TERRELL — The Commerce Tigers saw their season come to a close as they suffered a 49-3 defeat at the hands of the No. 3-ranked Malakoff Tigers in the Bi-District round of the UIL 3A-1 football playoffs Friday night at Terrell Memorial Stadium.
This season marked the sixth time in the last 10 seasons where Commerce had reached the postseason. Friday’s matchup was one of the toughest challenges the team had faced in recent memory, as Malakoff were state runners-up last season and poised to make another long playoff run.
Things got off on the wrong foot for Commerce, as they went three-and-out on their first drive. It didn’t take long for Malakoff to get on the board, taking just three plays to go 41 yards, with quarterback Darion Peace finding Andreas Garrett on a screen pass that turned into a 16-yard touchdown.
Commerce answered on their next drive, as Rueben Casteneda booted a 40-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to cut the lead down to four. However, that was as close as Commerce would get.
Bad news came for Commerce, as quarterback J’Den Wilson was shaken up on the play before the field goal. It was later learned that he had been placed under concussion protocol and did not return to the field for the rest of the game, leaving Brad Caldwell to reprise his role from last season and take over quarterbacking duties.
Malakoff scored another touchdown, and when Commerce got the ball back, Xzay Basham fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Malakoff, and finished off by a nine-yard touchdown run by Peace on the next play.
It went from bad to worse for Commerce as Dayton Dunbar fumbled on the next possession, and Malakoff’s Colby Rush scooped up the loose ball and ran 30 yards for a score. When the horn sounded to end the first quarter, Commerce was down 28-3.
Peace tossed another touchdown pass in the second quarter to extend the lead. Commerce chewed up most of the game clock with a long, grueling drive that lasted until the end of the half. The team made it to the four yard line but was stopped before reaching pay dirt as time expired. The halftime score saw a 35-3 advantage for Malakoff.
Peace found Garrett wide open for a 54-yard passing touchdown on the second play of the third quarter. Another touchdown, this time on an 11-yard run by Keevy Rose, saw Malakoff extend their lead to 49-3 by the end of the third quarter. This score would hold until the rest of the game.
Roughly halfway through the fourth quarter, Caldwell left the game with an apparent injury, leaving Basham to take the snaps in a wildcat formation. There was not much action for either team as multiple running plays quickly drained the clock. Malakoff put in replacement players for their final drive, and ran the clock out all the way to preserve the 49-3 victory.
Malakoff dominated the game offensively, scoring on every possession but their last, when time ran out on the game while they still held the ball. Quarterback Peace was a perfect nine-for-nine through the air for 128 yards and three touchdowns, while also running four times for 32 yards and a score. Garrett was his favorite target, catching five balls for 105 yards and two touchdowns. De’Dric Davis was the team’s leading rusher, picking up 115 yards on just five rushes but being kept out of the end zone. Rose had 42 yards and two scores on six carries, while Duce Hart ran 11 times for 53 yards. Rush recovered a Commerce fumble in the first quarter and ran it 30 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. Malakoff gained 371 total yards on 36 offensive plays for an average of 10.3 yards per play.
Commerce could only muster 157 yards of total offense on the night. Wilson completed one of five throws for 35 yards before leaving the game in the first quarter. Caldwell went one-of-two for 22 yards, and led the Tigers with 92 hard-fought yards on 18 rushes, accounting for 56 percent of his team’s total yardage. Basham ran 14 times for 33 yards and lost a fumble. Casteneda booted through a 40-yard field goal in his only attempt of the game.
Commerce Head Coach Cody Farrell gave a lot of credit to the opposing team.
“That was probably the best team I’ve ever seen since I started coaching,” Farrell said. “But our kids played as hard as they could have played, and I’m proud of that. They never gave up.”
Farrell continued: “If you are gonna write about them, write about the heart they have. No one believed in them. They made some mistakes that you can’t make when playing these kinds of teams, but I’m proud of them, they gave it all they got.”
The loss drops Commerce to 4-7 on the year as its season ends, while Malakoff improves to 10-1 and moves on to face Jefferson in the next round of the playoffs.