FRISCO — Winners of the past two Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Division I state championships, the Parish Episcopal football team has made a habit of dialing up its level of play in the postseason.
And although Prestonwood Christian managed to draw some positives from its play early on during its Oct. 8 district matchup against the Panthers, Saturday’s playoff rematch from The Ford Center at The Star took on a starkly different tone.
Parish found the end zone three times in the first quarter, including twice in a 54-second span, to fuel a 49-24 rout of Prestonwood in the TAPPS regional playoffs.
It was hardly the start that Prestonwood anticipated in its pursuit of unseating the two-time defending state champions.
Although the Lions ultimately wound up on the wrong end of a 35-10 defeat in their October meeting with Parish, they managed to hold the Panthers to just seven points in the first half before running back Andrew Paul erupted for four rushing touchdowns over the final two quarters.
Paul and the Panthers didn’t wait nearly as long to find their footing on Saturday. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, Paul took his first carry to the house for a 59-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 53 seconds into the ballgame.
It was an eerie case of foreshadowing for the Lions’ defense, who struggled to slow Parish’s star running back all game. He finished with 323 yards and six touchdowns, finding the end zone again on runs of 19, 78, 49, 12 and 36 yards — his 49-yard scamper coming with 9:16 left in the third quarter and staking Parish to the same 35-10 margin it enjoyed in victory from its first meeting with Prestonwood.
“We knew coming in that he was who we would have to stop and we just didn’t do it. We didn’t even come close,” said Chris Cunningham, Prestonwood head coach. “Give credit to them and that offense. We just couldn’t get him slowed him. I think our offense did a better job moving the ball than last time, but that was tough.”
The Lions were initially game early on — despite the rapid-fire drive from Parish, Prestonwood countered with a more methodical, 13-play series capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from junior Jaden Lindsay that knotted the count at 7-7.
The Lions had several other chances to make it interesting, partly due to Parish miscues. Although the Panthers didn’t punt on Saturday, they afforded some slack for Prestonwood thanks to two non-contact turnovers.
After finding the end zone on their first three drives, the Panthers’ fourth series hit a snag after the football squirted out of quarterback Sawyer Anderson’s hand while winding back to pass. One series later, Paul fumbled the ball forward shortly after receiving a handoff. Both times, Prestonwood senior Jake Franklin was there for the recovery.
The Lions only converted one of those takeaways into points, pulling within 21-10 with 8:07 left in the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal by junior Troop O’Neal. Prestonwood had two more chances at points during the first half but missed on a pair of 39-yard field goals.
“There was a point where I felt like had we scored a touchdown — we missed a couple field goals — but there were chances to get within a score or two,” Cunningham said. “We just didn’t get those, and in a game like this, you’ve got to take advantage of every single opportunity you get. If you don’t, you’ll only get further and further behind.”
Junior quarterback Maguire Martin led Prestonwood in both passing (256 yards) and rushing (93) and totaled two touchdowns. Both came in the fourth quarter, scored less than 90 seconds apart. The signal-caller ran in a 4-yard score with 8:20 remaining in the ballgame and, following a recovered onside kick, hooked up with junior Coco Escheik for a 9-yard touchdown that made it 42-24 with 7:04 to go.
Junior Nate Stafford was the centerpiece of a screen-heavy passing attack, catching 15 balls for 147 yards in the loss.
Prestonwood closed out its 2021 campaign at 7-5 overall — qualifying for at least the second round of the TAPPS playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.
“I’m so proud of our seniors and proud of the season,” Cunningham said. “We talked about becoming more because of this experience. It didn’t end the way we wanted to, but it’s still an experience they’ll have for the rest of their lives and an experience that’s built into their lives. That’s what it’s all about.”
Lady Lions' hot start doesn't hold in TAPPS final
Saturday morning's start was everything Prestonwood head volleyball coach Ryan Mitchell could have hoped for during his team's opening set in the TAPPS 6A state championship match.
But Houston St. Agnes had a counter ready and found its footing over one set later.
After Prestonwood initially jumped out in front with a convincing 25-16 win in set one, St. Agnes won the following three frames on scores of 25-19, 25-22 and 25-23 to capture a TAPPS state championship.
Sophomores Jadyn Livings, Camille Edwards, Mikayla Young and freshman Gillian Pitts were named to the all-tournament team.
Livings paced Prestonwood's effort with 18 kills and three blocks, while Young logged 18 kills. Edwards dished out 54 assists and Pitts dug 27 balls for a Lady Lion squad that closed out its first year under Mitchell at 39-6 overall.
Prestonwood will graduate only four seniors from its state runner-up roster.