By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Parish Episcopal used a balanced attack of ground and air in the first half and a little bit of resiliency late in the game to beat Fort Worth Christian 34-21 in a TAPPS Division II state semifinal game on Saturday night.
The Cardinals took an early lead on their first possession of the game when Blaze Brownlow connected with Cade Garcia on an 85-yard touchdown pass with 8:17 left in the first quarter. After that, Parish took control the rest of the half.
The Panthers (12-1) tied the score at 7-7 after Dominic Williams’ 61-yard scamper with 2:17 left in the first quarter, and took the lead for good when Tom Stewart hit Xavier Suggs for a 14-yard touchdown strike early in the second. Stewart’s 1-yard run up the middle just before halftime put Parish up 21-7.
Things got interesting in the second half.
Parish added to its lead on Williams’ second long scoring run from 88 yards out to make the score 28-7 on its opening possession of the second half. But FWC responded with two unanswered scores in the final period.
Brownlow, who sat out with an injury in a 42-14 defeat to this same Panther team during the regular-season finale on Nov. 7, scored on an 11-yard keeper to trim the lead to 28-14.
After forcing a three-and-out and a short punt, FWC gained good field position at the Parish 23-yard line. The Cardinals (10-3) wasted little time, and again cut the lead when Brownlow for the second time found Garcia on a 23-yard touchdown pass to reduce the lead to 28-21 with just 4:21 left in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve responded to adversity all season long,” said Parish head coach Scott Nady. “All the breaks didn’t go our way tonight, but we found a way to respond and overcome adversity.”
With a trip to Corsicana and a berth in the state championship game on the line, they responded in a hurry.
After recovering the ensuing onside kick, Stewart connected with Suggs for a second time, this time from 64 yards out, to take a 34-21 lead late in the final quarter.
“This group thrives on overcoming the odds,” Nady said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Williams led all rushers with 201 yards on just 14 carries. Stewart finished with 191 passing yards and another two scores, both to Suggs, who hauled in five receptions for 131 yards and also picked off two passes for Parish.
The Panthers will face Dallas Christian for the state title at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6.