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PARIS – Defensive back Za King ran a school-record 99 yards with a fumble return that put a spectacular exclamation mark on the Paris Wildcats’ 35-0 victory Friday night over the Pleasant Grove Hawks.
Just before Pemberton crossed the plane of the goal, King wrested the ball away and Pemberton fell into the north end zone empty handed. King, a 5-9, 165-pound senior, headed the other way and went the length of the field untouched for a touchdown.
With the victory, Paris improved to 4-4 for the season and a perfect 3-0 in District 13-3A. Pleasant Grove fell to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in conference.
In other games, Liberty Eylau (5-3, 3-0) kept pace with paris by beating Pittsburg 51-14. Atlanta took over sole possession of third place, a game ahead of Pittsburg, by coming back from a 28-27 deficit to beat North Lamar 55-28.
This year, for the first time, four teams advance to the playoffs from Class 3A districts.
Paris quarterback Quez Allen threw two touchdown passes to Joe Wallace — a 57-yard pass only 1:02 deep in the game, and a 17-yard pass that capped a seven-play, 50-yard drive in the third quarter.
Allen had an even more spectacular pass that Kenny Mason took down the left sidelines 55 yards to the Pleasant Grove 10-yard-line with 3:28 remaining in the first quarter. The Wildcats got no points out of that, however. On third-and-goal from the 4, a Pleasant Grove defensive back Dylan Silvey made a diving interception in the left corner of the end zone.
Mason, who celebrated a birthday Friday, got the Wildcats’ fourth touchdown of the night on a 5-yard end-around play with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. Running from east to west, he outran three defenders to the goal, racing toward the left corner of the field and falling into the pylon on the goal line.
Paris needed just four plays to go 71 yards for a touchdown 3:20 into the fourth quarter for a 28-0 lead, picking up a first down on each of the four carries. Allen got the first 61 yards on two plays — getting 37 yards to the Pleasant Grove 34 and then 23 more yards to the 11. Mason took a pass to inside the 1, setting up a short plunge by Dren Rollerson for the touchdown.
Both teams left touchdowns on the field. On the series before Allen was picked off in the end zone, he overthrew his receiver at the Hawk 33, and Pemberton intercepted, returning the ball 27 yards to the Paris 40.
The fumble that King returned for 99 yards was just one of three times that Mount Pleasant was thwarted at or near the end zone. Under a tremendous rush, Hatfield made an ill-advised throw into double coverage in the end zone in the second quarter, on second-and-10 from the 17, and King intercepted.
Late in the game, Hatfield hooked up with Connor Lemmerhirt on a 31-yard pass for a first-and-goal at the Paris 5. Mark Ashby gained four yards to the 1, but then the Paris defense stiffened, dropping Pleasant Grove runners for a four-yard loss to the 5, then stopping the Hawks at the 3. On fourth-and-goal, Paris linebacker Jordan Williams stopped the Pleasant Grove runner dead in his tracks for a yard loss,, turning the ball over on downs.
Williams and fellow linebacker Brickey Reed took turns delivering jarring tackles.
PLEASANT GROVE 0-0-0- 0– 0
Paris — Joe Wallace 57 pass from Quez Allen (Blake Beshirs kick), 7-0 (10:58 1Q)
Paris — Kenny Mason 5 run (Beshirs kick), 14-0 (3:51 2Q)
Paris — Wallace 17 pass from Allen (Beshirs kick), 21-0 (7:53 3Q)
Paris — Dren Rollerson 1 run (Beshirs kick), 28-0 (8:48 4Q)
Paris — Za King 99 fumble return (Beshirs kick), 35-0 (6:35 4Q)
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra