McKINNEY — A fast start propelled the Duncanville Panthers to a 56-14 victory over Rockwall in a Class 6A, Division I state football semifinal on Saturday.
The Panthers, who are ranked No. 1 in state and fifth in the nation, scored three touchdowns in the first 13 plays to build a 21-0 lead and never looked back as they improved to 15-0 for the season.
Rockwall, which had a nine-game winning streak snapped, finished the season at 12-3 after its first appearance in the state semifinals since 1987.
Duncanville heads to a rematch with Galena Park North Shore in the state championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington. North Shore beat Duncanville 41-36 in last year’s state finals after completing a 45-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown on the final play.
The Panthers, whose theme this season has been “unfinished business,” took care of business early against the Yellowjackets.
Running back Trysten Smith dashed 74 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the second play of scrimmage.
Then after the Yellowjackets recovered an onside kick at their 30 that followed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Duncanville, Panther defensive lineman Tyler Quinn returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
The Jackets were down 14-0 after only touching the ball twice.
Duncanville’s swarming defense forced a punt and then two plays later, wide receiver Roderick Daniels sprinted 72 yards for a touchdown on a reverse and the Panthers led 21-0 at the 8:48 mark of the opening quarter.
The Panthers struck on two more big plays before the Jackets could find the end zone. Quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson ran 59 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter and then connected with wide receiver Marquelan Crowell on an 81-yard touchdown pass.
Duncanville’s offense lost some momentum after Jackson left the game with an injury at the 4:32 mark of the second quarter and did not return.
After Duncanville freshman quarterback Chris Parson was sacked by the Jacket defense for a 19-yard loss, Rockwall forced a punt. Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s 11-yard punt return set the Jackets up at the Duncanville 27. Rockwall scored four plays later on a 22-yard strike from quarterback Braedyn Locke to wide receiver Brenden Bayes as Duncanville went into halftime with a 35-7 advantage.
Rockwall later scored with 10:43 remaining on a 1-yard run by freshman quarterback Lake Bennett with 10:43 remaining to cap a seven-play drive. Freshman running back Zach Hernandez ran for gains of 29 and 12 yards on the drive. Hernandez finished with a team-high 62 yards on seven carries.
Duncanville’s freshman quarterback Parson settled down in the second half to throw a 36-yard touchdown to Brennan Ray and ran for a 38-yard score as the Panthers finished with 488 yards of total offense, including 365 rushing. Smith led the victors with 152 yards rushing on 18 carries and Daniels ran for 119 yards on seven rushes. Jackson ran for 90 yards on five carries and was 3-of-5 passing for 87 yards before the injury.
Locke, who faced constant pressure, went 9-of-32 passing for 51 yards to finish the season with 4,305 yards passing and 52 touchdown passes. He went 268-of-455 passing.
Smith-Njigba, who is headed to Ohio State, caught five passes for 34 yards and finished the season with 109 catches for 2,132 yards and 34 touchdowns. He concluded his illustrious career with 296 catches for 5,384 yards and 63 touchdowns and also ran for 395 yards and 11 more scores.