GLADEWATER — Like a couple of energetic boxers exchanging haymaker after haymaker, round after round, the Malakoff Tigers finally landed the knockout punch in their 53-41 Class 3A, DI Area win over the Jefferson Bulldogs on Thursday at Jack V.Murphy Bear Stadium.

When senior Tiger halfback De’Dric Davis barged his way up the middle and steamrolled 60 yards to the house with 2:07 left, Malakoff could finally exhale and start making plans for third play action.

Davis, who lives up to his nickname “Bulldozer”, wound up with 225 yards on 21 touches with scoring runs of 15, 17 and 60 yards. His last tote came after Jefferson turned the ball over on downs when senior signal-caller Kylan Thomas had his pass deflected on fourth and three by none other than the hard-charging “Bulldozer” himself.

The third-ranked Tigers (11-1) advance to face the winner of tonight’s Sabine and Pottsboro contest at a site and time not yet determined.

Jefferson (9-3) managed a spirited comeback in the fourth quarter and rallied from down 41-27 at the start of the period to forge a 41-41 tie with still 7:47 left to play in regulation.

Thomas, who led the Dawgs with 135 yards on 11 carries, capped an 8-play, 75-yard surge with his keeper off left guard at 11:38 of the final stanza. After Malakoff’s Hector Romero pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt left, Jefferson drove 80 yards in five snaps to tie the game.

The ever-elusive Dee Black strolled 61 yards to paydirt one snap following Thomas’ converting a 4th and 8 with a 17-yard keeper around left end. This came with the Bulldogs opting to go for it from their own 22 and still the better part of half the fourth remaining.

Malakoff, which rolled up 419 of its 561 yards offense on the ground, answered the Jefferson tying tally when Davis lumbered in from four yards out at 4:52.

Davis ignited the drive with a brilliant 40-yard jaunt after it appeared he was stopped in the backfield on a fourth and one from near midfield.

The entertainment got started from the get-go as Jefferson’s Thomas and Kenneth Bell teamed up on a 62-yard TD not even 20 seconds into play.

Unimpressed, Malakoff moved methodically 72 yards in 10 plays as Tiger QB Darion Peace hit Andreas Garrett on a well-executed 27-yard bubble screen at 6:27.

The Dawgs, much like they did on their first touch, struck fast when Thomas darted around right end for 66 yards after a pooch kick set Jefferson up with good field position.

Landon Fuquay toed the point after and Jefferson had 14 points on two snaps totaling 128 yards in matter of 30 seconds. Thomas and Black accounted for 265 of Jefferson’s 268 rushing yards.

The Tigers moved 68 yards in 11 plays and chewed up 5:44 of the opening period. They converted three third downs in the drive and finished things off with Davis carrying a couple over from 15 yards out.

Black, who had 130 yards on 13 touches, gave Jefferson back the lead at 21-14 when he dove in from a yard out at 10:15 of the second quarter. Davis and crew responded with a 13-play, 75-yard march that drained over half the quarter.

Peace, who connected on 10 of 12 passes for 142 yards, found Nathan Jones on a 5-yard comeback as Malakoff took a 27-21 lead to the break.