BALLINGER — The Cross Plains football team did everything it needed to do in order to win Thursday night’s Region II-2A Division II bi-district game at Bearcat Stadium against Christoval.
Having played the Cougars three times in the past two seasons, including a 26-14 loss in Week 4 this year, the Buffaloes knew they were going to have to keep the Christoval offense on the sidelines.
The Buffaloes did just that in the second half, holding the ball for over 16 consecutive minutes, but a pair of costly pick-six interceptions cost Cross Plains in a 28-14 loss.
The loss ended Cross Plains’ season at 7-4 and ended the greatest four-year run in school history. The Buffaloes’ six seniors never missed the playoffs in their high school careers — a feat that had never happened before in the town’s history.
“They have left a legacy here of hard work and they showed these younger kids what it takes,” Cross Plains coach Daniel Purvis said. “They are a good group and I’m going to miss them. Every time a group leaves, I look down and think about how I can’t replace those guys and that’s how I feel this year.”
That starts with quarterback Caleb Hernandez, who ran for two touchdowns despite having three interceptions — two of which were returned for second-half touchdowns.
“(Ball control) is what we had to do because (Christoval) is so explosive offensively,” Purvis said. “It’s hard to be upset at (Hernandez) because he may be the best kid that I’ve ever coached. He put a lot of pressure on himself and he tried to force some stuff and I think that’s what happened with the two pick-sixes.”
After losing the coin toss, Cross Plains got a 32-yard kickoff return from Casen Conlee to start the game and Hernandez led a clock-consuming drive that covered 52 yards in 11 plays. Hernandez finished it off with a 1-yard keeper to put the Buffaloes up 7-0 with 5:15 left in the opening quarter.
The Cougars weren’t going to be outdone, however, going on a 16-play, 66-yard drive that didn’t end until just over four minutes into the second quarter on Brayden Wilcox’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Beau Jolly.
Jolly then ended the next Cross Plains drive with the first of his two interceptions in the game, and Christoval needed just four plays before Wilcox scored on a 30-yard sweep.
Wilcox, who had run for 713 yards in the previous three games against Cross Plains, ran for 110 yards on Thursday night.
“He is a focal point of what they do and was a focal point of what we were trying to stop,” Purvis said. “To me, our offense is what did the best job of keeping him off the field and limiting his touches.”
Cross Plains took over at its own 23 with 2:03 remaining in the first half and ran out the clock despite having all three timeouts left as the offense played without much of a sense of urgency.
After two Hernandez runs netted 16 yards, a screen pass to Corey Proctor was held to just two yards and that’s when Purvis and his staff made the decision to take the game into the locker room trailing 14-7.
“We thought if we got a big play on the screen, we would try to go,” Purvis said. “We tried a couple of things to get a big play, but we didn’t want to give them the ball back knowing how explosive they are.”
The Cross Plains defense came up with a big red zone stop to start the third quarter, but eight plays later Wilcox intercepted a pass and took it 63 yards for a score to make it 21-7.
Cross Plains’ next drive was even more traumatic with Jolly intercepting Hernandez’ fourth-down pass and going 100 yards down the Buffaloes sideline to make it a three-score game.
Hernandez then finished the scoring with just over two minutes to play with a 4-yard run.
REGION II-2A DIVISION II BI-DISTRICT
CHRISTOVAL 28, CROSS PLAINS 14
CP — Caleb Hernandez 1 run (Keegan Tillery kick), 5:15
CHR — Beau Jolly 8 pass from Brayden Wilcox (Brendon Wilcox kick), 7:55
CHR — Bra. Wilcox 30 run (Bre. Wilcox kick), 2:03
CHR — Bra. Wilcox 63 interception return (Bre. Wilcox kick), 3:14
CHR — Jolly 106 interception return (Bre. Wilcox kick), 7:26
CP — Hernandez 4 run (Tillery kick), 2:15
RUSHING — Cross Plains, Caleb Hernandez 18-89, Cason Allen 9-61, Casen Conlee 8-43, Cody McWilliams 4-11, Corey Proctor 5-8. Christoval, Brayden Wilcox 10-110, Josh Fava 14-29, Aiden Barron 1-8, Team 2-(-8).
PASSING — Cross Plains, Hernandez 5-10-3—56, Allen 0-1-0—0. Christoval, Wilcox 6-7-0—27.
RECEIVING — Cross Plains, Proctor 3-38, Conlee 2-18. Christoval, Ketcher Joiner 2-13, Beau Jolly 1-8, Fava 1-7, Apiatan Salinas 1-1, Riley Workman 1-(-2).
RECORDS — Cross Plains 7-4; Christoval 10-1.