The casual observer probably wouldn’t have drawn the conclusion that the two teams playing at Dick Bivins Stadium on Thursday night were playing it safe knowing they had playoff berths awaiting.
That’s because they certainly didn’t play like they were secure.
In the final game of the regular season between two teams that had clinched playoff berths out of District 3-4A, Canyon and Palo Duro didn’t look like teams mailing it in to avoid injuries. In fact, they went a little bit extra.
After forcing overtime with 22 seconds left in regulation, Canyon took advantage of a goal-line fumble by Palo Duro in overtime. Four plays later, instead of opting for a chip shot field goal, Canyon’s Blake Weaver flipped a 7-yard scoring pass over the middle to Issac Garland to give the Eagles a 27-21 victory.
Because Canyon (8-2, 3-2 in district) already knew it was going to host Frenship at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 in a Class 4A Division II bidistrict playoff game, this win didn’t mean much on paper. But after last week’s 44-0 rout by Amarillo High, the Eagles needed the win for their psyche.
“It was a big win for us,” Canyon coach Blake Bryant said. “I’m not going to lie, we needed it for our confidence.”
Palo Duro (6-4, 4-2) led 21-14 with less than two minutes left and was driving down the field when the Eagles stopped the Dons at the Canyon 20-yard line. Tito Estrada came on for a 37-yard field goal which would have clinched the game, but the Eagles blocked it and took over at their own 17.
Weaver, who had missed the previous four games with a high ankle sprain, threw three straight incompletions and it came down to a final play for the Eagles. He then hit Clay Erwin for a 13-yard gain which got the ball rolling as Canyon moved to Palo Duro’s 16.
On third-and-11, Weaver flipped his second touchdown pass of the night to Graeson Cook from 16 yards out to tie the game 21-21 with 22 seconds left. Cook had a huge night with eight catches for 163 yards.
Palo Duro got the ball first in overtime and from the 16-yard line, quarterback Malik Sims scrambled and approached the goal line, but lost control of the ball and it went into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Eagles possession and needing any score to win.
Walker Horn ran for 19 yards to the 6 on the first play, but the Eagles faced a third-and-goal from the 7. Instead of going for three points, Weaver flipped a pass over the middle which Garland caught at the goal line and took in for the score to end the game.
“We were just trying to keep the ball in field goal range,” said Weaver, who threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns. “We were just trying to catch (Palo Duro) off guard.”
Palo Duro dominated the first half by a greater degree than a 13-0 advantage indicated. The Dons had twice as many yards as Canyon, but both teams had two interceptions to thwart drives.
“We had opportunities during the course of the game to put the thing away and we didn’t,” PD coach Steve Parr said. “We just didn’t make the plays at the end.”
Despite the fumble, Sims still had a big night, throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns to Joseph Taylor (who had six catches for 124 yards). Sims also led the Dons in rushing with 92 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Palo Duro will travel to Lubbock next week for the 4A Division I bidistrict game against the winner of Friday night’s Lubbock High-Lubbock Monterey game.
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Canyon 27, Palo Duro 21
Canyon 0 0 7 14 6 — 27
Palo Duro 7 6 0 8 0 — 21
PD—Joseph Taylor 7 pass from Malik Sims (Tito Estrada kick)
PD—Sims 58 run (run failed)
C—Graeson Cook 13 pass from Blake Weaver (Ryan Guevarra kick)
C—Steven Hansen 2 run (Guevarra kick)
PD—Taylor 35 pass from Sims (Anthony McLain run)
C—Cook 16 pass from Weaver (Guevarra kick)
C—Issac Garland 7 pass from Weaver
Canyon Palo Duro
First Downs 20 25
Rushing 156 216
Passing 271 240
Total yards 427 456
C-A-I 16-32-2 20-28-2
Punts 3-33.7 1-33.0
Fumbles-lost `1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-50 5-35
Rushing—Canyon: Chris Spencer 11-51, Weaver 9-27, Cade McCallie 1-2, Walker Horn 6-38, Hansen 5-18. Palo Duro: Antaun Turner 14-53, Dee Taylor 3-10, Sims 13-92, Montrel Meander 2-9, Anthony McLain 12-52.
Passing—Canyon: Weaver 16-32-2-271. Palo Duro: Sims 20-28-2-240.
Receiving—Canyon: I. Garland 4-32, Graeson Cook 8-163, Chris Spencer 1-20, Clay Erwin 1-13, Thomas Garland 2-43. Palo Duro: Manuel Monge 1-8, Meander 5-23, J. Taylor 6-124, Turner 4-37, D. Taylor 2-12, Jimaina Westmoreland 1-23, McLain 1-13.