Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rattlers in state quarterfinals again


The Tolar Rattlers football team is back in familiar territory as they advanced to the Class 2A Division I state quarterfinals for a second straight season, defeating Italy 61-28 Friday at Lumpkins Stadium in Waxahachie.

The Rattlers, who improved to 12-1, will face 11-2 Marlin in the quarterfinals, Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium.

The Bulldogs defeated Tioga (9-4) 46-14 in their quarterfinals matchup.

Italy, which came up short of a third straight playoff upset, ended its season at 7-6.

Ironically, the Gladiators took a 7-0 lead after returning the opening kickoff 89 yards. The Rattlers then scored the next 54 points.

“Our guys played really well today. I thought our coaches and players had a really good week of preparation,” Tolar coach Jeremy Mullins said. “We’re looking forward to a chance to win a regional final for the first time in program history.”

Last season the Rattlers set school records by finishing 13-1 and reaching the state quarterfinals before their season ended with a 14-7 loss to Crawford.

Against Italy, Kelvin Murray picked up 111 yards on just nine carries with touchdowns of 6 and 33 yards.

Garrison Nation of Tolar rushed for 110 yards on 14 carries, including a touchdown of 51 yards. He also had his own kickoff return of 83 yards for another TD, his third kick return for a score this season (previous two were punt returns).

Peyton Brown of the Rattlers carried 14 times for 73 yards and three touchdowns of 3, 1 and 6 yards.

Rattlers quarterback Isaac Blessing was a perfect 5-of-5 passing for 105 yards with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Behrens, who hauled in two passes for 75 yards. Blessing also picked up 57 yards on a dozen carries.

Grant Sherley also scored on a 1-yard run for Tolar.

In all, the Rattlers picked up 476 yards, including 371 rushing on 55 carries. Meanwhile, the Tolar defense held the Gladiators to 217 yards - of which only 10 was on the ground on 25 carries.

The Tolar defense also forced three turnovers, giving them 33 takeaways this season (21 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries).

Class 2A Division I Region II semifinals

Tolar 61, Italy 28


I - 89 kickoff return (kick good)

T - Matthew Behrens 39 pass from Isaac Blessing (kick failed)

T - Safety

T - Garrison Nation 51 run (Brooks Stone kick)

T - Peyton Brown 3 run (Stone kick)

T - Sherley 1 run (kick failed)

T - Nation 83 kickoff return (kick failed)

T - Brown 1 run (pass failed)

T - Brown 6 run (Stone kick)

T - Kelvin Murray 6 run (Stone kick)

I - 28 pass (kick good)

I - 36 pass (kick good)

T - Murray 33 run (Stone kick)

I - 55 pass (kick good)

Team statistics

First downs: Tolar 20, Italy 7.

Rushes-yards: Tolar 55-371, Italy 25-10.

Passing yards: Tolar 105, Italy 207.

Caught-thrown-intercepted: Tolar 5-5-0, Italy 13-22-2.

Fumbles-lost: Tolar 3-1, Italy 2-1.

Punts-average: Tolar 2-25.0, Italy 5-27.3.

Penalties-yards: Tolar 9-90, Italy 8-60.

Time of possession: Tolar 27:40, Italy 20:20.

Total plays: Tolar 60, Italy 38.

Tolar individual leaders

Rushing: Murray 9 carries, 111 yards, 3 TD; Nation 14-110, TD; Brown 14-73, 3 TD; Blessing 12-57; Sherley 5-26, TD.

Passing: Blessing 5-of-5, 105 yards, TD, no interceptions.

Receiving: Behrens 2-75, TD; Drake Owens 2-24; Nation 1-6.