Beavers win Region IV title, advance to state semifinals
Austen Camber (21) returns a kick during Falls City’s 29-7 win over Burton in the Region IV final. Camber took the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to put the Beavers on top early.
Falls City 29
CONVERSE -- For the third time in as many years, the Falls City Beavers and Burton Panthers met in the state quarterfinals, as the two teams collided in Converse last Friday night. The game was also the Region IV championship, and the Beavers exacted a little revenge for last season, knocking off the Panthers, 29-7. The win gives Falls City the Region IV crown, and more importantly, a trip to the state semifinals.
The already electric atmosphere at Judson ISD’s Rutledge Stadium was immediately intensified, as Falls City junior Austen Camber took the game’s opening kickoff 80 yards for a Beaver touchdown. The play took just 16 seconds off the clock, while putting 6 big points on the board. Senior Cody Jendrusch then booted the extra point, and Beaver Nation proudly celebrated a 7-0 lead.
Things settled down a bit from there, but the Burton crowd found a lot to cheer about late in the first quarter as Juwan Mathis ran across the goal line from 2 yards out. He kicked his own extra point, and things were all knotted up at 7-all.
The Beavers got the ball back and wasted little time, moving down the field and finding themselves deep in Panther territory to start the second quarter of play. Falls City needed just one play of the second quarter to score, as senior quarterback Cameron Soto connected with junior wide receiver Dean Gaskamp for 7 yards and the score. Jendrusch kicked the point-after, and the Beavers were back on top, 14-7.
The great battle continued to rage, and the Beaver defense held strong. As time wound down in the half, it looked as though Burton would again tie things up. An apparent touchdown by the Panthers was called back, however, prompting one Beaver fan to jokingly say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” As the second quarter clock wound down to zero, the score stood at 14-7 in favor of Falls City.
Burton got the ball to start the second half, though the Panthers were unable to yield any points on their first second-half possession. The teams were scoreless throughout most of the third quarter, but that changed in the final seconds as Soto and Gaskamp reconnected.
The touchdown strike with 37 seconds to play in the third quarter started at the 22-yard line. For the tandem, it was their second score of the night, but for the Beavers, it meant a 20-point lead. The Beavers lined up for the extra point, but a high snap forced sophomore holder Cody Houdmann to run the ball in for a 2-point conversion, making the score 22-7.
After another set of possession exchanges, and another nearly scoreless quarter of football, the Beavers put a little insurance on the board. From just shy of midfield, with just over two minutes to play in the game, Soto found running room on a quarterback keeper and raced 52 yards past the Burton defense for the Beavers’ fourth touchdown of the game. Jendrusch put the ball through the uprights, and things were over, as Falls City rolled on to a 29-7 victory.
On paper, the Panthers actually picked up 40 additional yards over the Beavers, but a tenacious Beaver defense picked off two Burton passes, and helped force three fumbles on the night. The Panthers were also penalized 12 times for 72 yards, often hurting their offensive efforts.
Soto once again led the Beaver offense with 152 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Phillip Lyssy ran eight times for 79 yards on the night, and Jon Swierc had nine touches for 47 yards. Soto completed five passes during the game for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Gaskamp was the team’s leading receiver with three grabs for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Lyssy caught a pass for 11 yards, and Royce Leonhardt caught another that was good for 3 yards.
Junior linebacker Eric Wiatrek once again led the Beaver defense, racking up 23 tackles on the night. Senior Colton Beam tallied 15 in the game, and fellow senior Dylan Cheatham was good for another 11. Camber had nine tackles, and Gaskamp pulled down both Beaver interceptions.
The Beavers are now 11-2, and stand, once again, as the Region IV champs. Falls City will now advance to the state semifinals, where the team will face the Tenaha Tigers. The game is scheduled for this Friday, Dec. 14, at the Berry Stadium in Cypress. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.