The Waurika Eagles overcame a somewhat sluggish start to the first and second half of last Friday’s contest with Empire to claim a 68-22 victory over the Bulldogs.
The win earned the Eagles their first district title since 2016 and will ensure the squad of two home playoff games.
The first game will be tomorrow night at Cy Sloan Stadium when Waurika will play host to Cyril in a rematch of last year’s first-round contest. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Empire took the opening kickoff and moved 66 yards in 11 plays to get the first score of the game.
Rodolfo Martinez found a wide-open Lucas Contreras on a 23-yard touchdown pass and Martinez ran for the two points to put Empire in front, 8-0, with 7:58 to play in the first quarter.
The score by the Bulldogs apparently ignited the Eagles as they took the ensuing kickoff and in just two plays traveled 56 yards for the game-tying score. Turner Mora connected with Colton Bryant on a 43-yard pass play for the touchdown. Zac Brown added the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8.
Empire looked like it would answer the Eagle challenge as they drove the ball deep inside Waurika territory before a fourth down stop ended the threat at the Eagle 16.
On Waurika’s next possession the Eagles could not pick up a first down and on fourth down Empire blocked the Waurika punt and took possession at the Eagle 12.
The Bulldogs, however, handed the ball right back to Waurika as they fumbled at the Eagle 10 and the Waurika offense was back on the field.
The Eagles looked poised for the go-ahead score as a long drive ended the first quarter, but early in the second quarter the drive ended on a failed fourth down play just inside Empire’s 20-yard line.
Empire gambled on its next drive and it proved to be a costly one. On a fourth and short the Bulldogs elected to go for it but were stopped giving the Eagles excellent field position at the Bulldog 32-yard line.
In just three plays the Eagles got the go-ahead score as Mora found Kevin Garcia for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Mora ran for the two points and Waurika’s lead expanded to 16-8 with 5:47 to play in the half.
Another failed fourth down attempt on Empire’s next drive set Waurika up inside Bulldog territory at the 41-yard line.
On the first play, Mora swept to the left side and scooted down the sideline 41 yards for the score. The try for two failed, but Waurika held a 22-8 lead with 4:11 left before intermission.
The Eagles were not through lighting up the scoreboard in the quarter as Empire failed on yet another fourth down attempt and gave Waurika the ball at the Empire 37.
Waurika could not move and was in punt formation on fourth down when Mora from punt formation took the ball and after being forced to reverse his direction, picked up 12 yards to keep the drive alive.
After an incomplete pass, Mora spotted a wide open Garcia for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Bryant added the two points and Waurika held a commanding 30-8 advantage heading to the locker room.
Empire threatened to tighten the game early in the second half. After stopping Waurika’s opening drive, the Bulldogs went 59 yards on three plays for a touchdown. The big play was a 38-yard scoring run by Peyton Booth and Brandon Mendenall caught the two-point conversion pass from Martinez to make it a 30-16 game with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
Again the Eagles shook off the uninspired effort and after a failed onside kick by Empire Waurika took the pigskin and traveled 49 yards on four plays. Mora found a wide open Edwin Garcia for a 35-yard scoring pass. After Bryant ran for the two-point conversion, the Eagles held a 38-16 advantage with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Empire did not fold, however, and drove all the way to the Waurika 11-yard line before a fourth down effort resulted in a four-yard loss.
The Eagles took the ball and marched the length of the field helped a pass interference penalty and two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls on Empire. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Mora to Aaron Nitka to extend the Waurika lead to 44-16 with 11:19 to play in the game.
After another failed attempt on fourth down, Waurika took over at the Bulldog 27. On the first play, Brown found paydirt on a 27-yard scamper to the end zone. Bryant ran for the two points and the Eagles were firmly in command with a 52-16 lead.
The Bulldogs’ final score of the night came on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Meray Weber. This put the margin at 52-22 with 5:44 to play in the game.
Empire attempted another onside kick, but this time Mora picked up the ball and sprinted 50 yards for a touchdown. Matt Arriolla ran for the two points and Waurika held a 60-22 lead with 5:35 left in the game.
The Bulldogs could not move on the next drive and punted to the Eagles. Brown capped the drive with a 29-yard run and after Bryant ran for the two-point conversion the game ended on the mercy rule with 3:14 left in the game.
With the Eagles getting a short field most of the night, the top ball carrier for Waurika, Mora, had only 73 yards on the ground, but the talented quarterback threw for 189 yards on the night. Brown added 64 yards and Bryant had 50 to help the Eagle offense.
EAGLE FLIGHTS: Waurika now holds a 21-11 advantage in the series with Empire that started in 1974 when Empire began playing football…The two schools have split the two meetings in eight-man competition…The 68 points scored by the Eagles is the most in the history of the series with the Bulldogs….The 22 points scored by the Bulldogs was the most for Empire in a losing cause in games with Waurika….The 46-point margin of victory for Waurika is tied for the third highest margin of victory in the 32 games with Empire…The game turned a bit ugly in the second half as the Empire bench was called for a total of three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the head coach for the Bulldogs being ejected last in the game….This will be the fourth straight playoff appearance for Waurika after going 14 years without a playoff appearance….Waurika head coach Joe Allen is the first coach in school history to compile an undefeated regular season in the first year as a head coach.
Game in Figures
First Downs 11 9
Yards Rushing 45-214 37-203
Yards Passing 61 189
Passes 3-12 6-13
Passes Int. By 0 0
Fumbles, Lost 2-2 0-0
Punts N/A N/A
Penalties 3-45 3-35
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Empire 8 0 8 6–22
Waurika 8 22 8 30-68
EMPIRE – Lucas Contreras 23 pass from Rodolfo Martinez (Martinez run), 7:58, 1st Quarter
WAURIKA – Colton Bryant 43 pass from Turner Mora (Zachary Brown run), 7:06, 1st Quarter
WAURIKA – Kevin Garcia 33 pass from Mora (Mora run), 5:47, 2nd Quarter
WAURIKA – Mora 41 run (run failed), 4:11, 2nd Quarter
WAURIKA – Garcia 25 pass from Mora (Bryant run), 1:00, 2nd Quarter
EMPIRE – Peyton Booth 38 run (Brandon Mendenall pass from Martinez), 8:52, 3rd Quarter
WAURIKA – Edwin Garcia 35 pass from Mora (Bryant run), 7:46, 3rd Quarter
WAURIKA – Aaron Nitka 14 pass from Mora (run failed), 11:19, 4th Quarter
WAURIKA – Brown 27 run (Bryant run), 9:49, 4th Quarter
EMPIRE – Meray Weber 30 pass from Martinez (run failed), 5:44, 4th Quarter
WAURIKA – Mora 50 kickoff return (Matt Arriolla run), 5:35, 4th Quarter
WAURIKA – Brown 29 run (Bryant run), 3:14, 4th Quarter
WAURIKA: Rushing – Mora 17-73, Brown 5-64, Bryant 9-50, Garcia 6-16; Passing – Mora 6-13-189-0; Receiving – Bryant 2-78, E. Garcia 1-35, K. Garcia 1-33, Brown 1-29, Nitka 1-14