DENTON — The Bells Panthers came up just short of making their first appearance in the region final after the Holliday Eagles made a stand in overtime for a 21-14 victory in a Class 3A Division II Region II semifinal at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
Holliday (13-0) will face Gunter (13-0) in the region final at 7 p.m. on Friday at Justin Northwest. The Eagles prevented an all-District 8-3A (II) match-up for a berth in the state semifinals and kept Bells (9-4) from making school history after reaching the third round for just the third time and the second in the past three seasons.
The Panthers, who lost to Holliday 27-14 in non-district play, were unable to produce the touchdown that would have either forced a second overtime or given Bells a chance at the win if it decided to try a two-point conversion. The Eagles came up with a stop on fourth down just yards from the end zone and Bells was short of the first-down marker by a yard.
Bells had been given a second chance when a roughing-the-passer penalty resulted in a first down as the Panthers faced fourth-and-eight at the Holliday 23 on the first set of downs in the OT.
Holliday forced Bells to need a touchdown after it ended the opening possession in the extra session with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Marchand to Jaxx Johnson.
Johnson ran 13 times for 78 yards and a TD, Austin Jones chipped in nine carries for 36 yards and Marchand was 8-of-13 passing for 60 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions for Holliday, which is in the region final for the third time in four seasons. It lost against Gunter in both 2018 and 2019.
Grady Waldrip had 28 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown while Bo Baker added 15 carries for 74 yards and Brock Baker gained 37 yards on 11 carries for Bells.
Neither team reached 250 yards in the defensive battle — the Panthers ended with 240 and all but 11 came on the ground while the Eagles finished with 207.
Almost all the scoring took place after the third quarter, including Johnson’s 18-yard touchdown run with 1:22 remaining which led to overtime. The Eagles went 81 yards in nine plays after falling behind for the first time in the game.
Bells had taken a 14-7 lead on Blake Rolen’s one-yard touchdown run with 4:07 remaining after Bo Baker came up with an interception to get the ball back.
The Panthers tied the game at seven on Waldrip’s 10-yard run just a little more than two minutes into the fourth quarter as the capper to a 95-yard drive after being pinned outside their goal line on a punt from Marchand.
The only scoring in the first three quarters came when Jackson Crutcher caught a 22-yard TD pass from Marchand with 4:52 left in the first quarter. The TD came after the Eagles recovered a fumble and both teams combined for just 145 yards at the midway point.
Holliday made that slim lead stand up through the break and the third quarter as well before Bells was able to get on the scoreboard and set up the dramatic finish in the final 12-plus minutes.
This article originally appeared on Herald Democrat: Bells eliminated by Holliday in overtime in defensive battle