MOUNT PLEASANT — Quinlan Ford’s record-setting football season ended on Friday at Sam Parker Field with a 17-7 loss to former state champion Pleasant Grove of Texarkana.
Injuries to key personnel and a tough Hawk defense slowed down the nation’s top rushing offense as Pleasant Grove improved to 8-5 for the season with the victory in the Class 4A-II regional round of the playoffs. The Hawks will advance to the quarterfinals to take on 12-1 Gilmer, which won its playoff game 56-35 over Van.
Ford finished the season at 12-1 after winning its first outright district football title since 1979 and advancing to the third round of the football playoffs for the first time in school history.
“They gave a great effort today,” said Ford coach Todd Wallace. “The defense played their tails off. I couldn’t ask for any more from the defense.”
Ford’s defense limited the Hawks to 265 total yards, including 236 rushing and 29 passing.
Ford defenders Marquizs Graham and Rowdy Rowan intercepted passes and Cade Whitworth recovered a Pleasant Grove fumble.
But the Ford rushing attack, which was averaging a nation’s best 495 yards per game, managed 227 yards against the Hawks. Ford didn’t complete a pass and lost three fumbles.
“The kids were just banged up,” said Wallace.
The Panthers lost their starting center to an injury and their top three rushers, Ja’Donavan Williams, Kaiden Roden and Rowdy Rowan, were limping at times.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids, being banged up,” said Wallace. “Just made too many mistakes on offense.”
Ford took the early lead, covering 22 yards in four plays following Graham’s interception. Blake Holbrook, Roden and Williams took turns running with the football before Roden finished off the drive with a 13-yard run. Roden finished the game with 100 yards on 21 carries to top the 2,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
Juan Munoz, who booted the game-winning extra point in Ford’s 35-34 area playoff win last week over Pittsburg, kicked the extra point following Roden’s touchdown.
Williams, who entered the game with 2,122 yards rushing for the season, ran for 103 yards on 19 carries.
Rowan, who missed the Panthers’ 10th game of the season with an injury, rushed for 25 yards on 14 carries. Rowan had rushed for 1,101 yards entering the game.
Running back Jaylen Boardley led the Hawks with 103 yards rushing on 14 carries, including a 21-yard touchdown run with 4:43 remaining that helped the Hawks stretch their lead to 10 points.
Pleasant Grove sophomore quarterback Ahkhari Johnson ran for 73 yards on seven carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Enrique Rios also booted a 21-yard field goal that gave Pleasant Grove a 10-7 halftime lead.
Ford failed to cash in on several promising scoring opportunities, driving from its 36 to the Hawk 26 with the opening possession but was stopped a yard short of the first down at the Hawk 23 on fourth and four.
The Panthers drove inside the Pleasant Grove 40 on another first-half possession but were backed up by a holding penalty and had to punt.
They also drove from their 33 to the Hawk 12 in the second half but lost a fumble.
A huge crowd filled up the Panthers’ home side and many stood at the end of the game to applaud the Panthers’ accomplishments this season.
Pleasant Grove won state titles in 2017 and 2019 and reached the state finals in 2018.
The Hawks have played Gilmer once this season, losing 55-14 in district play back on Nov. 5.