COLLEGE STATION — China Spring’s dynamic duo is a problem that opposing defenses have yet to figure out.
Ninth-ranked Sealy didn’t fare any better as junior quarterback Major Bowden and senior running back Emmanuel Abdallah combined for 345 rushing yards and powered the Cougars to the state quarterfinals with a 31-13 over the Tigers in a Class 4A Division II regional playoff game Friday afternoon at College Station’s Cougar Stadium.
It’s China Spring’s third straight victory over a top-10 opponent to open the playoffs — at this point they can’t be called upsets — after beating No. 4 Jasper, 45-19, and No. 2 West Orange-Stark, 35-22, in the first two rounds. Up next in the Cougars’ first state quarterfinal berth since 2016 is top-ranked Carthage.
“We have big goals, and we know what we’re capable of,” China Spring head coach Brian Bell said. “It’s just about going out there and executing, so I’m really proud of our guys coming out here and battling.”
Once again Friday, Bowden and Abdallah were center stage.
Bowden rushed for all four of the Cougars’ touchdowns, including a 52-yard scamper down the right sideline to put an exclamation on the game with 2:24 left. He finished with 177 yards on 25 carries, and Abdallah was just as effective, carrying 28 times for 168 yards.
“If I make a bad read, I know (Abdallah) will make a play,” Bowden said. “If I make a good read, I can make a play. They can’t stop both of us, so it’s awesome.”
Their dominance meant the Cougars (10-2) never needed to air it out as they attempted only two passes, and they paired the run-heavy game plan with a defense that had a dominant showing against the Tigers (9-3).
China Spring harassed Sealy quarterback D’Vonne Hmielewski all afternoon, tackling him for a loss eight times. The talented sophomore came into the game with over 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, but the Cougars kept him from getting into a rhythm. Hmielewski completed 20 of 32 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown and added 18 carries for 28 yards.
“Our game plan coming into today was stop No. 2 (Hmielewski),” Bell said. “We were just trying to prevent him from making big plays. Our defensive line contained him pretty well, and I was really proud of that. He’s a really good football player and just a sophomore. What a special talent he is for Sealy and a really bright future for that kid.”
Abdallah and Bowden set the tone early, combining for 186 rushing yards in the first half. Bowden scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 19-yard scamper on a quarterback draw in which he shook a tackle and broke for the left sideline for a 14-0 lead on the second play of the second quarter.
Hmielewski found his footing midway through the period with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jakobe Davis on a post with three and a half minutes before halftime. Hmielewski went 4 for 4 for 75 yards on the drive, including a 37-yard pass to Connor Krenek to jump start the Tigers’ offense.
The Cougars responded before the break with a run-heavy march to the Sealy 9-yard line, but a perfectly dialed up pass back was overthrown, stalling the drive. Karson Coe connected on a 26-yard field goal to make it 17-6 at halftime.
Bowden extended the lead on a fourth-and-3 midway through the third quarter, making two defenders miss behind the line of scrimmage and cruising to the end zone on a 25-yard run to make it 24-6.
After Bowden’s final touchdown, Sealy drove 61 yards in five plays, capped by Alvin Nunn’s 28-yard touchdown run with 1:02 left. The Tigers recovered an onside kick and had another scoring opportunity, but the clock ran out with the ball at the China Spring 14-yard line.