The Tolar football team forced five turnovers and got four touchdown passes from quarterback Corbin Wood, clinching second place in District 6-2A Division II for the second year in a row with a 42-6 victory over Rio Vista at Rattler Stadium.
The Rattlers’ (8-2, 6-1 in district) bidistrict playoff matchup will be against Nocona (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bridgeport.
The visiting Eagles (1-9, 0-7) crowded the line of scrimmage with eight players in an effort to thwart Tolar’s running threat, led by Cory Solomon, who finished the night with a game-high 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. That included a 27-yard TD run with 10 minutes left in the opening quarter for the first score.
“Rio Vista sold out to stop the run,” Tolar coach Mike Franklin said. “They were not going to let us run.”
Franklin said Tolar’s superior team speed was a huge factor.
Solomon’s effort moved him past the 4,000-yard mark in career rushing. Solomon enters the playoffs with 4,029 yards rushing so far in his three varsity seasons.
“It’s a special number, and it’s a milestone,” Tolar head coach Mike Franklin said. “(But) Cory would trade that number for playoff wins any day.”
Solomon said it was exciting to reach 4,000 yards – something he didn’t think of doing when he joined the varsity as a sophomore.
Although he said, “I think we played better in the second half,” Solomon added that the Rattlers are pursuing perfection and are “expecting to go farther” this year in the playoffs.
The Rattlers reached the second round of the playoffs a year ago, when they were eliminated by Gunter.
Wood hurled TD passes to Nathan Langston, Kaleb Gilliam, Garrett Winston and Dalton Shaw, throwing for 182 yards in all.
Tolar held a 21-6 halftime lead after Blake Watson had intercepted two Rio Vista passes and teammates Kaleb Gilliam and Garrett Winston picked off one each.
Tolar took away the ball on Rio Vista’s third play from scrimmage, on the first of Watson’s two interceptions. That set up Solomon’s 27-yard TD run three plays later, giving the Rattlers a 7-0 edge.
Gilliam’s interception set up a five-play TD drive, capped by Langston’s TD catch and run.
Winston’s 31-yard return of his interception set up Tolar’s next score. From the Rio Vista 15, Gilliam made an outstanding adjustment on a pass from Wood to snag the ball for the TD and a 21-6 lead.
Tolar’s defense stopped the Eagles on fourth down at the Rattlers’ 41-yard line, and the Rattlers scored six plays later on Winston’s 27-yard TD catch.
That advantage quickly expanded to 35-6 after Rodie Brister recovered a Rio Vista fumble and the Rattlers took over at the Eagles’ 36. Three plays later, Wood hit Shaw over the right side for a 31-yard TD.
Reserve sophomore quarterback Heston Buckelew had the final score, from 13 yards out in the final minute. Dakota Endsley, a junior, normally is the No. 2 quarterback but was held out with a shoulder separation.
Endsley, who starts in the secondary on defense and also plays receiver on offense, should be able to play Friday against 6-4 Nocona, said Franklin, whose teams have qualified for postseason play in eight of his 13 years as Tolar’s head coach. Endsley injured the shoulder during the previous game, against Rice.
“We’re confident, but (the players) know the urgency of playing now,” Franklin said of the bidistrict matchup. “Every snap, every play, can be a changing point. I think they’re definitely excited.”
Franklin said coaches have been telling the players that the season is divided into three segments – nondistrict, district and playoffs. He reminded them that they had one bad game in nondistrict and another one in district play, when losing one game wasn’t as crucial.
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Rattlers 42, Eagles 6
Rio Vista 0 6 0 0 – 6
Tolar 14 7 14 7 – 42
T – Cory Solomon 27 run (Garrett Winston kick)
T – Nathan Langston 56 pass from Corbin Wood (Winston kick)
RV – Nick Russell 12 run (run failed)
T – Kaleb Gilliam15 pass from Wood (Winston kick)
T – Winston 27 pass from Wood (Winston kick)
T – Dalton Shaw 31 pass from Wood (Winston kick)
T – Heston Buckelew 13 run (Dalton Shaw kick)
Rio Vista Tolar
First downs 12 14
Rushes-yards 53-158 26-150
Passing yards 11 182
Passes 2-12-0 8-18-1
Punts-avg. 3-34 4-32
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-58 3-30
Rio Vista – Nick Russell 8-37, Austin Strickland 10-36, Hayden Brown 12-32, Anthony Rivera 10-20, Chase Hailey 7-17, Sam Allen 6-16.
Tolar – Cory Solomon 13-86, Blayne Denton 2-35, Heston Buckelew 1-13, Corbin Wood 8-11, Marcus Garcia 2-5.
Rio Vista – Russell 2-8-3, 11 yards; Rivera 0-4-1.
Tolar – Wood 8-15-1, 182 yards; Buckelew 0-3-0.
Rio Vista – Hailey 1-7, Gareth Crisp 1-4.
Tolar – Nathan Langston 1-56, Dalton Shaw 2-48, Garrett Winston 1-27, Blake Watson 2-25, Hunter Ryan 1-19, Walker Shelton 1-7.