Mares' Tigers (7-4) held on for a 23-13 Class 2A, Division I bi-district victory over Santa Rosa in Kingsville on Friday night and now face the McGregor Bulldogs (10-1) in the area playoffs today in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Bastrop's Memorial Stadium.
“When you get to this level, all the teams are good,” Mares said after Friday night's victory. “We just have to go back to work next week.”
McGregor needed a pair of touchdowns in the final 2:34 of the game to secure its 42-20 win over Rice Consolidated (3-7) on Friday. Running back Garrett Salas rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns Friday, while quarterback Troy Allison passed for 197 yards and a TD.
McGregor's only loss this season came on Oct. 18 in a 55-13 setback to defending state champion Cameron Yoe.
The Tigers struck early and never trailed Santa Rosa to gain their first playoff win since 1997.
“Offensively and defensively, the kids played well,” Mares said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. The defensive coaches and offensive coaches all got together and the kids just jumped right in the middle of it.”
The District 15-2A, Division I fourth-place Tigers were led by quarterback Dalton Sturm, who had touchdown runs of 3, 7 and 11 yards. The Tiger defense limited the District 16-2A, Division I champion Warriors to only seven first downs and 147 total yards.
Matthew Haney set up Goliad’s first touchdown by blocking Santa Rosa’s punt on the Warriors' first possession. With 9:07 remaining in the first quarter, Sturm, who rushed for 135 yards on 33 carries, scored from the 3-yard line to put the Tigers up 6-0. Joseph Burns’ 2-point run made it 8-0.
Goliad jumped out to a 16-0 lead when Sturm scored on a 7-yard keeper with 9:32 left in the second quarter and Burns added another 2-point run.
But Wally Olivarez’s 75-yard return of the ensuing kickoff pulled the Warriors within 16-7 with 9:20 to go before halftime.
Goliad then marched downfield again for Sturm’s 11-yard touchdown with 5:26 remaining until intermission that built the Tigers’ lead to 23-7.
After a scoreless third quarter, Santa Rosa quarterback Adrian Canales threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Arnold Galvan with 10:24 left in the game as the Warriors closed the gap to 23-13.
But the Tiger defense, which kept Canales scrambling all night, never threatened again.
Goliad had 327 yards of offense and didn’t turn the ball over the entire game.
“We preached all week that the excuse you make or the mistakes you make this week will cause to go back and that’s what we believed in all week,” Mares said.
The winner of the Goliad-McGregor match will face the Hallettsville-Jourdanrton winner.