Eagles rolled by Austin LBJ in bi-district

Austin LBJ running back Daqwon Donaldson (5) narrowly escapes the grasp of Pleasanton senior linebacker Ty Hehman for a touchdown in Friday night’s bi-district contest. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Nothing went the Pleasanton Eagles’ way in Friday night’s Class 4A DI bi-district playoff.

The Eagles (3-8) fell to the Austin LBJ Jaguars (6-2) 61-0 at home. The Jaguars outgained the Eagles 538 yards to 176 in total offense. The Eagles committed four turnovers while only forcing one.

Pleasanton opened the game using the run-oriented Wing-T formation as a way to hopefully counteract the Jaguars’ speed by limiting their possessions. Pleasanton had not operated in anything but a spread offense all season.

It worked early on, as the Eagles only trailed 6-0 after the first quarter. But the Eagles came up empty handed in the first half and eventually trailed 18-0 at halftime after LBJ’s Jaybreon Riggins ripped the ball out of senior linebacker-turned-fullback Ty Hehman’s grasp on fourth-and-one after the senior reached the line to gain and went 30 yards for a defensive score.

“We thought that gave us the best opportunity to move the ball, run the clock, keep them off the field, those types of things,” Head Coach Stephen Liska said. “It worked out early. It’s 12-0 and we go for it on fourth-and-one, we get the first down and they strip the ball out. … Our kids embraced [the offense]. We got into [the playoffs], we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do to move forward in [the playoffs]. That’s what we did.”

The Jaguars didn’t find their full rhythm until the second half, where they scored 43 points. Running backs Sedrick Alexander and Daqwon Donaldson combined for 322 rushing yards and five touchdowns, with Alexander boasting three of those five. Quarterback Oscar Gordon III also added a hat trick of touchdowns to compliment his 69 yards rushing.

Austin LBJ was simply too fast.

“They were quick,” Hehman said. “They were a solid team. They had a lot of big guys that were really quick. We just didn’t execute like we should’ve.”

Michael Castillo was the Eagles’ top rusher with 57 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Sean Ramos was 4-of-11 passing for 24 yards and two interceptions.

The appearance was Pleasanton’s first trip to the playoffs since 2017. It was the first trip for the Eagles’ departing senior class. Though the result was not how they hoped it would end, they’re proud of the potential foundation they laid for future playoff appearances for the younger kids on the team.

“It was an awesome experience. It sucked that we hadn’t been able to make it the last two years, but we finally did,” Hehman said. “Although it’s not the outcome we hoped for, we made it. It’s pretty high [in my memories]. It’s gotta be top in football. I’ve had a lot of great memories with this sport, but this definitely capped it off well.”

Friday night was also an eye-opener for the Eagles and what they have to do in order to be competitive should they reach the playoffs again next season. Out of Pleasanton’s district (14-4A DI), only Boerne was able to reach the Area Round of playoffs by beating 13-4A’s Burnet on Friday night.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do still, obviously because we’re still gonna be matched up with this district again in the first round,” Liska said. “They’re a hard out. We’ve gotta understand that. We’ve gotta work hard and be ready to roll.”

However, Pleasanton’s path to the postseason in 2020 and the large amount of returning players is cause for excitement for Liska.

“The 0-4 start, how it happened, getting into the playoffs, getting a home playoff game, that was amazing and awesome,” Liska said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m very excited about the youth we have. We’ve got some holes to fill because we lost some really good offensive and defensive linemen, a linebacker [Hehman] and a corner [Ashon Thompson]. So, having Sean and the young kids to throw to coming back, the future looks bright.”

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