ROUND ROCK - A gutsy third-quarter comeback didn't make the final result any less painful for Cuero.
The Gobblers saw their rally go for naught when Waco La Vega scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to capture a 41-21 Class 3A, Division semifinal win Saturday night at Round Rock ISD Stadium.
"They've got a good, physical football team," Cuero coach Mark Reeve said, whose team was making its fourth semifinal appearance in five years and finished at 11-2. "I don't know if we were nervous at the first, but they made a couple of big plays in the first half and then we came back and made some big ones. The second half we just needed one good thing to happen for us in the fourth quarter. I think their size just eventually wore us out."
La Vega used its size on the offensive line and the punishing running of Chris Parr to improve to 12-2 and move into the state final against Prosper, a 39-38 winner over Abilene Wylie in double overtime.
Parr carried 26 times for 241 yards and scored on runs of 23 and 39 yards in the first half and 3 and 38 yards in the fourth quarter. Parr also had a 41-yard run to set up quarterback Danzel Wilson's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"He was a power runner and he was elusive also," Cuero defensive back Jennings Boothe said. "It was hard to get him down either way. You couldn't really figure out one thing to do to take away from him."
Parr had the Gobblers down quickly when he scored his first touchdown on the Pirates' third play from scrimmage. He put Cuero in a 14-0 hole with his second touchdown run with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter.
The Gobblers put together a 13-play, 73-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass from Tyler Arndt to tight end Tanner Hoffman on a fourth-and-13 before Trent Jackson scored on a 13-yard run.
But La Vega pushed their lead back to two touchdowns by driving 80 yards on 15 plays and consuming 8 minutes and 40 seconds and scoring when the Cuero secondary blew a coverage and Wilson found tight end Tim Kemp uncovered for a 17-yard touchdown.
"We tackled poorly in the first quarter," Reeve said. "After that I thought we did pretty well. A lot of that is athletic ability. They've got a lot of athletic ability and that's always going to be a factor."
Cuero forced La Vega to punt for the first time on its first possession of the second half and a 22-yard kick set the Gobblers up at the Pirates' 27.
Jackson, who carried 19 times for 104 yards, scored on the next play, bouncing off a tackle attempt at the 5 and lunging into the end zone.
Robert Armstrong's 37-yard punt return put the Gobblers into position to tie the game and they did on a fourth-and-seven when Arndt scrambled and found Armstrong open in the back of the end zone for 12-yard touchdown.
But the Pirates scored on their next three possessions and Cuero could manage only one first down in the fourth quarter to end its season one win short of its 11th trip to the state final.
"We're disappointed that we didn't win, but were not disappointed in any of these seasons," Reeve said. "There's a lot of people who don't ever win a district championship much less make it to the semifinal. You want your kids to play hard, to stay together, to fight for one another and those are the things we did tonight."
Rushing: Cuero Trent Jackson 19-104; Jake Rangnow 2-4; Tyler Arndt 2-(-19). La Vega, Chris Parr 26-241; Danzel Wilson 11-58; Chad Ward 3-25; Dexter Swanson 1-22; Tevin Thompson 1-10; Jordan Miller 1-5; Arron Brandon 1-5; Team 1-(-2).
Passing: Cuero. Armdt 11-24-1 107. La Vega, Wilson 6-7-0 76.
Receiving: Cuero, Robert Armstrong 6-64; Jennings Boothe 2-17; Casey Harryman 2-6; Tanner Hoffman 1-20. La Vega, Swanson 3-39; Parr ; Swanson 2-30; Tim Kemp 1-17.