By: Derek Ray Johnson/Texas Redzone Report
STEPHENVILLE–Tuscola Jim Ned entered Thursday night’s Class 3A, D1, Region 1 final against Pilot Point just one week removed from its thrilling quarterfinal win over previously No. 1 state-ranked Brock. Tuscola Jim Ned picked up where they left off last week as running back Xavier Wishert accounted for five touchdowns to lead the Indians to a convincing, 45-28 win over Pilot Point.
Tuscola Jim Ned (12-2) got on the board early in the first quarter as they faced a fourth-and-goal at the Pilot Point two yard-line. Wishert flashed a burst of speed and got around the right edge for the score to give Jim Ned an early, 7-0 lead.
Pilot Point (10-4) immediately answered with a score of their own as Jay Cox found an opening on the right side and outran everyone to the corner for a 15-yard score to tie the game, 7-7. It would be all Tuscola Jim Ned after that.
Tuscola Jim Ned immediately snatched away the momentum from Pilot Point on the ensuing kickoff when Wishert found a crease and put on the jets for an 89-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 14-7 lead.
Pilot Point failed to capitalize a fourth-and-four at the Tuscola Jim Ned 16 yard-line on their next drive then the Indians marched all the way down the field and added a short touchdown run by Wishert. Tuscola Jim Ned tacked on a field goal just before halftime to give the Indians a comfortable 24-7 lead at the break.
Any thought of a Pilot Point second half comeback was quickly put to rest when Wishert punched in his fourth touchdown of the game by hopping over a pair of defenders for a 5-yard touchdown to give Tuscola Jim Ned a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Pilot Point answered with a score of their own to cut the deficit to 31-14 but once again Tuscola Jim Ned had an answer as Wishert found the end zone for the fifth time in the contest. Wishert struck paydirt as he exploded through a hole at the line then outraced everyone down the middle of the field for a 73-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 38-14 lead.
Pilot Point didn’t go away quietly as they tried to keep within shouting distance of the Indians. Max Hollar tossed a 32-yard scoring strike to Avery Harris, who made an acrobatic catch between a couple of defenders as the Bearcats trimmed the lead to 38-21 late in the third quarter.
Tuscola Jim Ned cemented the victory when Tate Yardley tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Zach Henderson to give the Indians a 45-21 lead. Pilot Point added a late score to close out the scoring but this night belonged to the Tuscola Jim Ned Indians who will now face the winner of Friday night’s Malakoff-Mt. Vernon contest for the right to go to the state title game.