After two straight losses to close the regular season, the Prestonwood Christian football team returned to form Saturday in the opening round of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools playoffs.
The Lions scored on their first five possessions, mixing in a pair of forced turnovers, and smothered Tomball Concordia Lutheran at every turn in a 51-24 victory. The win advances Prestonwood to the Division I state quarterfinals against Argyle Liberty Christian.
“We wanted to come out and be who we know we are,” said Chris Cunningham, Prestonwood head coach. “We had a great start today. It got a little sloppy in the third quarter, but we got it back. I was very pleased with how the kids came out.”
It was a departure from the struggles the Lions incurred in recent weeks during losses to Bishop Lynch (50-40) and Bishop Dunne (21-14). Prior to Saturday’s contest, Prestonwood had been outscored, 71-34, in its last seven quarters of football, and Cunningham stressed maintaining an even keel in the face of the Lions’ first dose of adversity this season.
“We just have to continue focusing on getting better at what we do and not panicking,” he said. “We played two really good football teams and came up short, so it’s about identifying those reasons and going back to work. We look at that as adversity that will help us, and I felt like it did today.”
Saturday was a step toward restoring the Lions’ luster, as Prestonwood opened up a 37-6 halftime advantage on Concordia. Senior Dylan Cadwallader had a hand in the onslaught, tossing first-half touchdown passes to senior Austin Stogner (16 yards) and senior Solomon Turner (76 and 22 yards) en route to totaling 241 passing yards and five touchdowns on 14-of-19 attempts.
Cadwallader nearly added a score on the ground, scrambling up the middle for 29 yards late in the second quarter, but fumbled the ball near the goal line only for teammate and senior Easton Reeves to scoop it up and stroll into the end zone for the 37-6 advantage with 3:52 left in the half.
The two were involved in another “just like they drew it up” sequence during Prestonwood’s final touchdown of the day, as Cadwallader rolled out to his left and bought enough time to open up a throw across the field to an uncovered Reeves for a 14-yard touchdown and a 51-12 advantage with 7:44 left in the ballgame.
“It’s just kids being ready for opportunities that you don’t always prepare for, but they’re aware of what’s going on and they put themselves in position to make plays like that,” Cunningham said.
Senior Josh Cunningham began the afternoon with a 36-yard touchdown run, which came moments after the Lions picked off Concordia’s opening drive of the game. A third-and 19 pass was tipped by senior Virdel Edwards and snagged by junior Dayton Toney for the first of five turnovers forced by the Lions’ defense.
Edwards added an interception early in the fourth quarter to scuttle a fourth-and-goal opportunity for Concordia, and Prestonwood added three fumble recoveries in the lopsided win.
“We felt like the first quarter would be key, because [Concordia] can get you into a game where they control the clock and slow it down,” coach Cunningham said. “We wanted this to be our game and we needed things to happen real fast. Those turnovers were big for us.”
With Cadwallader picking apart the Concordia defense, Turner benefited with four catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Reeves caught six balls for 59 yards and a score, and Stogner added three receptions for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
“[Turner] has been outstanding for us,” Cunningham said. “He’s been solid in the secondary and massive on offense. It’s been tough for anybody to stop. I’m proud of how he has taken on that role.”
With its TAPPS Division I state title defense still intact, Prestonwood next eyes a state quarterfinal bout with rival Argyle Liberty Christian, which ousted San Antonio Central Catholic on Saturday, 56-38.
The Warriors and Lions met during the regular season, with Prestonwood taking a 49-20 verdict in September. The two former district bunkmates will square off at a time and place to be determined.