Senior Analyst, TheOldCoach.com
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ABILENE-- For the second year in a row the Snyder Tigers (10-1) ensured the playoff stay for the Graham Steers (5-6) would be a short one, this time there wasn't the tense moments last year's OT thriller contained. The Tigers led by a superb effort from QB Keenon Ward took care of Graham 35-19 in a Class 3A Division II Region I Bi-District Playoff at Shotwell Stadium.
Ward, who is verbally committed to Texas Tech showed why he's considered maybe the top playmaker in West Texas rushing for 192 yards and three scores along with throwing for 119 yards. With the game still in the balance late in the second quarter, Ward right before the half broke loose for a 66 yard touchdown run weaving through the Graham secondary and following his blockers perfectly. That jaunt put Snyder up 21-7 and the Steers never again seriously threatened.
Graham in the first quarter controlled the tempo taking the opening kickoff and scoring on a 16 play 60 yard drive capped by a four yard run by Errik Ortiz giving the Steers a 7-0 lead. After a botched onside kick, Snyder would take advantage scoring on a short run by junior FB Brandon Davis to tie things up at seven. The key play in that drive was a 3rd and 17 that SHS converted as Skillet Rinehard caught a deflected pass for 22 yards down to the Graham 9.
Graham would answer with another long march deep into Snyder territory, but facing a 2nd and goal from the five Graham would fumble giving Snyder the ball at their own six yard line. Snyder would answer with an impressive 13 play 94 yard march capped off by Ward's one yard run making the tally 1-7. The key play for Snyder was Ward finding Davis over the middle for a 41 yard pass down to the Graham 3.
After a Graham punt late in the half, Snyder would jump out to the 21-7 lead on Ward's sensational run. After a quick Graham three and out to open the third quarter, Snyder would seize complete control of the game on Davis' second touchdown of the night from two yards out to make the score 28-7 Snyder.
Graham was feisty and they didn't go away easily as sophomore QB Ben Davis would lead the Steers up and down the field for the remainder of the game. Davis finished the night with 224 passing yards and 99 rushing yards. Davis would cut the lead to 28-13 on an eight yard run as the PAT failed, but Snyder would quickly snuff out any hopes of a Graham comeback on their next drive. Ward would score from eleven yards out with just 26 seconds left in the third making it 35-13 Snyder.
Davis would hook up with Josh Galloway for a nine yard scoring pass with 6:05 left to cut the lead to 35-19, Graham would make one late push into the Snyder red zone but an interception by Snyder DB Zack Harris would end the drive and all but end the game as Snyder took a knee twice and advanced to the area playoffs.
Next week Snyder will take on the winner of tomorrow's Decatur-Kennedale game at a time and location to be determined.