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Leopards bring Lions down 47-28 in opener

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By Alonzo Garza
POST-REGISTER

Hundreds of loyal, cheering Lion fans filled the stand at Lions Stadium, braving stifling temperatures and oppressive humidity, and watched the Lions open their season against the La Grange Leopards on Friday, Aug. 28.

Although the fans stood behind the Lions through their valiant attempt at a second-half comeback, the Lions

fell 47-28 in their first game of the season.
Throughout the first half, the Lions struggled to find their footing.

Although at times they showed strength and flashes of brilliance, the Lions were unable to capitalize on the Leopards’ mistakes.

“After the game on Friday, we felt like we grew up a lot as a team,” Head Football Coach Robin Rapp said Monday. “We made some mental mistakes at some critical points during the first half. Those mistakes compounded by a quality La Grange opponent put us at a 27-0 deficit.”

The Lions were plagued by missed opportunities throughout the game.

Early in the first quarter, Dominique Hardaway brought in a touchdown run, but the referees called it back and marked it at the 4-yard line. The Lions may never have truly recovered from the early blow.

In addition, dropped passes,
quarterback sacks, and missed field goals added to Lockhart’s woes. Worse, each time the Lions made a mistake, the Leopards stood ready to capitalize.
With 4:09 remaining in the first, the Leopards drove in the only touchdown of the quarter, but failed to make the extra point kick.

The Leopards maintained momentum, scoring the second touchdown of the night at the top of the second. The extra point kick was good for a score of 13-0 with 10:43 remaining in the first half.

The Leopards continued their offensive assault after recovering a kickoff intended for the Lions at 10:38. By 8:15, the Leopards were at the 2-yard line with a first-and-goal and scored their third touchdown with eight minutes remaining. The extra point kick was good for a score of 20-0.

Undeterred, the Leopards scored yet another touchdown with three minutes remaining in the first half. The extra point kick was good for a score of 27-0.
Just when it seemed like the end of the road for the Lions, they bounced back.

A touchdown pass from Tyler Tolley to Brian Martinez earned the Lions their first touchdown of the season, which Brooks Pittman promptly followed up with an extra-point kick.

The Leopards and the Lions retreated to their respective locker rooms with a halftime score of 27-7.

The Lions, which seemed more focused in the second half, began scoring and recovering from mistakes much quicker. They scored their second touchdown of the night with another pass from Tolley to Martinez, who ran for 58 yards to make it into the end zone. The kick was good for a score of 33-14.

“The team responded well from [the first touchdown] forward to put ourselves back in the game,” Rapp said. “The touchdown pass from Tolley to Martinez with six seconds left in the first half gave us some momentum going into halftime. We closed the deficit to 33-28 with less than seven minutes to play.”

Much like in the second quarter, the Lions fought hard during the third, allowing a successful Hardaway touchdown with 28 seconds remaining on the clock. The kick was good, ending the third at 33-21.

Both the teams and the fans turned up the heat in the fourth quarter. As the Lions rallied toward a victory, their fans cheering them the whole way, the Leopards and their following battened down the hatches to weather out the quarter.

A series of completed passes by the Lions drove the ball forward, allowing Tolley to close the deal with a touchdown run with 6:36 remaining, and closing the gap to 33-28.

Seconds later, the Lions’ momentum shifted after a near interception by Ryan Houston was dropped, allowing the Leopards to regroup and focus on taking back the game.

The Leopards scored their sixth touchdown with 5:13 remaining. Then, the Leopards intercepted a pass from Tolley, running in for La Grange’s eighth touchdown, and closing scoring at 47-28.

“We are never going to be satisfied with a defeat,” Rapp said. “The young men showed a lot of courage by fighting back to put themselves in a position to win in the fourth quarter. At halftime, all we talked about was the fact that we were playing too cautiously and trying too hard not to make mistakes. We just needed to turn it loose and play the game with passion and see where that takes us. I felt we did that. We really made some quality plays on offense in third and fourth down situations to keep drives alive. Our punting and kicking by Pittman was also a bright spot. Even though we gave up a lot of points on defense we had bright moments and made critical stops to give us a chance to get back in the game. We are looking forward to Gonzales this week. We plan to build on our positives from last week and correct the things that need attention.”

Offensively the Lions performed well, despite the loss.

Hardaway rushed for 83 yards with 19 attempts, while Tolley rushed for 21 yards and a touchdown with six attempts. Tolley also passed the ball 26 times for 211 yards, 16 completions, three touchdowns and one interception.
Martinez made eight receptions good for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Kendall Till caught five passes for 60 yards and Karl Grieger caught one for four yards. Hardaway caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown.

The Lions worked hard defensively. Tony Moreno made seven assists and four tackles, three of which were unassisted. Aurelio Garcia made five assists and six tackles with three unassisted. Jordan Huckaby made seven assists and four tackles with two unassisted and Brandon Pleasant made eight assists and three tackles, one unassisted.

The Lions will travel to Gonzales to face the Apaches on Friday, Sept. 4.

In their last three outings, the Lions have defeated the Apaches somewhat narrowly, with the largest point spread being the 34-26 victory in 2008. Last week, the Apaches took a vicious 56-19 beating from the Dripping Springs Tigers, who will not face the Lions this season.

Apache Stadium is located at the corner of Highway 183 (Dunning Street) and St. Joseph Street in Gonzales. Travel time from Lion Country is about 40 minutes, and kickoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

See you at the game.
agarza@post-register.com

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