Tiger ground game dominates in 49-14 win

Photo by David Kapitan
Jaquez Thompson hauls in a 41-yard completion against Canton’s Justice Collier during District 7-4A play at Norris Birdwell Stadium.

Two longtime rivals met on the gridiron at Norris Birdwell Stadium Oct. 26 as the injury-plagued Canton Eagles played host to the Wills Point Tigers. Powered by the dynamic running game and an improving defense, Wills Point seized control early against Canton to build a 28-0 lead en route to a 49-14 win over the Eagles. 

Canton opened play on offense against the Tigers, taking possession of the ball at their own 28-yard line following the opening kickoff.

Led by Chris Hobbs, making his first start at quarterback due to injury, Canton picked up three first downs to reach the 29-yard line of the Tigers. Despite the positive momentum, the drive would eventually result in a turnover on downs after a negative running play, a short gain on second down and back-to-back incomplete passes.

Demontre Hill would be a huge factor on Wills Point’s first drive of the night, carrying the ball three times for 79 yards including a 59-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers in front for good. Justin Perez successfully converted the PAT to give Wills Point a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Canton’s second offensive series of the night would be much less successful than the first with the Eagles picking up just five yards in three plays before being forced to punt the ball back to the Tigers.

Despite a solid Chris Hobbs punt that pinned Wills Point back at their own 7-yard line, the Tigers would strike quickly for their second score of the night. Wills Point flipped the field on their first play as Demontre Hill connected with Jaquez Thompson on a 41-yard completion to put the ball just shy of midfield. On the very next play, Hill broke through the left side of the Canton defense for a 52-yard touchdown run. With the Perez PAT, Wills Point led 14-0 with 3:14 left in the quarter.

Runs by Chris Cade and Chris Hobbs helped the Eagles pick up a first down on their next offensive series but the Tiger defense continued their strong play from the previous week by forcing and recovering a Canton fumble on their fourth play from scrimmage to return possession to the Wills Point offense.

The Tigers would open the drive with a 20-yard strike from Hill to Cameron Penney and an 11-yard completion from Hill to Jaquez Thompson on a wide receiver screen to push the ball oto the Eagle 7-yard line. Three plays later Hill broke through the Canton defense for his third touchdown of the night to give the Tigers a 20-0 lead with 11:55 left in the half. Canton would break through to block the ensuing PAT.

Neither team could break through on the scoreboard throughout the rest of the second quarter as the Tigers and Eagles traded possession.

Canton started the run by marching from their own 34-yard line to the Tiger nine-yard line in nine plays. The drive would stall out from there however with consecutive incomplete passes and a seven-yard loss on fourth down returning the ball to Wills Point.

The Tigers would get another huge run from Demontre Hill, this one for 36 yards, to move to their own 43-yard line. Canton’s defense would stiffen there, allowing just seven yards on the next four plays to force their own turnover on downs.

Completioin from Chris Hobbs to both Jon Anderson and Braden Hawkins once again pushed the ball deep into Wills Point territory before another strong stand by the Tiger defense forced a third consecutive turnover on downs at the 13-yard line.

Wills Point ran out the final two minutes of the opening half from there, running five plays to push the ball into Canton territory before the buzzer sounded.

The Tigers found their scoring groove once again on their first possession of the third quarter, breaking the run of scoreless play by marching 63 yards in seven plays for another touchdown. Big plays on the drive included a 43-yard run by Hill on a fourth down and four play and a one-yard keeper by Hill for the touchdown. Josh Davis successfully converted the two-point conversion attempt to push the Wills Point lead to 28-0 less than four minutes into the third quarter.

Canton answered Wills Point’s opening drive touchdown in the third quarter with one of their own, getting a 27-yard return from Chris Cade on the Tiger kickoff to start their possession just shy of midfield. Cade continued his strong play with a 12-yard run on first down to move to the Tiger 40-yard line before Chris Hobbs found an open Cooper Smith for a 13-yard completion.

After a five-yard loss on first down, Chris Hobbs connected with Smith again for a 32-yard strike in the middle of the field for a touchdown. Justice Collier added the PAT to pull Canton to within 28-7.

Wills Point managed to keep Canton at arms length, following up Canton’s quick score with a 12-play, 48-yard drive for another touchdown. The Tigers got carries from multiple players on the drive, including three from Justin Perez, two from Stephon Bradley, two from Demontre Hill and one each from Savion Kellum and Preston Binder. Binder provided the capper scoring from one-yard out and Perez knocked home the PAT for a 35-7 lead with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

After forcing a Canton punt, Wills Point returned to the offensive with another lengthy scoring drive that spanned nine plays and 67 yards. Savion Kellum would end the drive with a three-yard score and Perez added his fifth PAT of the game to make the score 42-7 with 7:42 left in the game.

Canton scored its final points of the night on the ensuing drive, getting three carries for 26 yards from Chris Cade, including a four-yard touchdown run with 6:33 to play. Justice Collier provided the PAT to cut the Eagle deficit down to 42-14.

Following a 27-yard kick return by Klatyon Spencer on a short kickoff by the Eagles, the Tigers wrapped scoring with a five-play, 35-yard scoring drive. Markethian Lyons ended the sequence, rushing the ball in from five yards out for a touchown. Justin Perez split the uprights on his PAT attempt to push the score to 49-14 with 4:23 to play.

Playing just over three quarters, Demontre Hill finished play against Canton with 19 carries for 293 yards and four touchdowns rushing while also completing 7/12 passes for an additional 115 yards.

Justin Perez totaled 11 carries for 51 yards, Savion Kellum totaled five carries for 28 yards and a TD, Preston Binder totaled three carries for eight yards and a TD, and Markethian Lyons with one carry for five yards and a TD.

Jaquez Thompson led all Tiger receivers with four catches for 74 yards, Josh Davis added two catches for 21 yards, Cameron Penney caught one pass for 20 yards and Seth Resnick caught one pass for six yards.

Defensive leaders for the Tigers included Savion Kellum with 13 tackles, Jaden Huff with nine tackles and a sack, Preston Binder and Aaron Hardman with seven tackles each, Ethan Stewart with six tackles and a sack, and Markethian Lyons with five tackles.

Wills Point, 5-3 overall including 2-1 in District 7-4A play, will now have the opportunity to rest and recover from any lingering injuries this week before closing out the regular season against Rusk in a game that will likely determine this year’s district championship. The Rusk Eagles, 2-6 overall including 2-0 in district play, will be at home this week (Nov. 2) to take on the Canton Eagles.