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DeSoto defense stands tall in Duncanville football upset: 'Pressure busts pipes'

Buck's Ballpark column: Eagles hold vaunted Panthers' offense to one TD for most of the second half

DESOTO, TEXAS - They kept coming in waves, right until the very end.

While DeSoto made some big plays on offense and special teams in Saturday’s much-anticipated matchup with Duncanville, the Eagles' defense also rose to the occasion. Especially in the second half of their 49-35 win.

“Usually, they’re a second-half team and we were like, ‘We’re not going to let that be done on our defense,’” DeSoto senior linebacker Brandon Booker said. “This is different, this isn’t any other team but us. It was all about us and we just said, ‘Hey, if we really want to beat them, we’ve got to stop them in the second half.’”

Against the Panthers’ galaxy of offensive skill players, the Eagles weren’t fazed at all. They put pressure on quarterback Keelon Russell, even producing several sacks. They swarmed to the ball carriers. Countless times, if a Panther got past a would-be tackler, another DeSoto player was right there to finish things off.

DeSoto also came up with two takeaways, one of which led to a half-concluding touchdown to put the Eagles up by 14. That was also the same number of points DeSoto held Duncanville to in the second half.

When it was over, the Eagles were the ones making the most noise with a resounding win on their home field in a game that was postponed a day due to heavy storms the night before.

“That defense has pride, too, and that defense took it to them (Saturday),” DeSoto coach Claude Mathis said. “I was so happy with our defense. I am so happy with our defense right now because they got so tired of being bashed.

“We knew how good we were. … We were just ready for us to come out and play and they did, and I’m so proud of them right now. Great defensive game plan.”

The Eagles were also eager to tell people that, hey, we’re defending state champions, too.

“We had a whole week of preparation,” Booker said. “We remembered all the times that we got scored on, all the embarrassment that we had.

“And we didn’t make it personal, we just (concentrated) on business, we just had to do that, this one time. It’s the last year for the seniors, and we had to go out with a bang.”

That they did, for the Eagles’ first win against the Panthers since 2016. It broke Duncanville’s 22-game winning streak and its 47-game district winning streak.

“Everybody was locked in, everybody was ready to do their part and go 100 percent, and that’s all it took for us, everybody doing their job,” senior safety Makali McKellar said.

And did having an unexpected extra day to prepare for the Panthers help the Eagles’ cause?

“I actually think it did because it just gave us more drive and more energy, more intensity because it was such a buildup and such a wait, so we were like, ‘All right, we’re fixing to release all of that on them,’” Booker said.

McKellar had the Eagles’ first takeaway, recovering a fumble in the second quarter with DeSoto already up 21-14. But the Eagles couldn’t take advantage, missing a field goal.

Moments later, Duncanville tied the score. DeSoto then promptly untied it late in the first half.

Then, the Eagles produced another fumble, leading to the turning point. On a pass play, DeSoto defensive back Aundre Wisner hung on to the ankle of Duncanville’s Nate McCoy, who eventually lost the ball.

It landed in the hands of Booker. Seven plays later, DeSoto quarterback DJ Bailey ended the first half with a strike in the end zone to Antonio Pride Jr.

A two-touchdown advantage for DeSoto at the break. Then, the Eagles’ defense helped make that stand.

They stopped the Panthers on downs on the first drive of the second half. On fourth down, Duncanville tailback Caden Durham, who caught a swing pass, broke two tackles but could not get past McKellar, who made the finishing stop.

“(The Eagle defense had to) just be disciplined, have everybody do their part in the game,” McKellar said. “Everybody had to read their keys, do their job and we just had to go play ball.”

DeSoto then forced Duncanville to punt on its next second-half series.

The Panthers did make things interesting in the fourth, getting a long TD reception from Dakorien Moore, cutting DeSoto’s lead back to 14, and had the ball. The Eagles dug in and forced a fourth-and-long, and on that play, Russell seemed to find someone to throw the ball to.

At the last instant, however, DeSoto linebacker Jamari Laye got past his man and converged on Russell, knocking the ball free. The Panthers recovered, but it was a moot point, as DeSoto had possession regardless.

“Hey man, pressure busts pipes, and we busted them pipes,” Booker said.

Duncanville was held to one touchdown for much of the second half, but got its second in the final seconds, a tipped pass on fourth down that landed in the hands of Moore.

Still, the Eagles remained in control, and their defense provided the exclamation point on the day on the Panthers’ final series.

The Eagles produced sacks on first and second down, with lineman Keylan Abrams involved in both. Then on fourth down, cornerback Mario Buford was heavily covering Moore and batted a pass away, and Buford immediately started celebrating.

So did the rest of the Eagles, even well after the game finally came to an end.

“Like I said, pressure busts pipes and we were not going to let them come back,” Booker said. “Not on us. This is a different team, a different year, none of that in the past, only the present and the future.”

Photo of DeSoto's Mario Buford by Robbie Rakestraw

-- Buck Ringgold | | @SBLiveTX