Gainesville pulled away in the fourth quarter to finish off a much-needed road victory Friday night.
The Leopards took down Burkburnett 41-21 at Iowa Park, thanks in part to a big night running the football by senior Harrison Dempsey.
Gainesville (2-5 overall, 1-1 District 4-4A-1) kept its playoff dreams alive after picking up a district win.
Burkburnett (1-6, 0-2) likely will not make the postseason this year unless it can pull some big upsets in the final few weeks.
Gainesville coach James Polk credited a good week of practice for the win.
“Everybody was really enthusiastic to get back on a winning streak,” Polk said. “Start getting some momentum going so that we can continue building off of that. Going into the game, hopefully get the win, and then keep going from that.”
Gainesville scored first and led the rest of the game, but the Bulldogs didn’t make it easy. In the fourth quarter, Burkburnett junior Hunter McCall scored on a 25-yard run to shrink Gainesville’s lead to 26-20. The Leopards needed a response, and Dempsey provided it.
After a long drive that drained several minutes off the clock, Dempsey punched it in from the 5-yard line. He then ran in the two-point conversion, pushing the lead to 34-21.
On the following drive, senior Cason Evans intercepted a Burkburnett pass, and the Leopards took over at their own 32-yard line. Sophomore London Daniels connected with junior D.J. Massey on a long pass to get into Bulldog territory.
After running most down of the clock, Dempsey broke free on a 33-yard touchdown run to put the game away and secure the win.
Polk said he wasn’t surprised the Leopards were able to finish the game well.
“I’ve always known they could do it,” Polk said. “We just hadn’t been ahead in the fourth quarter to actually have to do it. I think mentally, we know what we want to do, and the kids know what we want to do. It’s refreshing to actually see them go do it and us get a win off of it.”
Dempsey scored five of Gainesville’s six touchdowns. Fellow senior Kyron Smith had the other. Dempsey rushed for 202 yards, while Smith had 104. Polk said both played well, but they didn’t do it on their own.
“They ran really well, but our offensive line was our players of the week,” Polk said. “Both of them are extremely good athletes, very talented, but… sometimes when you’re not even getting touched until you’re six, seven yards down the field, that has a lot to say about that offensive line. I think they really blocked hard and got after it, and they took pride in it.”
The Gainesville defense held Burkburnett to 186 yards of total offense. The Leopards intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles, and the Bulldog offense didn’t score until the second half.
Polk said the defensive backs played especially well.
“I saw our secondary playing really good in coverage and making some key open field tackles once they got past the first level,” Polk said. “I think we had three interceptions and some batted down balls. I really think they’ve grown… I thought that that was a good game for them to find themselves, and they did that.”