Whitesboro beats Bushland for spot in the region semifinals

Herald Democrat
Whitesboro's jake Hermes had a long touchdown catch during the Bearcats' area-round victory over Bushland.

CHILDRESS — Mac Harper had a hand in five touchdowns and Torran Naglestad led a strong defensive effort as the Whitesboro Bearcats defeated Bushland, 41-21, in a Class 3A Division I Region I area round game.

Whitesboro (8-4) will face Shallowater (10-2), which advanced with a 43-14 win over Early, in the region semifinals at 1 p.m. on Friday at Abilene Christian University.

It is the third time in school history that the Bearcats are in the third round, having been done prior in 2014 and 2017. Whitesboro will be trying to make it to the region final for the first time.

Harper completed 13-of-25 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and also ran 18 times for 101 yards and three TDs while Jake Hermes had three catches for 92 yards and a score and Naglestad finished with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown for Whitesboro, which did all its scoring in the middle two quarters.

Naglestad also came up with three interceptions, returning one 42 yards for a score, and made 11 tackles as the Bearcats held down a Falcon offense which had scored at least 55 points in its last three games.

Brian Marrell threw a touchdown pass and ran for a TD to lead Bushland (8-4), which was trying to make the region semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons.

Both defenses got off to strong starts as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.

The Falcons were able to break the stalemate when Marrell hit Baylor King running along the back of the end zone towards the left pylon for a 13-yard touchdown less than a minute into the second quarter.

Whitesboro had an immediate answer two plays later when Hermes hauled in a pass on the right side and raced most of the 75 yards for the TD. Harper ran in the conversion to take an 8-7 lead.

Naglestad gave the Bearcats a 15-7 advantage when he snagged an interception on the left side, jumping a route and returning it 42 yards for the touchdown.

But the Falcons turned right around and were back within a point when Ivan Soto scored on a four-year run with just over eight minutes to go in the first half.

Whitesboro was able to extend the lead right before the break when Harper found Naglestad for a three-yard TD pass. The extra point failed and it was a 21-14 margin heading into the locker room.

The Bearcats cashed in a blocked punt by Paul Velten when they took over at the Bushland 13-yard line and on the second play Harper scored from there on a keeper up the middle at the 8:30 mark of the third quarter.

Harper scored again on a five-yard run less than two minutes later for a 35-14 advantage as Whitesboro took advantage of another turnover.

Marrell finished off a Bushland drive with a six-yard TD run on third-and-goal and 2:46 remaining in the third to get the Falcons back within two scores.

But that was as close as Bushland would get the rest of the way and Harper closed out the scoring on a 31-yard run on fourth down with seven seconds to go in the third and the fourth quarter ended up being a scoreless frame to bookend the first quarter.