In what was expected to be a high scoring shootout between two teams that have averaged over 40 points a game, Rockwall-Heath’s defense forced eight Ennis turnovers, defensive back Darius Jones intercepted two passes plus recovered a fumble, and the undefeated Hawks squeaked by the Lions, 17-14, in a Class 4A Division II Region II semi-final game played today at Texas Stadium.
Hawks senior running back Kendial Lawrence injured his right shoulder during the first half and saw limited playing time in the second half, but still rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries, scoring one touchdown on a five-yard run up the middle in the second quarter.
He returned during the fourth quarter and rushed several times, although he did appear to favor his shoulder.
But backup junior running back Jesse Irokwe broke loose for two long runs of 36 and 34 yards in the third quarter, to set up Everitt Gilbert’s game-winning TD on a 5-yard run around left end.
Irokwe rushed for 92 yards on just eight carries and made a huge difference, substituting for Lawrence. Gilbert rushed for 49 yards on 15 carries.
Reliable Hawks kicker Brad Howes kicked two PATs, plus a 29-yard field goal in the first quarter, which turned out to be the difference in points.
The Hawks led at halftime 10-7, but couldn’t quite get its offense into high gear, but the story of the day was the Hawks defense.
Time and time again the defense stopped the high-powered Ennis offense by causing five and recovering four fumbles, intercepting four passes and batting down several more passes.
The first four times that Ennis had the ball, they marched down the field only to lose the ball to fumbles which Heath recovered.
On their fifth drive, the Hawks’ Jones intercepted in the end zone.
Heath’s mighty defense also put up a terrific goal line stand in the third quarter, stopping Ennis four times at the one-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Ennis had two sustained drives going, but neither resulted in points because Hawk defenders intercepted Lion’s star quarterback B.J. Betik each time.
Although Betik injured his shoulder briefly in the second quarter, he returned to complete 20 of 36 passes for 266 yards, including nine to the Area’s leading receiver, Kyle Guinyard, for 92 yards.
But on fourth and four near the Hawk’s 40-yard line, with 20-seconds left in the game, Betig launched his last pass of the game, which Jones intercepted, stepping in front of Guinyard.
Heath then ran one play, running out the clock, when quarterback Drew Hollingshead took a knee.
Next week, in its first year in the playoffs, Rockwall-Heath will play in the Class 4A Division II Region II final against the winner of the Dennison (12-0) -Sulphur Springs (10-2) game, being played tonight.
We’ll post the score of that game tomorrow.