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Football: Katzen starts key sequence

Profile image for By Rich Luna / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Rich Luna / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

DALLAS — The clock showed 4:52 reaming in the fourth quarter and Argyle quarterback Brandon Boyzuick knew the season was on the line. So did running back Ian Sadler. So did center Hayden Hood. They knew this drive would determine whether the Eagles would continue on in the Class 3A Division II Region II football playoffs.

Leading by seven points against Gilmer in the regional semifinals Friday night at Kincaide Stadium, Argyle defensive back Colton Katzen started a chain reaction that would eventually send the Eagles into the regional final with a 45-38 victory.

Gilmer, the rival that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs last year in this same round, had just cut Argyle’s lead to 38-31 on Pablin Olivares’ 35-yard field goal. The Buckeyes had already showed they could come back, having erased a two-touchdown lead in the first half, and Argyle knew what was coming next.

Olivares and the Buckeyes attempted an onside kick. Katzen, one of 30 seniors on the roster, recovered at the Gilmer 47 with 4:52 left. The Eagles knew what they had to do from there.

“We knew we had to put points on the board or else,” said Boyzuick.

“Everyone on our team was up and encouraging,” said Argyle coach Todd Rodgers. “There was a lot of energy from all our players.”

“This was going to be our moment,” said Hood, the Eagles’ center. “Everyone on the line was ready to step up.”

Argyle, as it has all season, put the ball in the hands of its most reliable player: Sadler, the all-around standout committed to Texas Tech.

On first down, he gained two yards. He gained seven on the next play. He followed that with an outburst through the left side for a 16-yard gain and a first down. Running back Nick Ralston then got the call next and bulled his way for three yards.

On the next play, second-and-7 at the 16, Sadler broke through the left side again and raced to the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the night and gave the Eagles a 45-31 lead with 2:19 left to play.

“We were going to put the ball in the hands of our playmakers,” said Boyzuick, who had a stellar night himself, completing 10-of-18 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, and no interceptions. “We wanted to go down there and score. Hayden and the offensive line knew they had to stop up, and they did. They just opened up the holes for Ian and Nick.”

Sadler, who was held to 56 yards on 12 carries in the first half, simply would not be stopped on this drive. He protected the ball — he did have one fumble earlier in the game — and kept his leg churning.

“It was a huge drive for us,” said Sadler, who finished the night with 182 on 28 carries. “They’re [Gilmer] a good team, and we had to get that two-score lead. Our offensive line made it happen.”

Hood said the linemen confident with the game on the line. “We had it in our minds that we were going to drive down the field. No doubt,” he said.

Gilmer would make things interesting, scoring again when Kris Boyd caught a 22-yard pass from Tanner Barr with 1:35 left. Olivares again attempted an onside kick, but this time, the ball went out of bounds and the Eagles ran out the clock.

“Our kids were very determined,” said Rodgers. “This is what we have been working for all season and they executed like they had to. We weren’t perfect, but the whole group found a way to come together.”

The Eagles (13-0) now await the winner between Gainesville and Gladewater — those teams play today in Royce City — and the chance to move closer to the state final, a goal that is closer to achieving after those six running plays over 2 1/2 minutes.