MIDLOTHIAN – Meeting in the playoffs for the third year in a row, Tolar’s rushing attack continued to give Marlin trouble as the Rattlers pulled away for a 42-19 win in the Class 2A Division 1 Region 2 Final on Thursday at Midlothian ISD Stadium.
Tolar (13-1) moves on to the 2A D1 state semifinals – its first trip to the 11-man state semifinals in program history – where it awaits the winner between Stratford (13-0) and Hawley (11-2) on Friday in Lubbock.
It was the first time Tolar won a regional championship since the 1970s.
Marlin ends at 11-3.
Thursday’s game was the third year in a row Tolar and Marlin met in the postseason. Marlin won in 2021 during the regional semifinals 52-36.
Then during the Rattlers’ historic run last season, they won 71-18 in the area round.
Tolar lost to Crawford in the state semis last year 14-7.
During the 2022 match-up, Tolar running back Peyton Brown finished with 21 carries for 288 yards and five touchdowns. The Rattlers rushed 36 times for 355 yards overall.
ANOTHER PLAYOFF WIN
On Thursday, it was a slow start for both teams.
Marlin was forced to punt at its own 9, but despite good field position, Tolar turned the ball over downs. The Bulldogs then ran 10 plays and moved the ball from their 31 to the Rattlers’ 21, but on fourth-and-9, Mario Hopwood rushed for eight yards and came up short.
Tolar capped an 87-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run by QB Isaac Blessing on the first play of the second quarter.
Then the defense stepped up as Cutter Cain recovered a Marlin fumble on the ensuing drive.
However, Tolar’s next two drives resulted in a turnover on downs and a minus-5 loss on a punt attempt. Marlin’s Brysen Steele made three straight tackles including a sack to make it fourth-and-16.
On the punt attempt, Tolar couldn’t get the kick off and Marlin took over at the 6.
Three plays later and the Bulldogs scored on a 1-yard run from Hopwood. But on the extra point, the snap was bad and it left Tolar ahead 7-6 with 27 seconds left in the half.
Clayton Stembridge took the kickoff return 51 yards to give Tolar the ball at the Marlin 31 with 17 seconds to go on the clock. With six seconds left, Blessing took the snap and tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Matt Behrens to make it 14-6 at the break.
Tolar extended the lead to 21-6 in the third quarter on a 47-yard run from Blessing.
Caden Judie took the ensuing kickoff for the Bulldogs 90 yards for the touchdown to help cut the lead to 21-13 with 7:50 left in the third.
Early on the next Tolar drive, the Marlin band was flagged by the officials for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The officials warned both bands in the first half to not play when the opposing teams were on offense.
The drive continued for Tolar and the Rattlers scored on Blessing’s third TD run to make it 28-13 with 5:43 showing in the period. Brown added the final two touchdowns for Tolar from 19 and 24 yards. He finished with 116 yards on 16 carries.
Blessing added 115 on 16 carries and Garrison Nation chipped in 97 on 13 carries.