Commerce - Unleashing a devastating ground attack that buried the Warner Eagles, the 14th ranked Commerce Tigers earned their seventh straight trip to the second round of the Class A playoffs with a 34-3 victory Friday night at Tiger Field.
Fist-year head coach Mitchell Crittenden's Tigers carry an 8-2 season record into next Saturday's quarterfinal game at Tiger Field with the 10th ranked Hominy Bucks. Hominy stands 9-2 on the season following a 13-66 victory at Luther Friday night.
“Hominy is a well-coached football team,” Crittenden said. “They are a lot like us in that they run the ball and pass just to keep you honest.”
Last season the Tigers defeated the Bucks 26-17 here in the second round.
Warner ends the year with a 5-6 record.
“Even though we had over 500 yards in total offense, we were a little rusty after having the open date last week,” Crittenden said. “We weren't quite as sharp which resulted in too many penalties (8 for 100 yards).”
Behind the rushing combo of seniors Jimmy Brock and James Sullivan, the Commerce ground attack accumulated 411 yards on 49 carries.
Brock (5-9, 160) rushed for 177 yards on 19 carries while scoring on a 37-yard run. Brock also completed 6 of 9 passes for 91 yards and returned a kickoff 17 yards.
Sullivan (5-11, 200) scored on runs of 47, 1 and 9 yards while gaining 127 yards on 16 carries.
“With these two guys (Brock and Sullivan) it was just status quo,” Crittenden said. “It was nice to see them both have such a good game.”
After their opening possession stalled, the Tigers needed only five plays to march 73 yards the second time they touched the ball.
Following a 13-yard run by James Sullivan, wide receiver Zach Barnes took the handoff on a reverse and dashed 50 yards for a touchdown. Brock's two-point conversion run failed as the Tigers held a 6-0 lead with 5:48 left in the first quarter.
Mounting a methodical drive on their next possession. Commerce covered 82 yards in four plays for their second touchdown. Brock kept the drive alive with a 13-yard pass to Barnes on a third-and-4 call.
Sullivan took the direct snap and split the Warner defense for a 47-yard touchdown run with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Barnes kicked the extra point for a 13-0 Commerce lead.
Commerce defensive tackle Travis Eads recovered a fumble by Warner tailback Jed Baker at the Eagles 36-yard line.
Brock completed a 15-yard pass to junior wide out Luke Manning as the Tigers covered 36 yards in seven plays on their fourth possession of the game.
Sullivan bulled over from the 1-yard line and Barnes added the PAT for a 20-0 Commerce lead with 10:26 left before halftime.
Warner defensive end Tim Allison recovered a Brock fumble at the Commerce 32-yard line on the Tigers next series.
The Eagles offense sputtered at the Commerce 16-yard line and Taylor Mead came on to kick a 33-yard field goal with 6:01 left in the second quarter for Warner's only points of the game.
Commerce constructed a 73-yard, five-play drive on their next possession that consumed almost four minutes. During the drive Brock reeled off a 58-yard run.
Sullivan's 9-yard touchdown run straight up the middle ended the drive with 2:14 until halftime. The extra point by Barnes gave Commerce a 27-3 halftime lead.
“We thought going into the game that we could control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and we did that,” Crittenden said. “Because of that, they were getting frustrated and were cutting our offensive line.
“I told the officials before the game and again at halftime that our kids weren't going to stand for that,” Crittenden said. “The end result was that we got flagged for defending ourselves.”
During the third quarter, neither team could mount a sustained drive in three possessions each.
With the Warner defense starting to tire, the Tigers relied on Brock to moved them 87 yards in 11 plays which consumed more than seven minutes in the fourth quarter.
Brock gained 79 yards on seven carries during the drive while scoring on a 37-yard touchdown run. Barnes kicked the point-after with 4:27 remaining in the game to close out the scoring.
Along with the Brock and Sullivan show, the Tigers ground game received 57 yards on two carries from Barnes and 27 yards on five carries from Josh Pilkinton.
Quarterback Andrew Mealer led the Eagles ground game with 51 yards on 10 carries while halfback Nathan Morton added 34 yards on 12 carries.
Mealer completed 6 of 17 passes for 77 yards while Baker was 2 of 4 for 14 yards.