Cameron Yoe had won three straight state titles and 18-consecutive playoff games entering Friday night’s game versus Malakoff at Waco ISD Stadium.
It’s a safe bet the Yoemen never had to work harder than they did to get their 19th-straight playoff win.
The Yoemen erased a 25-point deficit and overcame Malakoff in the fourth quarter to survive and advance, 45-44.
Yoe (11-1) moves on to play Grandview in the third round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs at 1 p.m. Friday back at Waco ISD Stadium.
Yoe quarterback Jacob Smitherman converted a fourth-and-goal with a four-yard touchdown pass to Sicory Smith, then threw to Traion Smith for the two-point conversion to tie Malakoff, 38-38, with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter.
That completed the comeback. Then Traion Smith put the Yoemen in front.
The Yoe defense forced Malakoff to go three-and-out on its ensuing drive, setting up the Yoemen offense at the Tigers’ 49.
Smith gained every yard on the go-ahead drive. He ran up the middle for 17 yards for a first down to the 32. Then, after a holding penalty backed up Yoe to the Malakoff 39, Smith juked and jived his way to a 38-yard run to the Tigers’ 1.
On the next play, Smith plunged over the goal line, putting Yoe ahead for the first time since early in the first quarter with a 44-38 edge.
Yoe kicker Logan Boyett added the crucial extra point to make it 45-38.
That came into play big time on the ensuing play when Malakoff kickoff returner Q.T. Barker skirted the Yoe sideline, cut back to the middle of the field and outran the Yoemen cover team for a 95-yard return touchdown.
Malakoff (10-2) had struggled throughout the night either kicking point-afters or converting two-point attempts, but the Tigers needed one or the other to either pull ahead or tie it. After a penalty on each team put the ball back in its usual point-after spot, Malakoff ran a reverse pass and wide receiver Jake Woolverton looked into the end zone at an open receiver.
But at the last moment, Traion Smith reached up and pulled the two-point pass out of the air for a lead-saving interception.
But Traion Smith wasn’t through making plays.
He recovered Malakoff’s ensuing onside kick attempt on the next play.
With the Yoemen attempting to gain first downs and run out the clock, Smith got the last one the Yoemen needed as he ran 13 yards to the Tigers’ 31.
Smith finished with 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Sicory Smith caught 11 passes for 159 yards as Smitherman passed for 232 and two touchdowns.
Malakoff quarterback Judd Miller passed for 257 yards and rushed for 70. But the Yoemen defense came up with a pair of interceptions that helped make the difference.
Sicory Smith scored the first touchdown in this wild affair on a reverse that went 33 yards for a touchdown to put the Yoemen ahead, 7-6, early in the first quarter.
But the Tigers responded by scoring 26-straight points, starting with Barker’s 45-yard pick-six midway through the first quarter. Barker jumped a wide-receiver screen that Smitherman threw toward his own sideline. With no one in front of him, Barker cruised to the touchdown that gave Malakoff a 12-7 lead.
The Tigers posted a lightning-quick scoring drive later in the first quarter. Miller found wide receiver Tyler Russell open in the Yoe secondary for a 21-yard gain to the Yoemen 35. On the next play, Miller went back to Russell for a 35-yard touchdown.
Miller threw his second touchdown pass of the first half as he tossed to Woolverton on a wide receiver screen toward the Tigers sideline. Woolverton turned the short pass into a 33-yard touchdown.
After Yoe defensive back Johnny Alexander turned away another Malakoff drive inside the Yoemen 10 with an interception in the end zone, the Tigers found their way back to pay dirt anyway.
The Malakoff defense stopped Traion Smith for a one-yard gain on a fourth-and-two from the Yoemen 27, giving Malakoff a short field.
Miller and the Tigers running game took advantage. The quarterback ran for 15 yards on a 28-yard drive and A.J. Cook finished it with a six-yard touchdown run. Cook’s score gave Malakoff its largest lead at 32-7 with 3:35 left before halftime.
But Yoe turned the momentum before the break.
The Yoemen abandoned their short passing game and started going over the top of the Malakoff defense. When Yoe started a drive at its 35 with 3:31 left in the half, Smitherman hit Sicory Smith for a key 56-yard gain to the Tigers’ 9. Traion Smith covered the rest of the ground on the next play for a rushing touchdown. Smitherman passed to Vincent Vargas for the two-point conversion that cut Malakoff’s lead to 32-15 with 2:57 to go before the break.
Yoe defensive back Jay’Lon Bryant stopped Malakoff’s next drive with an interception at the Yoemen 30.
This time, Traion Smith ran up the middle for 28 yards to kick start the Yoemen scoring drive. Smitherman followed with a 36-yard completion to Sicory Smith and then hit Iverson Westbrook for a 17-yard touchdown.
Smitherman kept up the momentum by running for the two-point conversion as Yoe, once mired in a 25-point hole, cut Malkoff’s lead to nine at halftime.