Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rattlers to play for first state championship

Make short work of Stratford in semis


For the first time in the history of the program the Tolar Rattlers will be playing for a state championship in football. They secured their place in the Class 2A Division I final by defeating Stratford 35-7 in the semifinals Thursday, Dec. 7, in Vernon.

Tolar (14-1) will face Timpson (15-0), which defeated Ganado 35-21 in the other semifinal Thursday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Stratford entered the contest with a 14-0 record, but the Elks’ defense was no match for the Tolar running game that collected 255 yards on 50 carries. Likewise, the Tolar defense held Stratford just 101 yards on 27 carries.

The Tolar defense also forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, while the Rattlers.

offense committed none.

“I am super excited for our kids, coaches and community. What a ride this has been,” Tolar coach Jeremy Mullins said. “I have been to many state games, but no, I have never coached in one.

“This team represents all the guys and coaches that have come before them. We’ve got one more to go and I can’t wait to see that sea of purple in AT&T Wednesday night representing the Snake Farm!”

Tolar never trailed Stratford and the game was never tied. The Rattlers took a 14-0 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Isaac Blessing to Clayton Stembridge, followed by a 2-yard run by Garrison Nation

After the Elks cut the margin to 14-7 with a touchdown pass, Tolar responded with a 47-yard TD pass from Blessing to Behrens for a 21-7 halftime advantage. Blessing added a 1-yard score and Peyton Brown scored on a 16-yard run in the second half.

Brooks Stone was 5-for-5 kicking extra points.

Blessing ended the night as the leading rusher with 108 yards on 19 carries, along with completing three of his five pass attempts for 65 more. Brown collected 80 yards on 16 carries and Nation picked up 71 on 14 carries.

Behrens hauled in two catches for 54 yards.

For the season, Blessing has 30 touchdown passes opposite two interceptions. He has rushed for 1,176 yards and 20 TD.

Nation topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark with his performance. He has 1,017 yards and 17 rushing TD, along with three receiving scores.

Despite missing seven games in the regular season with ankle injury, Brown has 557 yards and 12 rushing TD with a receiving TD.

The victory was the Rattlers’ 12th straight and the 27th in their past 29 games dating to last season. Tolar was 13-1 and reached the state quarterfinals in 2022.

Over the past three seasons the Rattlers are 37-5.

Rattlers 35, Elks 7

Tolar                7  14  7  7 - 35

Stratford          0   7  0  0 - 7

T - Clayton Stembridge 11 pass from Isaac Blessing (Brooks Stone kick)

T - Garrison Nation 2 run (Stone kick)

S - 29 TD pass (kick good)

T - Matthew Behrens 47 pass from Blessing (Stone kick)

T - Blessing 1 run (Stone kick)

T - Peyton Brown 16 run (Stone kick)

Tolar leaders

Rushing: Blessing 19 carries, 108 yards, TD; Brown 16-80, TD; Nation 14-71, TD.

Passing: Blessing 3-of-5, 65 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions.

Receiving: Behrens 2 catches, 54 yards, TD; Stembridge 1-11, TD.

Class 2A Division I state final

Tolar Rattlers (14-1) vs. Timpson Bears (15-0)

Tolar regular season

Peaster                        49-9

Early                            48-14

Dallas Christian           6-37

Comanche                  41-18

Hamilton                      38-0

Coleman                     43-0

DeLeon                       44-8

Bangs                          61-6

Goldthwaite                 61-6

San Saba                    63-0


Trenton                        57-12

Cayuga                       60-0

Italy                             61-28

Marlin                          42-19

Stratford                      35-7

Timpson regular season

Beckville                     50-13

Jefferson                     48-29

Dangerfield                 33-26

Waskom                      63-12

Grapeland                   53-0

San Augustine             72-6

West Sabine                56-8

Joaquin                       69-0

Shelbyville                   61-0

Garrison                      35-26


Corrigan-Camdeen     68-7

Wolfe City                   58-20

Honey Grove              68-7

Garrison                      35-23

Ganado                       35-21


Timpson is 55-3 over the past four seasons, including a 40-0 record in the regular season and 15-3 in the playoffs. The Bears reached the state semifinals in 2020 and 2022.

Tolar is 37-5 over the past three seasons, including 10-2 in the playoffs. The Rattlers reached the quarterfinals in 2022.

Both teams rely heavily on the running game. The Rattlers are led by QB Isaac Blessing, who has rushed for over 1,100 yards and 20 TD, along with passing for 30 scores. RB Garrison Nation has over 1,000 yards and 20 TD (3 receiving) and RB Peyton Brown has 13 TD (1 receiving). Timpson is led by RB Jj Garner (146 yards per game) and QB Terry Bussey (112 yards per game rushing, over 35 TD running and throwing).

The defenses are stingy and both are adept at getting turnovers while the offense holds onto the ball. Tolar has held nine opponents to single digit scoring with four shutouts and Timpson has held eight opponents to single digit scoring with three shutouts. The Tolar defense features Drake Owens and Jaxon Riddle with over 100 tackles each, while the team has intercepted 26 passes and recovered 15 fumbles this season.