SHENADOAH - The Cayuga Wildcats are headed back to the big dance.
For the second straight year Cayuga defeated Ganado - this time 41-19 at Woodforest Bank Stadium - in the Class A, Division II state semifinals.
"This just feels wonderful to be going back," Cayuga senior Malcome Kennedy said. "We have worked really hard this year to get to this point."
A year after falling to Stratford for the state title, Cayuga faces Albany for the top prize. The Class A, Division II state championship game will be at 3 p.m. Saturday in Mansfield.
"We left Abilene last year with such a sour taste, that we talked as a team that we would do anything to get back," Cayuga head coach Tommy Allison said. "I am so proud of what these guys have accomplished."
Cayuga (13-1) came out quickly to take a 20-0 lead over Ganado, but after a lull in the second quarter, the Wildcats had to hold off a tough Indian squad who has proven the last two weeks they can make a comeback.
"We knew they were a very good football team and they showed it tonight," Allison said of Ganado. "They were physical up front and we had to earn everything we got."
Cayuga moved the ball mainly on the ground, rushing for 404 yards. Traylon Shead rushed for 218 yards on 25 carries and Kennedy had 193 yards on 20 carries.
"We really wanted to focus on running the ball tonight," Allison said. "Our offensive line got off the ball and our backs did a great job picking up what the defense gave us."
On Cayuga's first possession, Shead broke through the defense for a 57-yard touchdown and Cayuga led 7-0.
It was some trickery that led to Cayuga's next touchdown. Kennedy took the snap and sprinted to the left on what looked like a run play, but then he stopped in his tracks and found a wide open Chris Turner who made the diving 42-yard touchdown in the end zone.
"We saw on film that they would be a aggressive against the run," Allison said. "That was a big play for us to help open other things up."
Cayuga made it 20-0 in the final seconds of the first quarter when Kennedy faked the toss to Shead, and while most of the defense went Shead's way, Kennedy sprinted 88 yards for the touchdown.
Cayuga did not do much else after that as Ganado cut the lead to 20-7 going into halftime. The Indians had a chance to cut the lead to one score in the third quarter, but Cayuga's defense stepped up, making a fourth down stop in their own territory.
"The coaches made us go over every play Ganado ran during practice so we got to see it all," Kennedy said. "Then it came down to execution."
After the fourth-down stop, Cayuga took six plays when Shead got through the line, broke a leg tackle and juked the final defender for a 48-yard touchdown. Shak Jenkins added the two-point conversion on a run and the Wildcats led 28-7.
Ganado cut the lead to 28-13 when the Indians took advantage of a short field after a bad snap on a punt but going into the fourth quarter, the Wildcat running game took over.
On 12 running plays, Cayuga moved the ball 90 yards, finishing off with Shead punching it in from 1-yard out to increase the lead to 34-13.
The Wildcats sealed the win when Shead scored on a 14-yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the game. The touchdown gave Shead 143 touchdowns for his career.
Notes: Shead eclipsed the 10,000 rushing yard mark for his career, becoming only the second player in Texas high school history to do so. He has 10,147 career rushing yards. ...Deon Hale had an interception in the first quarter to stop Ganado's drive inside Cayuga territory. Then Chris Turner had a fumble recovery on Cayuga's own 6-yard line in the third quarter. ...Shead threw is first career pass, completing a 23 yarder to Turner.