RICHARDSON — Sanger’s season came to a close Friday night in Richardson with a 69-55 loss to Caddo Mills in the Class 4A Division II bi-district round.
The contest became an offensive slugfest in the fourth quarter, with the two teams combining for 63 points in the final frame alone.
Sanger seniors Logan Lewis and Steven Bush combined for a total of 283 rushing yards in the game, with Bush also adding three touchdowns to his stat line.
Coach Rocky Smart started at Sanger High when these seniors were just eighth graders and could be seen hugging each one after the game.
“It’s been really special to me, and I hope they had a great time, because I know the coaches have,” Smart said.
The Foxes had a 14-point lead throughout various points in the second half, but Sanger would fight back each time.
However, every time it looked like the Indians could climb all the way back and tie the game, they committed unforced errors or penalties, with Sanger accumulating seven penalties for 60 yards.
The back-breaker came at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the handoff exchange between Lewis and Bush was dropped, and Caddo Mills sophomore defensive end Harris Bethea was able to fall on it at the Sanger 17-yard line.
On the very next play, senior running back Adrian Baxter ran it in to give the Foxes a 41-27 lead. Baxter finished with 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
With hope seeming to dwindle, Indians senior receiver Ben Turnbow showed that his team would not go quietly, taking a short pass 66 yards to the house, one of his three touchdowns on the night. Turnbow would finish with 160 yards receiving.
Caddo Mills sophomore Alfonso Gonzales was the offensive star for the Foxes, consistently running circles around the Indians’ defense, accumulating 160 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns.
Gonzales had his best run midway through the fourth quarter, when he looked like he would be taken down in the backfield, but he broke the tackle, got within the 5-yard line, juked an Indians defender, and ran untouched into the end zone.
The Indians will now have to turn their attention to next year, as they have the daunting task of replacing 21 seniors, including key contributors like Bush, Turnbow, Lewis and receiver Austin Shackelford, who had 95 yards receiving and a touchdown.
But in the immediate aftermath of the loss, it was time to think about what the team had accomplished throughout the season, which included making the playoffs with a 7-3 record, an improvement from Sanger’s 5-5 record the season before.
The team has a fast-paced identity under coach Smart, and the Indians know their team improved in the last part of the season.
“I really feel that our guys improved throughout the season, and that’s all you can ask for,” Smart said.