Prestonwood AJ Jayroe

Prestonwood receiver AJ Jayroe helped the Lions gain an early edge on Parish Episcopal on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers controlled the second half for a 44-24 win.

The regional round of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools football playoffs was the proverbial tale of two halves for Prestonwood Christian and John Paul II.

Despite squaring off against opponents with a combined record of 15-1, the Lions and Cardinals both held leads at halftime in their respective second-round matchups. The final two quarters authored a far different story, however, as both Prestonwood and John Paul had their seasons end at the hands of two of the best in TAPPS.

The Cardinals (3-4) had their bid for a return to the TAPPS Division I state final dashed by undefeated Fort Worth Nolan, 32-17, while the Lions’ early momentum couldn’t hold against reigning state champion Parish Episcopal, 44-24.

The two setbacks came in starkly different manners, with John Paul struggling to generate steady offense against an airtight performance by Nolan’s defense. Despite surrendering a 10 unanswered points in the first quarter, including a 16-yard touchdown run by Grant Robinson on John Paul’s opening drive, Nolan limited the Cardinals to just 161 total yards and recovered four fumbles -- including one that swayed momentum early in the third quarter.

Trailing at the break, 10-5, the Vikings seized their first lead of the afternoon after recovering a fumble in the end zone to spark a run of 27 unanswered points in the second half.

An early 10-0 lead for John Paul, which included a 31-yard field goal by Jackson Mata, promptly turned into a 32-10 deficit before the Cardinals closed out the ballgame with a 70-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Warren to Myles Parker as time expired.

Parker’s long touchdown highlighted a four-catch, 93-yard outing for the wide receiver, while Robinson ran for 99 yards and a score in his final ballgame as a Cardinal.

Prestonwood, meanwhile, built a 17-14 halftime lead against Parish before being outscored, 30-7, over the final two quarters. That included a 24-0 advantage for the Panthers in the third stanza behind three touchdown passes by quarterback Preston Stone.

The Lions punted twice and lost a fumble on a kickoff return to contribute to Parish’s third-quarter surge, which amounted to a 38-17 lead.

Early on, the advantage resided with Prestonwood, which scored on first-half touchdown runs by AJ Jayroe and Randell Holmes, plus a 21-yard field goal by Haden Tessier, to put Parish at a three-point deficit through two quarters.

The Lions totaled 326 yards in defeat, including 223 total from quarterback Maguire Martin (85 passing, 138 rushing). Derek Eusebio added five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, as Prestonwood finished the year at 4-4.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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