It didn’t matter if Argyle had the wind at its back or the wind at its face — it was going to score.
The Eagles scored 21 points with the wind in the first quarter Friday, and 21 points against the wind later, to steamroll Melissa 42-14 in a Class 3A Division II area-round game at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
The Eagles (11-1) will face Gilmer or Atlanta in a regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mesquite’s Memorial Stadium.
The win was the 100th career victory for Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers. A stiff north wind blew throughout the contest, and Rodgers broke with his tradition of taking the football when the Eagles win the coin toss. The Eagles deferred, meaning they would have the win at their backs in the first and fourth quarters.
“With the wind I felt it would impact the game, and I felt it was real important to defer,” Rodgers said.
He was right. The Eagles scored 21 first-quarter points with the wind and established their running game with Nick Ralston and Ian Sadler. Ralston finished with 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Sadler had 85 yards and three touchdowns.
The wind made field position a factor. Melissa tied the game at 7 on a 34-yard touchdown run by Marcus Ellis with 7:01 left in the first quarter. The Cardinals (9-3) kicked off into the wind and the ball hung up, with Argyle fielding it at its own 43. Six plays later, Ralston scored from 4 yards out to make it 14-7.
On the ensuing drive, Melissa failed to move the chains and had to punt. The Cardinals’ punt went 5 yards, giving the Eagles exceptional field position at the Cardinal 23. Four plays later, Sadler dove in from a yard out to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 2:41 left in the first.
The wind “did impact the momentum at the start of the game,” Rodgers said.
Melissa answered with a 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Smith to wide receiver Jackson Webb near the end of the first quarter. That cut the Eagle lead to 21-14, but the Eagles seemed firmly in control.
That’s because the Eagles scored their final three touchdowns of the game against the wind, including Sadler’s 11-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the second quarter to give Argyle a 28-14 lead. Sadler kept that drive moving with a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from the Argyle 41. Sadler’s 9-yard run moved the chains and resulted from his and Rodgers’ wink-and-nod philosophy when it comes to fake punts.
“He gives me a free-wheeling zone where I can fake it if we seal the edge,” Sadler said. “Since it was fourth and 1, I told him, ‘Hey I’m probably going to run it here,’ and he said, ‘Your choice.’ I took a few extra steps than I normally would and they sealed the edge, so I went for the first down.”
By that point Argyle had established its running game, and it finished with 290 rushing yards.
Melissa did manage to do something to the Argyle defense that no team had done since Dallas Madison in week 6 — score in double digits. The Eagles gave up 14 points, constituting a scoring binge against an air-tight unit that recorded two district shutouts and a playoff shutout in its previous five games.
Argyle gave up 349 yards, but 104 of those came on Melissa’s two scoring plays, and once Argyle solved Melissa’s underneath passing game, the Eagles shut down the Cardinals’ air attack. Cardinal quarterbacks went a combined 8-of-28, and Argyle shut out the Cardinals for the final three quarters of the game.
“We felt that Melissa hadn’t been hit that hard since they’ve been playing [in 3A], so we decided to let our defense go out there first and set the tone for us, and it did,” Sadler said.
The Argyle defense did take one major hit when cornerback Connor Wilson — the team’s leader in interceptions — took a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter and spent several minutes lying on the turf. Wilson could move his arms, but Argyle trainers held his left leg in the air — even as training staff and paramedics loaded Wilson onto a backboard and then onto a stretcher.
Rodgers said it was a hip injury and Wilson would be watched closely for the next 48 hours.
Argyle 42, Melissa 14
Melissa 14 0 0 0 — 14
Argyle 21 7 14 0 — 42
A — Ian Sadler 62 pass from Brandon Boyzuick (Cole Hedlund kick)
M — Marcus Ellis 34 run (Javier Contreras kick)
A — Nick Ralston 4 run (Hedlund kick)
A — Sadler 1 run (Hedlund kick)
M — Jackson Webb 71 pass from Chris Smith (Contreras kick)
A — Sadler 11 run (Hedlund kick)
A — Sadler 34 run (Hedlund kick)
A — Ralston 38 run (Hedlund kick)
First Downs 13 17
Rushing-yards 36-168 46-290
Passing yards 181 94
Passing 8-28-0 5-11-0
Punts-avg. 6-24.17 4-51.75
Penalties 6-40 3-25
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
RushinG — A: Nick Ralston 23-159, Ian Sadler 11-85, Chance Bode 4-37, Jon Pucciarello 1-7, Brayden Helliker 3-3, Brandon Boyzuick 2-1, Stat Team 2-(-2). M: Marcus Ellis 14-76, Chris Smith 10-57, Kyle Morgan 7-38, Cameron Hunter 2-9, Zach Torres 3-(-12).
Passing — A: Brandon Boyzuick 5-11-0-94. M: Chris Smith 7-21-0-144, Zach Torres 1-7-0-37.
Receiving — A: Ian Sadler 3-88, Chance Bode 2-6. M: Brass Woods 3-75, Jackson Webb 1-71, J C Cottrell 1-22, Cameron Hunter 2-18, Chris Smith 1-(-5).
Denton Record-Chronicle/Al Key
Argyle’s Ian Sadler stiff-arms Melissa’s Marcus Ellis during a Class 3A playoff game Friday at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex. Argyle won 42-14.