YOAKUM — Jordan Kelley wasn’t surprised Refugio was out of sorts in the first half of its Class 2A, Division I area playoff game.
The Bobcats hadn’t played in three weeks and struggled with their timing and execution.
“For us not playing in 20 days, any team is going to come out rusty,” Kelley said. “But we definitely picked it up in the second half.”
Refugio scored four touchdowns in the third quarter and went on to a 55-6 win over Flatonia on Thursday night at Bulldog Stadium.
The No. 2 Bobcats improved to 10-0 and moved into the regional round against Ganado, a 55-0 winner over Three Rivers.
The regional game has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, at Memorial Stadium in Victoria.
“We were just out of sync,” said Refugio coach Jason Herring. “I knew Flatonia was a good ball club and they were going to fight us tooth and nail because they did in district a couple of years ago.
“What I was most concerned about was us,” he added. “You can’t simulate the speed of a game in practice. This has never happened in my career that I’ve gone 21 days off and I don’t really know how you handle that.”
Kelley did his part by catching four passes for 170 yards, including touchdown catches of 35 and 61 yards from quarterback Caleb Hesseltine, rushing twice for 22 yards, and returning an interception 52 yards for a touchdown.
“Jordan Kelley is one of the most special athletes I’ve ever coached,” Herring said. “I’m so thankful he’s on my team – he can do anything. He can play quarterback, running back, wide receiver, free safety. He’s just a real special athlete. I’m grateful he made play after play after play tonight. That’s what you have to do in the playoffs. Your hosses have to be hosses.”
Antwaan Gross added six catches for 81 yards, had three carries for 13 yards, and returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown on Flatonia’s first play from scrimmage after Kelley’s pick-six.
“It was all about making halftime adjustments and picking apart their defense,” Kelley said. “Our coaching staff did a great job of doing that.”
The Bobcats took a 21-6 lead into halftime, but were penalized four times, had a bad snap on a punt attempt, and quarterback Caleb Hesseltine was intercepted in the end zone with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
Flatonia (5-4) scored on a 63-yard pass and run from quarterback Keyshaun Green to Fidel Venegas.
“We played really well in the first half,” said Flatonia coach Chris Freytag. “I really thought in the first half the score should have been a little closer, but they have a lot more kids than us and we wore down and we had a couple of turnovers in the second half. They’re a great football team. They’re the state champions for a reason.”
The Refugio defense completely shut down the Bulldogs’ running game (minus-33 yards) and did not allow a rushing first down.
“It’s just keeping the same mentality as we had last year and keeping the same drive,” said senior defensive tackle Nathan Meza, who had two sacks. “We have some young people, but we have to keep going. We still need to improve some more, but we’re getting better and better every game. This long break we had kind of hurt us, but we’re coming back.”
The Bobcats finished with 557 yards of offense, including 349 passing yards by Hesseltine, who also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run.
Zavien Wills had touchdown runs of 8, 25 and 4 yards.
“Every team is going to get better every single week,” Kelley said. “We’ve got to build off this game, and we look forward to going into Round 3.”