By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
Jacob Palisch accounted for 333 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, and John Michael Priddy posted two interceptions, to lead Jesuit past Mesquite Horn 42-21 in a Class 6A Region II bi-district playoff game on Friday at Postell Stadium.
Palisch, Jesuit’s junior quarterback, threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in his first postseason start, and also ran for a score while leading the Rangers (10-1) in rushing with 71 yards.
“He played spectacular tonight,” said Jesuit head coach Brandon Hickman. “He rose up to the challenge of the playoffs and I’m very proud of him.”
The Rangers next face a rematch against Rockwall in the area round at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kimbrough Stadium in Plano. The Yellowjackets, who defeated Copperas Cove in the first round, have eliminated Jesuit each of the past two seasons.
Horn (6-5), which finished third in District 10-6A during the regular season, outgained Jesuit in total yardage 516 to 360, and produced 10 more first downs. But the game was never in doubt for the Rangers.
Adam Holtz capped a six-play, 78-yard drive with a 1-yard dive up the middle to put Jesuit in front 7-0 with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
The Jaguars threatened on their next possession, driving down to the Jesuit 10-yard line before Jesuit’s Jordan Rice recovered a fumble. The Rangers capitalized on the turnover, driving the length of the field and scoring on a 26-yard bootleg by Palisch to go ahead 14-0 with 3:12 left in the second quarter.
“We made plays when we needed them,” said Palisch. “Hats off to our offensive line. They opened holes all night and gave me great pass protection.”
Horn threatened again after a 35-yard pass from Chris Robison to Bryston Cummings set up the Jaguars at the Jesuit 5-yard line with less than a minute to go before halftime.
On the next play, Priddy stepped in front of a Robison pass at the 5-yard line and returned it 95 yards for a score to give the Rangers a 21-0 advantage at intermission.
“That changed the game,” said Hickman. “It was a crucial play in that first half and really gave us the momentum for the rest of the game.”
Priddy also made his presence known early in the second half when the senior safety, who will play lacrosse at Michigan next year, intercepted Robison for a second time. Three plays later, Palisch connected with Rusty Landon on a 35-yard touchdown pass to extend the Jesuit lead to 28-0.
“We won the turnover battle tonight,” said Hickman. “Converting those four takeaways into points was the difference of the contest.”
The combination of Palisch to Landon worked again at the end of the third quarter. Faced with third-and-long with 28 seconds remaining in the period, a scrambling Palisch threw deep in to the corner of the end zone and Landon hauled it in to put the Rangers on top 35-0.
“They both played extremely well in a obvious big-game situation,” said Hickman. “They came ready to play.”
Horn scored on its next possession when Elton Taylor broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown run on the last play of the third quarter to make it 35-7.
The two teams traded touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter, and Horn scored a final time with 36 seconds remaining when Robison, an Oklahoma pledge, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cummings.