By Caleb Slinkard & Kevin Jefferies
The Commerce Journal
The Commerce Tigers’ (7-5) playoff run ended Friday in Mount Pleasant as New Boston (11-0) defeated them 40-7.
The Tigers were held scoreless in the first half as the Lions put up 26 points.
New Boston star running back Damien Haskins entered the game with 2,700 yards and 46 touchdowns and scored three more in the first half on runs of 5, 36 and 3 yards.
The Lions also scored just their second passing touchdown of the season on a 65-yard pass from junior Aaron Conkleton to senior Tyjae Clark to make it 26-0.
The Commerce offense couldn’t overcome a strong Lion defense much in the second half while Haskins had a 56-yard scoring run for his 50th touchdown of the season and Conkleton ran for 63 yards and a score in the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Tigers scored with a 32-yard pass from junior Sam Wells to junior D’Lance Sharp and held the New Boston Lions scoreless.
New Boston, ranked fifth by the Associated Press in Class 2A, improved to 11-0 for the season and advances to the regional round to play either Pottsboro or Malakoff.
The Tigers had an up-and-down season as they recovered from the loss of key players, such as senior wide receivers Jurase Brown and T.J. Pannell and linebacker Gabe Connor. Early victories over North Lamar (42-35) and Cooper (33-22) were dampened by close losses to Princeton (39-28) and Pleasant Grove (31-27). Commerce began their first season of play in their new district against Van Alstyne, another former 3A team with a 35-14 victory. The Tigers finished 4-2 in district play, with victories over Sunnyvale (28-10), Howe (46-0) and Caddo Mills (20-0) against losses to Pottsboro (21-18) and Farmersville (36-28).
Commerce won their first playoff game over Whitesboro 32-13 before moving on to play New Boston. The win was the Tigers’ first playoff victory since 2002.
The Tigers had a fantastic offensive season, and were never blown out in their first 11 matches, their biggest loss being to Princeton by 11 points. Commerce will lose some key seniors this offseason, including WR/DB Buck Wilson, DL Cortez Crosby, DL Blake Madewell, RB Kalyn Smith, and WR/DB Daryian Hubbard. The Tigers will return some key players from their 2012 squad, including QB Sam Wells.