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HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST

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Cashion pulls away from Minco, 40-13, to claim District A-3 championship

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    CASHION’S RYAN BAKER (57) and Jacob Farrow (34) begin to celebrate after sacking Min-co quarterback Cavin Russell along with their teammate Caden Harrell (9). [Photo by Brad Stone/www.bestone.shootproof.com

Pick your poison.

That’s what you have to do when trying to stop the Cashion offense of 2019.

In a showdown last Friday night to determine the District A-3 championship, unbeaten Minco’s pick was to slow down the Wildcats’ running backs.

It worked, sort of, but Cashion’s plethora of weapons still rolled to a 40-13 victory.

“I would assume we’re difficult to prepare for,” Cashion coach Lynn Shackelford said. “You can’t really focus on one thing…at least that’s what I hope.”

His hope has held true all year as Cashion clinched a 9-0 overall record to complete a second straight unbeaten regular season. The Wildcats were 6-0 in district games.

Minco entered the night 9-0 and its defensive game plan focused on slowing down Cashion’s backfi eld duo of Caden Harrell and T.J. Roberts.

And it proved effective, at least early.

Cashion led 12-0 early in the first quarter and 26-6 at halftime, but couldn’t completely pull away from the Bulldogs.

“We went through a stretch where it was tough to move the ball and to score,” Shackelford said.

His counter was to use quarterback Ben Harman more in the rushing game.

“We haven’t used him a lot that way because we haven’t had to, but he’s capable,” Shackelford said. “They were keying on our backs so much that I thought he might be able to pop a few.”

Harman responded with 101 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

With Minco having to focus more resources on the sophomore QB, it eventually freed up Roberts and Harrell.

“I thought the longer the game went, the better we ran it with everyone.”

Harrell got 10 carries and scored on four of them, including an electrifying 55-yard run in the game’s fi nal minute.

Roberts toted it 14 times for 88 yards.

Sam Brown’s speedy approach allowed him 54 yards on four carries.

Roberts, Harman, Harrell and Brown each broke off a run of at least 34 yards.

In all, Cashion ran it 42 times for 343 yards.

“Our offensive line was a big key,” Shackelford said. “We ran it effectively and their pass protection was good all night.”

However, the Wildcats were never able to pull away until the fourth quarter.

Cashion jumped to a 12-0 first-quarter lead as it took advantage of a short field on its first drive and an opportune defl ection on another.

That initial drive saw Caden Harrell plow in from a yard out and the latter saw Alex Nabavi catch a pass from Ben Harman that was defl ected.

A Minco defender was poised to intercept it, but Nabavi raced in, caught it and scored a 39-yard touchdown.

Minco responded with its own touchdown drive before the end of the quarter. It ended with Andrew Carnally’s 31-yard touchdown catch from Cavin Russell.

The big play is what Cashion feared most from Minco and its potent passing attack.

“We didn’t feel they could just drive down the field on us, but we just couldn’t give up the big play,” Shackelford said.

The Wildcats got that touchdown back just before the midpoint of the second quarter when Harrell’s 5-yard run made it 18-6.

Cashion then got a big one with 11 seconds remaining before halftime as it chewed more than three minutes off the clock before Harman hit Brexten Green with a 20-yard strike with 11 ticks left on the clock.

The lead appeared insurmountable, but Minco opened the second half with a scoring drive. Kenny Fouch’s 10-yard reception from Russell made it a two-score game.

The Minco defense held Cashion scoreless in the quarter, but Cashion also continued to deny the Bulldogs.

Minco had just 48 rushing yards on 28 attempts for the game. Russell was also limited to 10 of 23 passing for 132 yards.

Harrell had 10 stops, including two for a loss, to lead a balanced defensive effort.

Justice Broadbent added seven tackles, three of them for losses. Ryan Baker also had three tackles for a loss among his fi ve stops.

The defense gave Cash-ion good field position much of the night, including a turnover on downs with under 4:39 left to set up the Wildcat offense at the Minco 12.

Harrell clinched the game with a 6-yard TD run two plays later with 4:08 on the clock.

Cashion got one more stop and Harrell eventually broke multiple tackles for his final touchdown of the night.

“We have a lot of weapons, but you better have a plan for him,” Shackelford said of Harrell.

The district title means at least two home playoff games for Cashion.

That starts at 7 p.m. Friday when the Wildcats host Rush Springs, which was fourth in A-4.