ARLINGTON, Texas -- Head coach Hal Wasson felt like Southlake Carroll's running game would take off if he could get running back AJ Ezzard healthy.
Judging by Ezzard's performance against Cedar Hill on Saturday, he's ready to go.
The sophomore ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns to guide the Dragons to a 40-7 win over the Longhorns at Cowboys Stadium.
Carroll (12-0) advances to face Arlington Bowie (9-3) on Saturday at Pennington Field in the Class 5A Region I semifinals.
The Dragon running game leaned heavily on quarterback Kenny Hill throughout the season while Ezzard battled a leg injury, but Wasson could sense he was getting close to having a breakout game.
He did Saturday. Ezzard's emergence allowed the Dragons to ease off Hill, although the junior signal-caller still had 124 rushing yards in addition to 126 yards through the air.
"I really thought coming into the game that he [Ezzard] was going to have a big game," Wasson said. "We saw him coming along a couple weeks ago. We knew he was a step or two away. Fortunately, today he took those steps."
Carroll's defense had a problem against good running teams during the regular season, but the Dragons shut down Cedar Hill (8-4), holding Laquvionte Gonazlez, Jared Rayford and Damion Hobbs to a combined 118 yards.
Not only that, but Cedar Hill never came up with a big play as Carroll gave up just three runs of 10 yards or more.
"Our defense played really smart, really aggressive," Wasson said. "They adapted to the speed of the game quickly. Our Achilles heal has been giving up big plays, but they had a great night tonight."
Hill got Carroll on the board late in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown, and Cedar Hill answered with a long drive that ended in a Gonzalez touchdown run to open the second quarter.
But only the first quarter was competitive. Carroll's methodical, well-paced offense moved with ease against Cedar Hill. The Dragons scored 16 points in the second quarter, fueled by receiver Peyton Williams who had 86 receiving yards in the first half.
Kicker Drew Brown was automatic for Carroll, connecting on field goals of 25, 49, 34 and 25 yards in the game.
"We said we were going to have to have a great game today," Wasson said. "We challenged our football team on Monday and they responded."