By John Balch
The Murfreesboro Rattlers advanced to the second round of the state Class 2A playoffs by holding off the Lavaca Golden Arrows, 38-30, and this Friday night will host the Earle Bulldogs on Holloway Field.
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs were the second-place finisher in 3-2A with an overall record of 6-3. The Bulldogs improved to 7-3 Friday and advanced to Round 2 with a 28-7 win that ended the season for Rattler foes, the Dierks Outlaws.
The Rattlers got off to a quick start Friday night on their home field to open the game but were shutdown inside the Lavaca 10 when a pass was broken up by a Lavaca defender in the endzone. The Golden Arrows took over at their own 6 and mounted a 17-play drive that consumed most of the first quarter and ended with an 8-0 Lavaca lead.
The Rattlers responded by launching a 75-yard drive that spilled over into the second quarter and relied heavily on the feet of quarterback Ryan Roberts and Gavin Gardner. Gardner got the Rattlers on the board with 11:23 left in the first half with a 13-yard run but the two-point play failed to set the score at 8-6.
The Golden Arrows came right back and quickly found the endzone in five plays. QB Janson Graves hit Ryan Dockery for a 30-yard TD pass and the two-point play was good for a 16-6 lead at the 9:15 mark.
The Rattlers hit the endzone even quicker on their next drive when Roberts connected with Cameron Snowden on the first play and the senior raced 62 yards for the score. Troy Stone pulled in the two-point pass to cut the Lavaca lead to 16-14 with 9:01 left in the first half.
After trading punts on the next possession, the Golden Arrows were aimed at the endzone when Rattler J.C. Motley intercepted a pass nine plays into the drive. The pick set the Rattlers up at their own 45 with 2:43 on the clock.
Gardner followed the Rattler line into Lavaca territory but the drive stalled when Snowden fumbled the ball away at the 20 with 1:15 left in the half. The Golden Arrows’ next drive was also cut short when Roberts pulled in an interception and the Rattlers took over at the Lavaca 20.
Murfreesboro’s first play from scrimmage was a pass to Snowden and proved to be a controversial play that resulted in some of the Lavaca faithful being escorted from the stadium. Snowden pulled in the pass and fumbled when he was immediately hit. The bang-bang play appeared to some to be an incomplete pass, but Gardner scooped up the ball and darted in for the score. Motley pulled in the two-point pass to give the Rattlers a 22-16 lead with 5.1 seconds left in the half.
The Rattler defense opened the second half by forcing a Lavaca punt but a roughing the kicker call kept the drive alive and the visitors covered 75 yards in 12 plays to tie the game at 22-22.
Lavaca’s defense also started the second half by forcing a punt to set their offense up at the Lavaca 35. Despite allowing the Golden Arrows to convert on fourth down, the Rattler defense forced another punt but were soon back on the field after a quick three-and-out from their offense.
Lavaca got on the move as the game clock clicked over to the fourth quarter with the score standing at 22-22. The drive was again cut short when Motley collected his second interception of the night to set the Rattlers up at their own 46 with 11:52 left in the game. Murfreesboro covered the 54 yards to the endzone in six plays and Gardner scored from 26 yards out and then carried in the two-point play to put the Rattlers up 30-22 with 10:19 on the clock.
The Rattler defense threw up a wall on the next drive and gave their offense the ball back four plays later at the Rattler 31. Seven plays into the drive, the Rattlers were in punt formation when Lavaca drew a roughing the kicker call to keep the drive alive. The drive was killed on the next play when the Rattlers fumbled the ball away at their own 45 with 6:27 left in the game.
The Golden Arrows turned the mistake into points with a nine-play drive and a two-point play that tied the score at 30-30 with 2:23 left in the game.
After a short kick, the Rattlers took over at the Lavaca 47. On the second play, Gardner again followed the line through the Lavaca defense and scored from 43 yards out and then added the two-point run for a 38-30 lead with 1:49 left in the game.
Lavaca’s last attempt started at their own 36 with 1:40 on the clock. The drive quickly ended when Rattler Chris French pulled in an interception with less than a minute left in the game. A few plays later and Roberts had the offense in the “V” formation and took a knee on the 38-30 win.
The Rattlers closed out the game with 336 yards of offense with 243 on the ground and 93 passing yards. Roberts hit five of 12 passes and two touchdowns and no interceptions. Snowden led the Rattler receivers with two catches for 77 yards and one TD. Motley had one catch for 15 yards and Gardner’s one catch of the game was good for a seven-yard TD. Bryle Fatheree also had one catch .
Gardner led the rushing game with 19 carries for 168 yards and three TDs followed by Roberts with 10 carries for 43 yards. Snowden added 30 yards to the 243 total.
Motley, Snowden, Jarrett Faulkner and Scott Evans all had big nights on defense and registered solo/assist tackles in the double digits. Also earning the Rattler tackle chart were Tyler Tomlinson, Andrew Keeny, Stone, French, Roberts, Adam Jackson, Michael Hughes, Zayne Flaherty, Gardner, Ethan Pickett, Cody Nolen, Wyatt Van Camp, Nathan Libranda and Laramie Beshears.
The Golden Arrows put up 331 yards of offense with 261 rushing yards and 70 from the pass. QB Graves led the team with 29 carries for 162 yards and two TDs followed by Dockery with 20 carries for 119 yards and one TD.