Garland overcomes slow start to beat Berkner

GARLAND, Texas -- The Garland Owls were revved up for their playoff opener against Richardson Berkner on Friday.

Maybe a little too revved up.

False starts, missed field goals and other miscues plagued the Owls throughout the game, making what felt like a blowout a close contest.

But once Garland settled down, it found its game and rolled over Berkner, 24-7, in the Class 5A Division I bi-district round at Williams Stadium.

The win marks the third time in four years Garland has knocked Berkner out of the playoffs in the bi-district round.

Garland (9-2) advances to play Mesquite (6-5) at 6 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in the area round.

"We were just all excited," said Garland quarterback Seth Russell of the slow start. "It was the first playoff game, against Berkner again. We were just in over our heads. We talked about it at halftime, came back out and started playing well."

Berkner (7-4) looked strong on its first few possessions behind quarterback Yedidiah Louis, but Garland's defense adjusted to the Rams' unconventional offense and didn't give them anything to work with after that.

After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Garland gave up just two first downs the rest of the game while forcing five three-and-outs. Berkner tallied just 97 total yards of offense, including six yards rushing.

"We knew we had to slow down No. 1 [Louis]," Garland head coach Jeff Jordan said. "They did a couple of things they hadn't done before, but once we got adjusted we took that away from them and we were able to shut them down after that."

The defense's stellar play bought time for Garland's offense, which sputtered early with penalties and other unforced errors.

After throwing an interception that set up Berkner's only touchdown of the game, Russell settled down and put together an efficient performance that was better than his 153 yards suggest.

With the game tied 7-7 in the third quarter, Russell gave the Owls their first lead of the game with a 14-yard touchdown run set up by a 51-yard run by Keyland Spencer.

After missing two field goals earlier in the game, Garland kicker Josh Lambert connected on a 25-yard attempt to put the Owls up 17-7 in the fourth quarter, and DraShane Glass' 42-yard interception return for a touchdown on Berkner's ensuing possession sealed the win.

"The second half, we played great in offense, defense and the kicking game so I was very pleased with the second half," Jordan said.