WHITNEY — In a win-or-go-home regular season finale Friday night, Whitney made sure they extended their season by at least one more week, cruising to a 39-14 win over Groesbeck at Wildcat Stadium.
The home team sprinted to an 18-0 first half lead and never looked back, taking advantage of four Groesbeck turnovers.
Whitney, 6-4, 4-2 in District 9-3A play, advances to the bi-district round next week against powerhouse Cameron Yoe, who finished 6-0 in District 10-3A. The site and time of next week’s playoff game has not been determined.
Groesbeck ends its season at 6-4, 2-4 with a shaky performance marred by penalties and turnovers.
After a scoreless third quarter and an 18-point halftime lead, 25-7, Whitney opened the fourth quarter as quarterback Devin Wilson found a wide open Kerby Holder for a 25-yard catch and run in the middle of the field and a 32-7 lead.
After a Ty Hale five-yard scoring run for Groesbeck, Wilson scampered in for his fourth touchdown run of the night, tip-toeing down the right sideline for a 20-yard run and a 39-14 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Whitney missed several chances to put the game out of reach as they were inside the Groesbeck 20 yard line three times in the game, but came away with no points. But they remained in control the entire game.
For a game with as much riding on it as this, both teams figured to be tight in the early going, but Whitney came out ready to play before its home crowd and Groesbeck had a case of opening stage fright.
On the third play of the game, junior running back Juan Saucedo broke loose on a 65 yard run up the middle of the Goats defense to the one yard line. He finished the half with 164 yards rushing on 11 yards, then quarterback Devin Wilson ran over from 1 yard for a 6-0 Whitney lead after a failed extra point.
Saucedo finished the game with 270 yards rushing, no touchdowns, but also caught a 70-yard touchdown pass.
Groesbeck running back Ameer Lee fumbled after a long run on the Goats next series and Whitney recovered and started marching again. Wilson capped a long drive with a 7-yard touchdown run and a 12-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Another Groesbeck fumble lead to another Whitney scoring drive from 38 yards out as once again Wilson ran in from 9 yards for an 18-0 lead early in the second quarter after a third failed try for two points.
Lee, who had to briefly leave the field in the second quarter after a hard hit to the kneecap, returned to score the first points of the night for Groesbeck on a one-yard run late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 18-7 with 2:42 left before halftime.
But instead of running out the clock and taking an 11-point lead into halftime, Whitney scored again in the final minute as quarterback Wilson found Saucedo steaking down the right sideline and they connected for a 70-yard pass and catch and another touchdown.
That made the halftime score 25-7 as Whitney got the Wildcats halfway to the Class 3A playoff with 24 minutes still to play.
Both teams missed chances to score in the first half. One play after Lee had to leave the game with a hard hit to his kneecap, Groesbeck was stopped on fourth down at the Whitney 30.
The Wildcats had an extended near scoring drive in the second quarter, but four straight penalties wiped out two touchdowns and finally stalled Whitney on fourth down.
The second half started out much like the first as Groesbeck fumbled on its first series deep in its own territory and Whitney recovered in good shape for another scoring drive, but their drive was stalled when they fumbled themselves on second and five from the Goats’ five-yard line.