Written by SportsDayDFW.com
After costly fumble in 1st OT, Lancaster capitalizes on 2nd chance and advances to first state-title game in school history
JUSTIN – Quarterback Demarcus Ayers ran for a 3-yard touchdown in the second overtime, and the Lancaster defense held on to beat Wichita Falls Rider, 26-19, in a Class 4A Division II state semifinal on Friday.
Lancaster advances to face the winner between Manor and Cedar Park in the state championship next weekend at Cowboys Stadium.
Lancaster (14-1) had never been past the third round of the playoffs and will be playing for its first state title.
“We’re some fighters,” Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert said. “We’re fighters. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Rider had a chance to answer after Ayers’ touchdown in the second overtime, but the Lancaster defense came up big as it had all night.
After a pair of short runs, Rider quarterback Chase London threw two incomplete passes to end the game.
Lancaster had a chance to win in the first overtime. With first and goal near the the goal line, Derrick Leonard fumbled as he surged into the end zone. Rider (12-3) recovered to force another overtime period.
“That was chaos,” Gilbert said. “But we’re here. We got a do-over and the kids were resilient. Nothing shakes them.”
Ayers finished the game with 166 passing yards and two touchdowns. Nick Harvey caught one of those two touchdowns to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
Facing fourth and 11 from the Rider 18, Ayers connected with Harvey across the middle, sending the Lancaster fans into a frenzy.
Lancaster kicker Brent Griffin, who hadn’t made an extra-point kick in two previous tries, made the point after to tie the game. Rider was unable to score on its final drive.
The game-tying drive followed a costly interception by Ayers. Lancaster got the ball back with a one-point lead and 6:38 to go.
Three plays into the series Ayers’ errant pass landed in the hands of Rider defensive back Fred Williams, who returned the ball to the 2-yard line.
Rider took a 19-12 lead on the next play when Carlos Fleeks ran for a 2-yard touchdown.
Lancaster’s defense gave up only 219 yards. London completed 50 percent of his passes and threw for just 39 yards.
“Defense is really what wins these tough kinds of games,” Gilbert said. “When you’re playing for a chance at the state title, you expect that. The state-freaking-title. I’m at a loss for words.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.