The Grady Wildcats knew they had to accomplish two things in order to win their six-man playoff game with Ira — they had to capitalize on their scoring opportunities and they had to contain Ira’s Lance Morris.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, they didn’t succeed on either front and ended up dropping a 56-43 decision Friday night in Memorial Stadium.
Morris, Ira’s star running back, rushed for 250 yards and four touchdowns — and threw a TD pass for good measure — to pace the Bulldogs, who improved to 11-0 with the win. Ira advances to meet Rankin in the regional round of the playoffs at a time and site to be determined.
The Wildcats, who finished their season 8-3, had an individual answer for Morris in senior tailback Jacob Rodriguez (225 yards on 24 carries, four touchdowns, one scoring pass). And, for a while, Grady was able to match the Bulldogs on the scoreboard as well, leading until late in the third quarter.
But a crucial mistake on an early fourth-quarter drive proved to be a momentum-shifter. Trailing 32-27, the ‘Cats apparently re-took the lead on a 7-yard scoring run from Rodriguez early in the fourth quarter. But a holding call negated the score and quarterback Shane Teague was sacked for a 13-yard loss on fourth down to end the threat.
“That definitely changed the momentum,” Grady Head Coach Brad Cox said.
The Bulldogs responded in rapid fashion, driving 52 yards in only three plays, the capper coming on a 24-yard scoring toss from Morris for a 40-27 lead with 7:44 remaining.
On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats again turned the ball over on downs, and once again, Morris made them pay, scoring on a 43-yard run around left end for a 48-27 lead that effectively sealed the decision.