NACOGDOCHES — On a day that saw state champs fall in a couple of classifications — most notably three-time champ Highland Park in Class 5A — the Daingerfield Tigers added two-time champ Newton to the list.
Zaylon Jeter’s 38-yard scramble away from trouble and all the way to the end zone rallied Daingerfield to a 30-26 win over Newton on Friday in a Class 3A Division II Region III quarterfinal at SFA’s Homer Bryce Stadium.
The Daingerfield defense, which came up with key stops and turnovers all night to keep the Tigers in the game, sealed the deal late with a fumble recovery by Austin Fomby that allowed Daingerfield to take a knee and run out the clock.
The Tigers (11-2) will meet district rival Paul Pewitt next week in the regional finals. Newton ends the season with an 11-2 record.
Craver rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns and completed 19 of 37 passes for 241 yards and two more scores to lead the Tigers. Zakobie Craver had three catches for 66 yards, and Tyrese Grant had seven grabs for 98 yards and a touchdown.
DeAnthony Gatson carried 22 times for 130 yards and a touchdown in the loss for Newton.
Newton, which took advantage of eight turnovers a year ago to defeat the Tigers 79-12 in a fourth-round playoff game, had a couple of costly interceptions on Friday.
The first came early in the fourth quarter and led to a Tiger touchdown when Jeter scored from 5-yards out after a T.J. Williams interception. Jeter hit Craver for 47 yards on the drive and later kept from 5-yards out for the TD. The try for two failed, but Daingerfield cut the deficit to 26-22 with 8:18 to play.
On Newton’s next drive, Evan Peel picked off a pass deep in Tiger territory and returned it 44 yards. The pick didn’t lead to points, but on Newton’s next drive the defense held again and forced a punt. The boot went only 10 yards to set up the go-ahead score for Daingerfield.
Craver, who kept plays alive all night long with his scrambling ability, completed passes of 5 and 15 yards, and then did the scoring honors himself with a Houdini-like scramble away from several Eagle defenders and then a mad dash down the Newton sideline for the touchdown. Craver added the two-pointer to make it a 30-22 contest.
Newton’s final series included a short completion, two incomplete passes and then a play that included several laterals before the Eagles finally coughed up the ball and Fomby recovered to end it.
Daingerfield struck first, forcing a three-and-out on Newton’s first offensive possession and then marching 63 yards in six plays to light up the scoreboard. Jeter connected with Zavien Parker for a 25-yard completion to highlight the drive, and two plays later — after avoiding disaster when the Tigers fumbled but recovered — Jeter scrambled to his left and threw back across his body for a 38-yard scoring strike to Grant.
The try for 2 failed, but the Tigers led 6-0 with 8:41 left in the initial quarter.
Newton answered with a 6-play, 64-yard drive to tie things just over a minute later on a 10-yard run by Gatson, and the Eagles threatened to pull away by marching 55-yards and adding to the lead with a 2-yard run by Gatson.
Valdarion Fowler added the 2-point conversion for the Eagles, and Newton led 14-6, but the Tigers responded.
Daingerfield drove 74 yards in 14 plays and took 4:47 off the clock to tie things at 14-14. The Tigers were aided by a 15-yard penalty on the Eagles after a 12-yard run by Martez Allen, and five plays later Jeter hit Coby Wright on a 1-yard scoring strike. Those two hooked up again for the 2-pointer to tie the contest on the first play of the second quarter.
The Eagles later took over at their own 14 and got their passing game going, scoring on a 46-yard pass from Williams to a wide open Dominique Seastrunk. The try for two failed, but Newton led 20-14.
Fomby came up with two big defensive plays to keep the Tigers close at the end of the half.
Newton drove to the Daingerfield 20 after a 14-yard completion from Williams to Seastrunk, but on the next play Fomby beat his man at the line of scrimmage and dropped Williams for a 10-yard loss.
Three plays later, on fourth down, Fomby again crashed into the Eagle backfield and pressured Williams into an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs and force Newton to settle for a 20-14 halftime lead.