BROWNWOOD — It took three years, but Thomas Rhoades finally got the win he craved.
After falling to Rocksprings in the first round of the playoffs during Rhoades’ freshman season, the Granger quarterback and the other four Lions seniors got a bit of payback Friday night.
Granger jumped out to an early lead against Rocksprings, survived a high-scoring third quarter and forced three turnovers as the Lions defeated the Angoras 42-26 in a Class 2A Division II bi-district playoff game at Gordon Wood Stadium.
“When we found out we were matched up with Rocksprings, we started thinking about that game three years ago,” said Rhoades, who helped lead Granger to a third straight bi-district championship by throwing for 137 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 79 yards and a pair of TDs. “We definitely wanted to get them again and it feels good to get the win.”
The victory came in Granger’s first encounter with Rocksprings since that 2017 meeting and set up another rematch, as well. The Lions (8-2) advanced to play Falls City (8-2), which defeated Granger in the third round of the playoffs a year ago.
Lions head coach Stephen Brosch said the area-round contest is at 7 p.m. next Friday in Fredericksburg.
“We’re anxious and eager to get another shot at them after last year,” said Brosch, a Granger assistant last season. “It was a really disappointing third-round loss last year. They’re an extremely talented program, but we’re ready to get another shot at them.”
For two defenses that allowed less than 20 points per game during the regular season, the second half Friday night turned into an offensive showcase.
“Offensively, we liked our chances every time we touched the field,” said Brosch, whose Lions totaled 339 yards but allowed 390. “Defensively, it’s hard to stop that triple-option that they run and we just didn’t execute at times.”
Trailing 20-8 to start the third quarter, Rocksprings (7-3) scored on its first possession of the second half with a 9-yard TD pass from Christian Montoya to Ty Hendley to keep the game within reach. Granger responded with a 14-yard scoring run by Rhoades that made it 26-14 midway through the third quarter.
The teams exchanged scores over the following four drives, with Granger extending its lead to 40-26 on a 14-yard TD run by DJ McClelland — who ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns — with just more than 8 minutes remaining.
Rocksprings’ chances dwindled significantly after Granger forced the Angoras into a fourth-and-11 situation at the Rocksprings 24. A high snap sailed over the head of Montoya, who recovered the ball but was tackled in the end zone for a safety that gave the Lions a 16-point lead with 6:25 remaining.
The Angoras got the ball back with 5 minutes to go but didn’t convert on fourth down with less than 2½ minutes left.
“I kept telling the kids that we just needed one stop, one turnover on defense to flip this game,” Rocksprings head coach Sean Berry said. “We just never could get even and catch up with them.”
The first half was dominated by Granger’s Johnny Ryder, who finished with six catches for 101 yards. Ryder caught a 21-yard TD pass that opened the scoring, ran for a 2-yard touchdown that made it 14-8 in the second quarter and intercepted two passes all before halftime.
“Having guys like DJ and Johnny, it makes my life a lot easier,” Rhoades said. “They tell me that I’ve put on a few pounds, so I can’t run as much as I used to. I just have to give it to them and, like tonight, it usually turns out well for us.”
GRANGER 42, ROCKSPRINGS 26
Rocksprings 0 8 12 6 — 26
Granger 7 13 14 8 — 42
Gra — Johnny Ryder 21 pass from Thomas Rhoades (Ryder kick)
Gra — Rhoades 52 run (Ryder kick)
Roc — Jace Hendley 44 run (Christian Montoya run)
Gra — Ryder 2 run (pass failed)
Roc — Hendley 9 pass from Montoya (run failed)
Gra — Rhoades 14 run (pass failed)
Roc — Hendley 24 run (run failed)
Gra — DJ McClelland 31 pass from Rhoades (Ryder run)
Roc — Beau Hernandez 23 run (run failed)
Gra — McClelland 14 run (run failed)
Gra — Safety; tackle in end zone
First downs 16 16
Rushes-yards 53-308 19-202
Passing yards 82 137
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-13-2 8-9-0
Punts-average 0-0 2-46.5
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 8-82 6-65
RUSHING — Rocksprings: Hendley 16-205, Hernandez 11-69, Montoya 11-30, Cebasstian Viera 7-17, Ty Hendley 5-16, Tucker Shanklin 1-5, team 2-(-34); Granger: McClelland 10-121, Rhoades 8-79, Ryder 1-2.
PASSING — Rocksprings: Montoya 4-10-1-38, Viera 1-3-1-44; Granger: Rhoades 8-9-0-137.
RECEIVING — Rocksprings: Montoya 1-42, T.Hendley 3-40, J.Hendley 1-(-2); Granger: Ryder 6-101, McClelland 2-36.