ARCOLA -- On a windy day, none of the five touchdowns were scored on the ground in the Class 1A second-round playoff game at Thomas-Bradford Field. Arcola advanced with a strong defense in the opening quarter when Greenfield-Northwestern was with the wind. The Purple Riders intercepted two passes and scored on plays of 25 and 52 yards and a fourth down, as big plays helped the Purple Riders to a 23-14 win Saturday.
"We knew we would have to survive the first quarter with the wind, and being pinned down," Arcola coach Nick Lindsey said. "Our defense really stood up and were put in tough positions especially early on. The defense was really good and they were really locked on. I am really happy with how they played and all the formations we threw at them. "
Arocla ,9-2, travels to Moweaqua Nov. 16 to play Central A&M, which beat Fisher 69-34 and is 11-0.
The Purple Rider defense stopped Greenfield inside the Arcola 20 twice and inside the 30 once on the Tigers first three drives of the game.
"Having the wind ended up being a bigger factor than we anticipated," Greenfield coach Joe Pembrook said. "We missed some opportunities when we had great field position and got the ball down there in some good scoring opportunities."
Austin Hopkins still got his yardage, with 16 carries for 72 yards, and Diego Perez still had three catches for 20 yards and a touchdown. Kacee Moore and Ivan Garza, who together had combined for 10 catches all season, scored the other two TDS.
Arcola led 10-0 at the half and 16-6 in the fourth quarter when the Purple Riders put the game away with a 35-yard scoring drive that took six plays. The drive started at the 35 after a 20-yard punt return by Pedro Leal. Hopkins had the first three carries for 35 yards. The Purple Riders scored on a 25-yard pass from Beau Jones to Ivan Garza over the middle for the touchdown. Ivan Franco added the point after for a 23-6 lead with 7:14 left.
"Whenever coach calls me out I know we are going to do something big and so I just got my mindset ready for anything," Garza said. "I heard him say that the pass was going to be to me. I just focused on the play and scored. It means a lot to score in a playoff game. I do my job so my team can success overall. Whenever I need to step up to the plate I try and execute it because I trust them and they can trust me to help win the game."
It looked like the Purple Riders would go up even more after an interception by Beau Edwards, who returned it 18 yards to the Greenfield 22. Arcola had the ball inside the 1-yard line on second down and the Greenfield defense, one that allowed an average of 13.7 points per game, stopped Arcola.
"Defense has always been our calling card," Pembrook said. "We take great pride in being able to stop people. They have a dynamic offense and I think that stand shows the kind of pride our kids play with. It was looking bleak when you are down by three scores with five or six minutes left. I told them the only way we have a chance is if we hold them out. I thought we had a nice goal line stand and credit our kids for battling all the way to the end."
The Purple Rider played looser on defense with time winding down and Greenfield capped a nine play, 90-yard scoring drive with a 16-yard pass form quarterback Jacob Lansaw to Colin Grummel. Brady Pembrook caught the two-point conversion pass with 2:03 left for the final points of the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Arcola took over on its own 29 after stopping the Tigers on a fourth-and-3 from Purple Riders 29 as a pass fell incomplete. Hopkins picked up a first down on a six-yard run and three plays later, Kacee Moore caught a short pass from Jones and went racing down the sidelines for a 52-yard pass play for a touchdown.
"It was a stop route to Kacee and he broke a tackle," Lindsey said. "Kacee is not someone who gets a lot of targets, but we took advantage of the opportunity we got, which was single coverage. We were just trying to get the first down and he broke the tackle and scored."
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Moore entered the game seven catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns.
"It felt amazing," said Moore. "I saw him fall down on the ground and I knew it was off to the races. It felt really good to score in the game."
Jed Jones picked off a pass and returned it 11 yards to the Tigers' 14 and it looked like Arcola would score a touchdown again. Two running plays netted three yards, and after an incomplete pass, Franco booted a 27-yard field goal with 6:11 left in the half for a 10-0 lead.
"Getting the field goal was big to make it a two-possession game and get a little cushion, especially with the way our defense was playing," said Lindsey. "That is playoff football you have to get points when you can."
After the Tigers' first three drives, they didn't get past their own 30 on the next five.
On the Tigers' first drive, they got down to the 12, but a run play didn't gain any yards and three incomplete passes turned the ball over. The second drive saw them get to the 10. Three running plays resulted in a loss of five and the fourth down pass fell incomplete. The third possession had Greenfield at the 35 when they lost five on the first play a gain of 12 on a pass and two incomplete passes saw the Tigers turn the ball over on downs.
"We did a good job of simplifying things and made sure we read our keys so we would be comfortable and play fast," said Hugo Garza, a 6-2, 280 all-state lineman. "Our defensive line did a good job and our outside force players did a good job of reading their keys and making sure we didn't leave our gaps."
Arcola's average starting field position was the Greenfield 46, while Tigers drives averaged starting at their own 30.
Garza is happy to be moving on: "I am just trying to follow in my brother (Ray Garza)'s footsteps as he was on the 2015 team."
Jones was 7-of-16 for 109 yards and three touchdowns to three different players.
Lansaw was 17-of-33 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, while Arcola's defense held the Tigers to minus-1 yard on 24 carries.
"Credit Arcola they did a good job and made a few more plays than we did," Pembrook said. "Good luck to them moving forward. They had a lot of size and physicality that we struggled with up front. They took a lot of what we wanted to do out of the I-formation, which also takes away some of our play-action passing."
Arcola is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015 and 17th time overall.
"It definitely means a lot," Garza said. "We have thought about it for a long time. Getting past the second round, iit's something we have not been able to do in a while."
Greenfield loses just six seniors and reached the second-round appearance for the first time since 2009.
"We are very proud of the mark that the seniors left on our program," Pembrook said. "We do have enough young kids that got a lot valuable experience this year and it is our goal to get back and go to work and hopefully have great opportunities in 2020."