Barbers Hill running back Cohn Betz, 27, tears off a big gain during the Eagles area round playoff matchup with Whitehouse at NRG Stadium Friday night. The Eagles scored 23 unanswered, second half points to win 47-24 and advance to next week’s regional semifinal round. (Valerie Hull)

BH defense steps up, keys pivotal second half run

Standing inside a venue that has hosted Super Bowls and Big 12 championships, Barbers Hill could stand, look around and know the moment was not too big.

Keyed by a power running game and relentless defensive effort, the Eagles broke a close game wide open and advanced to the regional semifinals in a 47-24 win over Whitehouse Friday night at NRG Stadium. 

Barbers Hill will now face Manvel at noon Friday in a return to NRG Stadium. 

The game will be a rematch from last season’s bi-district playoffs. The Mavericks broke out in the third quarter and turned a 28-28 halftime score into a 62-42 win. 

In the Whitehouse win, quarterback Christian Kaopua ripped off 136 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and passed for 156 yards to lead the way. It was more than enough help for a defense that racked up four sacks and forced three turnovers in the second half. 

“I thought our kids did a good job, I thought we played great defense in the second half,” Barbers Hill head coach Tom Westerberg said. 

“We made a few adjustments at halftime and the kids did a good job, the defensive front just turned it up.”

It was anyone’s game early in the third quarter after Skyler Trevino caught a 6-yard pass from Kaden Casey to pull the Wildcats even at 24-24. Whitehouse’s high point  

lasted just over a minute. It was shattered by a 60-yard scoring burst from Kaopua to put the Eagles back in front and start a 23-0 run. 

“We always come in with a good game plan,” Kaopua said. “We started off trying to throw the ball around, we had some good play calls. They backed up on it and it opened the running game plenty.

“We have been in games like this. We knew what we had to do and we were confident. We just did it.”

Whitehouse was not willing to fade away. The Wildcats converted a fourth down on a punt and got inside the Barbers Hill 50 when the defense bowed its neck. Cavin Brannin made a key play with a sack on third down to force a punt. Branden Heffernan caught a line drive on the run and returned it 66 yards to the nine to set up an Alvaro Garcia field goal, his second of the game. 

From that point, the defense went off and forced all three of Whitehouse’s turnovers. Josh King-Bradley and Ramsey Humphrey each had 1-½ sacks. Riley Suggs and Brannin each recovered fumbles while Josh Bishop had an interception. 

“In the first half I was struggling a little bit, wasn’t doing much with my hands so in the second half, going in, I told myself, ‘You have to do what you know you can do,’” King-Bradley said. “So, I went out there and did what I know to do.”

He wasn’t the only one. With Garrett Hagler sidelined with an injury, Cohn Betz stepped up and made the most of his moment. Betz had 13 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns that iced the game. The effort complemented Hagler’s outing as the sophomore had nine carries for 69 yards including a 45-jaunt for the games first score. 

Throughout the night, Barbers Hill was able to take advantage of a Whitehouse defense intent to slowing down standout receiver Cameron Cauley. 

“It opened a few things up and then we got the running game going,” Westerberg said. 

Ken’Della Wood was a difference-maker for the Wildcats, scoring their first two touchdowns on a 41-yard reception from Casey and an 82-yard kickoff return. 

Barbers Hill had answers which included a 68-yard scoring pass from Kaopua to Cauley and a 26-yard scoring run by Kaopua in the first half. 

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