HS Football Playoffs: Willis’ Historic Season Ends in Loss Versus DeSoto

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 11/24/2023


SAN ANTONIO, TX -- The Willis Wildkats were upended 65-31 by the undefeated DeSoto Eagles under the bright lights of the Alamodome on Friday night.

An electrifying atmosphere was in store for both teams, as a sizable crowd emerged for the Wildkats and Eagles at the neutral site venue.

The regional matchup was only the second time Willis had ever reached the third round of the playoffs. DeSoto, on the other hand, returns to the playoffs once again after winning the 6A-Division II State Championship last season.

Despite the championship pedigree, little separated the two teams in the opening quarter. DeSoto’s opening drive yielded only a field goal, and in one play, Willis’ D.J. Lagway streaked to the endzone for his team’s opening statement score.

The momentum swings following the quick scores would be consistent between the two teams. A rushing score from Eagles quarterback Darius Bailey got his team back in front of the Wildkats, but Willis would continue to fight.

A deep 61-yard shot to Jalen Mickens from Lagway would tie the teams back up at 17 before a major shift in the game tilted it in DeSoto’s favor.

Rather than returning to their steady pace on offense, DeSoto changed over to a rapid, no-huddle offense that allowed little time for Willis’ defenders to get set.

The change came so suddenly that the Wildkats could not adjust on the fly. Defensive lapses became the norm for the Wildkats in the second quarter, with missed tackles and misreads at the line leading to large rushes for the Eagles.

The dam finally broke when Bailey found Antonio Pride Jr. across the middle of the endzone for a 24-17 score. It was quickly followed by a Deondrae Riden Jr. rushing score to make DeSoto’s lead 31-17 going into the half.

The seemingly unstoppable Willis offense was forced to rely on their 5-star quarterback more than they had all season to start the second half.

DeSoto fed on the new Wildkat reliance on Lagway by bringing constant pressure off the edges while sitting a spy on the versatile quarterback.

Hurried opportunities led to missed throws and sacks forced by the Eagle's defense. These fast stops put the ball back in the hands of the high-flying DeSoto offense, who continued to work like they had during the first half.

The Eagles racked up five second-half scores behind their powerful offensive attack led by Bailey at the quarterback spot.

Bailey spotted his receivers in open space for piercing scores, including two touchdown passes to Pride Jr. to total three scores for the pair on the night.

Even with the second units coming in for the Eagles, the production did not slow down.

Willis’ offense remained ineffective behind the oppressive converge from the DeSoto secondary and the persistent pressure from the defensive line.

A last gasp at scoring for the Wildkats came in the form of a Daylion Robinson rushing score late in the game that made it 58-31 in favor of the Eagles.

DeSoto’s secondary offense took one final drive to the endzone on a rushing score from inside the two-yard line, ending the affair 65-31.

Willis’ historic season ended in disappointment, but not after a shining achievement was made by Lagway. The future Florida Gator broke the Texas high school record for most passing touchdowns in a single season with his two passing scores.

DeSoto now marches on to the Quarterfinals, where they await their next opponent.

Comments •
Log In to Comment