One of the signature moments in the John Paul II football team’s run to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championship game last year was a second-round upset of undefeated Fort Worth Nolan.
Should the Cardinals hope to continue their pursuit of a state title, it’ll once again mean conquering a Vikings team yet to lose a game.
John Paul and Nolan rematch at 11 a.m. Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington in the regional round of the TAPPS playoffs. The Vikings’ 6-0 regular season was rewarded with a first-round bye, while the Cardinals caught fire in the second quarter during a 51-17 rout of Tomball Concordia Lutheran.
Advancing past the area round for the second consecutive year — a first in program history — John Paul scored 42 points in the second stanza to blow the ballgame open.
After being held off the scoreboard in the opening quarter, the Cardinals role their run game and defense to gain some distance against a Concordia team that led 3-0 early on. John Paul’s response came swift, with senior Grant Robinson finding the end zone on runs of 16, 55 and 34 yards in the first half on his way to a 220-yard, four-touchdown ballgame.
With junior receiver Tyler Bailey recently transferring back to Prosper, John Paul added some more punch to its run game by getting senior receiver Myles Parker involved out of the backfield. The speedy pass-catcher scored on touchdown runs of 38 and 28 yards, totaling 75 rushing yards in the win, and senior Sterling Martin added a 32-yard interception return for a score to stake John Paul to a 42-10 halftime lead.
Robinson added a 51-yard touchdown and junior Jackson Mata converted a 32-yard field in the third quarter to push the Cardinals over the 50-point threshold.
Despite some struggles through the air, completing just 3 of 16 passes on the night, the Cardinals averaged almost 16 yards per carry on their way to 319 rushing yards as a team. They’ll need more of the same on Friday if they fancy another upset over a Nolan team that won all six of its ballgames by double figures this season.
The Vikings are paced by blue-chip rusher Emeka Megwa, a four-star rusher with 35 scholarship offers, according to 247Sports.com. Colleges to offer to running back include Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M.
Nolan’s defense isn’t bereft of college-caliber talent either, with defensive lineman Curlee Thomas and linebacker J’Dan Burnett helming a unit that has held opponents to 17.2 points per game. John Paul and Nolan were initially scheduled to play on Oct. 16, but that game was cancelled due to COVID-19 circumstances.
One of the only teams to make the Vikings sweat this season was Prestonwood Christian, which had the Vikings on the ropes for a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter before surrendering 28 unanswered points in an eventual 42-28 loss.
The Lions are back in the postseason and riding a three-game winning streak that includes a 31-21 victory over John Paul on Nov. 13. Earning a first-round bye of its own following a forfeit from San Antonio Christian, Prestonwood draws reigning TAPPS Division I state champion Parish Episcopal at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.
The Panthers were the last team to defeat the Lions, doing on Oct. 16 in a 55-14 runaway that saw Parish score the first 34 points of the contest. The reigning champs did so behind the dynamic quarterback-receiver connection of SMU commit Preston Stone (324 passing yards, five touchdowns) and all-purpose Lafayette pledge Christian Benson (177 receiving yards, two touchdowns).
Prestonwood has upped its level of play since, thanks in part to a big year behind center from sophomore quarterback Maguire Martin. A threat to lead the Lions in passing and rushing most games, Martin enters his second playoff run having thrown for 1,266 yards and rushing for 730 more — the latter coming on 9.6 yards per carry.
Defensively, Prestonwood’s win over John Paul featured monster games from seniors Ryan Rucker and Dylan Jackson, who had 11 tackles apiece, including two sacks for Jackson.