NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (VYPE) -- New Braunfels Canyon (10-1) finished the 2020 UIL high school football regular season with an identical UIL 12-5A Division I district record as Seguin and Dripping Springs and earned the opportunity to host UIL 11-5A Division I fourth-place finisher Pflugerville (5-4) in a UIL 5A Division I Region III bi-district playoff game at its on-campus Cougar Stadium on Thursday night. The Cougars took advantage of the opportunity, hung on for a 20-17 win and advanced to next week's UIL 5A Division I Region III area round playoff meeting with Friday's Baytown Lee/Katy Paetow winner.
New Braunfels Canyon leaned on its home field advantage and stifling defense to take the early lead and never relinquished it. The Cougars stormed down the field on their first offensive drive, so it looked like they would be up seven. A holding penalty would ultimately prevent them from recording an 18-yard touchdown run, but they bounced back with Cameron Welch's 39-yard field goal to go up three points at the 8:01 mark of the opening period.
That momentum continued in the second quarter. At 8:04, Micah Williford ran over half the field on a 55-yard touchdown run to extend the New Braunfels Canyon lead to 10-0. Then, a recovered fumble on the ensuing kickoff return set up a quick trip to the red zone, Welch's second successful kick of the night and a 13-0 score advantage with 4:53 left before halftime.
"On that play, we kept running it outside them," said Williford. "And once they went outside, I cut back underneath them and then went back outside and scored."
The only thing that prevented a perfect first half was the late allowed field goal to Pflugerville's Jose Zapata that it made it a 13-3 game as time expired. Even with the slight diversion, New Braunfels Canyon refocused to take its largest lead in the early minutes of the third quarter. Jack Loos' 32-yard run to a score made it a 20-3 game with 8:12 left in the frame.
"It felt great to do something for the team," said Loos. "Step up. Make a play."
But, Pflugerville wasn't done and nearly completed the comeback. A touchdown by Jake Iloka made it a 10-point game with 3:07 left in the third quarter and another score by Cristian Valadez cut the deficit to 20-17 with 3:52 left in the contest. The Panthers also nearly recovered an onside kick before Loos grabbed the football to wrap up New Braunfels Canyon's victory.
"I just saw a bunch of helmets coming in," said Loos. "Ball on the ground and I jumped on it."