BONHAM — The Commerce Tigers will make a return to the playoffs after snagging a 53-28 victory over longtime-rival Bonham Friday night in District 5-3A1 play.
This was the 65th all-time meeting between the two squads. With the victory, the Tigers evened the series at 32-32-1.
Commerce has now made the postseason six out of the 10 seasons during this current decade.
Things got off to a hot start, as the Tigers scored on their first play from scrimmage on a 57-yard run by Xzay Basham where he broke through a line of tacklers and scampered away. Following a successful two point conversion, Commerce was up 8-0 and never trailed throughout the entire game.
There was little action for the rest of the quarter, as Commerce’s defense continued to hold the Purple Warriors at bay. Just before the end of the quarter, J’Den Wilson found Brad Caldwell on a brilliant 42-yard pitch-and-catch to set the Tigers up in the red zone as time expired.
On the second play of the second quarter, Dayton Dunbar pushed through for a 10-yard score to give Commerce a two-score lead.
The Tigers got the ball right back on a surprise kickoff that popped high in the air but short, and was dropped by a Bonham special teams player and recovered by Basham. However this didn’t end up as any points as Edgar Castillo had an ensuing 43-yard field goal kick not have the distance.
Commerce was given another chance as Warrior quarterback Mason Rodriguez tossed a pick to Wade Nicholson, but the Tigers failed to score on this possession as well.
Bonham finally got on the board on their next drive, using a hurry-up offense and picking apart Commerce for small gains that added up over time. The Warriors finally broke through on a 16-yard pass from Rodriguez to Nick Rhinehart to cut the lead to 15-7.
The Tigers answered with a score of their own as Wilson found Caldwell again, this time for a 17-yard touchdown pass. After a botched punt on the Warriors next drive, Commerce once again was given excellent field position as they started from the 12-yard line. Dunbar ran it in on the next play for his second score of the half.
Bonham put together another impressive drive as time was winding down, culminating with a five-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez with less than a minute to go. Even still, Commerce held a 29-14 lead as the halftime horn sounded.
As the teams returned for the final half, the Tigers wasted no time scoring again as Basham ripped off a 56-yard run on the second play of the half to notch his second 50-plus yard score of the game. Things went from bad to worse for the Warriors as Rodriguez fumbled a snap and it was recovered by freshman Carlos Aubrey. However this did not turn into a touchdown as Commerce stalled out and was forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt from Castillo, who booted it through the uprights.
Aubrey showed out again, blocking a punt on Bonham’s next drive to set up the Tigers in enemy territory. But Wilson tossed up an interception to Jamari Murrell on the very next play to give the Warriors another chance. However, they failed to score.
Rodriguez had another pass intercepted, this time by freshman De’Shawn Jackson. Jackson returned the interception from his own 10-yard line all the way across midfield, but an inadvertent whistle by the officials caused it to be move back to the spot of the catch.
This didn’t phase the Tigers at all, as Dunbar rumbled 87-yards before being caught right before the goal line. Caldwell finished the job with a three-yard score.
Once the dust had settled, Commerce ended the third quarter comfortably ahead 46-14.
Basham added another scoring run to his tally in the fourth quarter, and Bonham managed to score twice in the final frame, but the point was moot at that time as the Tigers cruised to the 53-28 victory.
The Tigers outgained the Warriors in total yardage 454 to 386, but the biggest difference is the average yards per play. Commerce ran only 49 plays while Bonham had 72, giving the Tigers an average yards per play of 9.3, while the Warriors could only muster 5.4.
Rodriguez tried to do it all for the Bonham Purple Warriors on Friday. He threw a whopping 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 199 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 84 yards and a score on 13 carries but also lost a fumble. Rodriguez spread the ball out to six different receivers, with his favorite target being Rhinehart, who caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Cade Bowser caught four balls for 30 yards, and also had 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground in seven rushing attempts.
Tiger quarterback Wilson had a solid game, completing nine of 18 passes for 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while also picking up 32 rushing yards on just four attempts. Caldwell caught two passes for 59 yards and a touchdown while also running for a score during the game. The running back tandem of Basham and Dunbar was nigh-unstoppable. Basham finished with 189 yards and three scores on 13 carries, while Dunbar had 143 yards and two touchdowns on nine rushes. Nicholson intercepted a pass on defense for the second consecutive week, and freshman Jackson also had a pickoff. Fellow freshman Aubrey recovered a fumble and blocked a punt during the game for Commerce.
Commerce Head Coach Cody Farrell gave credit to his offensive line for the clinic put on on Friday.
“When our offensive line is clicking, our backs are special,” Farrell said. “The last two weeks, if you go look at the film you will see that they are putting seven or eight guys in the box to stop the run and we are still running well even though we are outnumbered on the line.”
Farrell said it was critical to win next week to get a better seeding and to build momentum.
“You can either limp in to the playoffs, or you can try to get a streak going. It’s important for us to go out and play well,” Farrell said.
The win puts the Tigers at 4-5 overall and 3-2 in district play, while Bonham falls to 1-8 and 0-5 in district. Commerce will next play Rains High School at home next week to see who gets third place in the district while the Warriors will look for their first district victory against Van Alstyne on the road.