LONGVIEW -- Kylan Thomas and the Jefferson Bulldogs were opportunistic in Thursday’s playoff opener again West Rusk.
Using big plays and its overall speed, Jefferson jumped ahead early and rolled to a 36-13 win over West Rusk in a Class 3A, Division I, Region II bi-district playoff at Lobo Stadium.
With the win, Jefferson moves to 9-2 on the season and awaits the winner of Malakoff and Commerce for its second-round opponent. A young West Rusk team concludes its season at 7-4.
Thomas scored three touchdowns overall, two on the ground and one through the air for Jefferson in a 198-yard night overall — offensively.
The senior pulled down one of Jefferson’s two interceptions in the first half. Carlos Jackson added the Bulldogs’ second pick, his fifth of the season.
Senior running back Dee Black finished with 91 yards and two touchdown on 19 carries against the West Rusk defense, which held Jefferson to nearly 75 yards below its season average.
Bryson Johnson was on the receiving end of Thomas’ touchdown strike on a back-breaking 76-yard catch-and-run after the Bulldog defense stuffed the Raiders on a 4th-and-Goal at the one-yard line in the second quarter. That score put Jefferson up, 20-0 at halftime.
Johnson also returned a blocked point-after attempt 91 yards to the house in the fourth quarter.
Overall the Bulldogs out-gained West Rusk 375-350 in total yards, despite running 20 fewer plays.
For West Rusk, senior running back Gavin Smith churned out 158 yards on 22 carries, including a 29-yard touchdown. Smith concludes his season with 1,300 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jaylon Shelton was not in action for the Raiders.
Freshman quarterback Carson Martin connected with fellow freshman Andon Mata on a 16-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter. Martin finished with 56 rushing yards, just behind Tyrell Moore, who had 61 of the Raiders’ 277 yards on the ground.
Both teams exchanged punts to start the game, setting up a 7-play, 66-yard march from Jefferson, capped with a five-yard run from Thomas and highlighted by a 32-yard run from Johnson.
West Rusk’s defense stood tall after a fake punt attempt with sophomore Jamal Ford pulling down an interception. Jefferson’s defense then forced a turnover on downs.
Following Jackson’s interception, Thomas busted 45 yards on a broken play and Black made it 13-0 with a two-yard run.
Khalil Brasher then stuff West Rusk on fourth-and-five, setting up the Thomas to Johnson 76-yard connection to put Jefferson up at halftime, 20-0.
The Raiders then got on the board to start the third quarter on Smith’s 29-yard run on an eight-play, 66-yard drive.
Jefferson then slammed it shut on a quick three-play scoring drive with Black punching in his second score.