O’Connor shuts out Stevens on a ‘strange night’ – San Antonio Express-News

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An opportunistic defense offset difficult weather conditions and fueled O’Connor to a 31-0 victory over Stevens on Thursday night at Farris Stadium.

The fifth-ranked Panthers had three interceptions, including one returned for a score, blocked a punt, recorded two safeties, and limited Stevens to 49 total yards.

“There’s three phases in a football game, and every night, you’d like to be great in all three,” O’Connor coach David Malesky said. “Sometimes, you are going to be off, and sometimes, the other team is going to have a lot to do with that. The conditions were tough for both sides. There wasn’t much of anything (on offense).

“Sometimes, you have to find ways to win. We were able to capitalize in the kicking game, and were able to flip the fields on some crazy punts. It was a really strange night.”

The Falcons didn’t cross midfield field until halfway through the fourth quarter. Stevens had minus-12 yards heading into the fourth quarter, by which time the Panthers were playing second-team defenders.

The Panthers, who already had clinched a playoff berth, finished the regular season 8-2 overall and 8-1 in District 28-6A. O’Connor will enter the postseason as the district’s second seed.

The game carried more urgency for Stevens (5-5), which could have sealed the district’s fourth and final playoff spot with a win. Instead, the Falcons will have to wait on the outcomes of tonight’s Warren-Clark and Jay-Marshall games to see if they make the playoffs.

Stevens currently holds the fourth-place spot at 5-4. Warren and Jay, each 4-4 in district, can create a three-way tie with victories.

A steady rain running sideways thanks to a brisk wind from the north pelted the field when the game began. That led to conservative play-calling and a scoreless first quarter. The rain cleared heading into the second quarter.

O’Connor tallied 125 total yards. Running back Zion Taylor had 117 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries.

The Panthers benefited with short fields thanks to their defense, and Taylor’s scores of 1, 5 and 6 yards were set up by big defensive plays.

The first came early in the second quarter two plays after CJ Waller recovered a blocked punt at the Falcons’ 1-yard line.

O’Connor made it 14-0 at the 10:07 mark when junior linebacker Kyler Goodman returned an interception 35 yards for a score.

Senior Timothy McRae returned another interception 32 yards to the Falcons’ 20. That led to Taylor’s 5-yard score with 6:36 left in the second quarter to make it 20-0.

The Panthers got their first safety with 1:35 left in the second quarter when Stevens recovered the ball in its own end zone after a high snap for a loss of 25 yards to make the score 22-0.

Gavin Mack’s interception early in the fourth quarter led to Taylor’s 6-yard score.

The Panthers recorded their second safety when they sacked quarterback KK Brashears in the end zone in the final minute.

The Panthers enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak. Brandeis handed O’Connor its only district defeat (37-15) on Oct. 11.

“Going into the playoffs, you want to be on a roll,” Malesky said. “We’ve been fortunate since we lost that game to Brandeis. We feel we are doing some things better and playing, hopefully, to our potential. There are going to be some things we critique from tonight, but it was a good win. It really was.”

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