VAN — Wandering the barren wasteland for a dozen years where playoffs don’t exist, the Spring Hill Panthers returned to the party Friday night against the Foxes from Caddo Mills.
Their lengthy absence was forever consigned to oblivion.
Freshman running back Davaunte Powers powered his way for 109 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Panthers to a 23-12 Class 4A, Division II bi-district win at Van’s Memorial Stadium.
Not only did it mark Spring Hill’s return to postseason for the first time since 2007, it was the Panthers’ first playoff victory since their 58-28 win over the Van Vandals in 2004.
Spring Hill (6-5) advances to area action and will play the No. 2 ranked Waco Connally Cadets (11-0). That game is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Midlothian Heritage.
Connally doubled up Canton Thursday night in their bi-district bout 42-21.
Powers put the finishing touches on the Panther win when he barreled in from three yards off right tackle at 3:18 of regulation. The abbreviated drive was set up by a shanked Caddo Mills punt and gave Spring Hill prime real estate.
The door slammed shut on the Foxes when Jonathan Clopton picked a desperation pass from Tyler Townley with under a minute to play.
Gage White then went into the quarterback’s favorite formation — victory — and drained the final seconds as the celebration commenced.
Prior to Powers’ game-clincher, Jose De La Cruz split the uprights from 37 yards out as Spring Hill increased its lead to 16-6 with 10:22 left in regulation.
The De La Cruz kick came at the end of a 14-play, 78-yard push that started in the shadows of Caddo Mills’ goal posts.
An apparent 35-yard scoop and score by Zach Henry was nullified on the change of possession. This would have put the Panthers up by 16.
Instead, the Foxes took advantage and drove 58 yards and got a Konnor Pounds’ 3-yard score at 7:49. The point after failed and it was 16-12 in favor of the Panthers.
After a scoreless opening frame, the Foxes found the pay window first with a drawn-out 15-play, 80-yard drive. Three times in the lengthy 6:49 march the Foxes converted third downs.
Townley, playing his Johnny Manziel impression, took a snap a darted left 7 yards for the game’s first score. Spring Hill thwarted the try for two.
The Panther response was much quicker as Malik Cooks polished off a 6-play, 62-yard pilgrimage with a 3-yard dash at 6:47 of the second quarter.
White had key pegs in the drive of 20 yards to Henry on a third and Long followed by a 2-yard rainbow to Tyrese Jones.
The Panthers gambled on the ensuing kickoff and went with an onside kick. Jay Rockwell proved the opportunist and Spring Hill stole a possession.
A steady dose of Powers culminated from five yards out on fourth and one from the Fox 5 at 2:23 of the half.
Spring Hill decided to go for two instead of kicking and proved unsuccessful. This the score 13-6 and that’s how it stood at halftime.