The name everyone was focused on entering Saturday’s ballyhooed Texas Class 6A Div. I semifinal between No. 1 Allen and No. 11 Duncanville was 5-star Eagles wide receiver Theo Wease. They should have been focused on the primary offensive playmaker on the other side of the ball.
Allen, two wins away from a presumptive national title and riding a 30-game winning streak, had no answer for 4-star Duncanville junior quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson. The dual-threat passer was beyond slippery, scoring a pair of game-changing touchdowns on lengthy runs, added a third on a more conventional short carry in, and passed for a fourth in a remarkable 44-35 Duncanville state semifinal win.
He was the unstoppable force which Allen defense simply couldn’t solve. After the two teams opened to a 7-7 tie, Jackson took the ball on the following drive and carved through a gap in the line en route to the end zone, a 92-yard TD scamper that set the stage for a dominant Duncanville first half. The Panthers would score three more times before halftime, building a 35-14 lead that looked as if it might be insurmountable. After all, Duncanville had yet to allow a single point in a third period all season.
That challenge proved to be just what Allen needed to wake up. The Eagles scored three times in the third alone to pull into a 35-35 tie entering the final period. And it was late in the fourth when Duncanville broke through again, via Jackson, of course. On a 4th-and-2 from the 40-yard-line, Jackson faked right as if he was dropping back, then cut left through the line and on a straight shot all the way to the end zone.
“It’s a great feeling,” Jackson told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. “I knew we had it in us. We were able to do it. It’s a mental thing. It’s a mindset that everyone has on the team that we really didn’t have last year.”
Jackson’s final end zone trip proved to be the decisive score, though not before Allen quarterback Grant Tisdale was stuffed in his own end zone for a safety and what proved to be the final 44-35 margin of victory.
For the record, Jackson’s final stats included 174 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, along with a touchdown through the air. Tisdale, an Ole Miss commit, finished with a whopping 304 total yards. Wease had 106 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Allen even scored a touchdown on a brilliantly executed fake punt in the third quarter.
Heck, the Eagles even scored more than half of the total that Duncanville had previously allowed all season in a single game.
It didn’t matter. Duncanville won the turnover battle, it won a battle of toughness and it won the biggest game in the program’s past 20 years, the last time the Panthers played for a state crown.
“It wasn’t just Allen,” Duncanville two-way lineman De’Braylon Carroll, who recorded the safety of Tisdale, told the Star-Telegram. “We wanted to beat whoever we played. Our goal is the state championship.”
To win that elusive crown, Duncanville will have to take a fascinating game against No. 8 Galena North Shore, a battle between teams featuring some of the nation’s best underclassmen. In addition to Jackson, Duncanville is home to two other juniors ranked among the top-300 national prospects in their class. North Shore counters with the nation’s top-ranked junior running back, five-star prospect Zachary Evans, as well as a four-star offensive lineman ranked among the nation’s top-250 and fast rising cornerback currently considered among the top 100 overall junior players in the state of Texas.
To the winners go the spoils … and almost certainly a top-five preseason ranking in the initial 2019 USA TODAY Super 25.