on the first play for another Gunter touchdown.

Cooper Wade took his turn with an interception on the first play of the next series and set the Tigers up at Henrietta’s 19-yard line. Mitchell Brewer ended a two-play drive with a three-yard TD run at the 6:17 mark in the first quarter.

After forcing a punt, the Tigers took just one play to score again for a 28-0 lead. Graham found Roller on a 45-yard scoring strike.

Sloan almost scored on a 55-yard punt return before being stopped at the five-yard line. Graham called his own number two plays later on a three yard plunge and a 35-0 lead.

As the first quarter came to an end, Henrietta found a little momentum driving to the Gunter 37, but gave the ball up on downs.

The Tigers headed the other way and Logan Hubbard booted a 38-yard field goal.

Gunter forced another three-and-out and just three plays later Graham hooked up again with Sloan, who used a great block by Roller to go 52 yards for the touchdown with seven minutes left in the half.

Sloan had another big punt return, this time 47 yards to the Bearcats 23, and on the first play from scrimmage Graham scored to give Gunter a 52-0 lead.

In the closing minutes of the first half the Tigers defense made one more stop to set up a last scoring opportunity. With 1:22 left in the half, Graham carried the ball in for a three-yard touchdown to cap the Tiger scoring for the night and a a 59-0 advantage going into the locker room.

Henrietta lost Essler to injury on the next-to-last-play of the half. After a scoreless third quarter, Bell managed to get the Henrietta offense going and completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Sikes to get the Bearcats on the board.

Area Round

Class 3A Division II Region II

Gunter                59

Henrietta              6