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Offensive catfight ends 44-41

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

Riding high on a big win over the Reagan Raiders to open their regular season, the Lions traveled to Austin on Thursday night ready to come out hard for another victory against the Crockett Cougars. In a game marked by marquee offensive performances, the Lions did scrape out the victory, but not witho

ut several moments of tension on the sidelines.

“[Our offensive performance this season] is mostly attributed to player development,” Head Coach Brian Herman said. “Another big factor is the experience of the offensive line.  They are bigger, stronger and more confident helps open holes for the backs.”

After choosing the opening kick, early momentum swung against the Lions. Despite a mishandled kickoff return, the Cougars used their first possession to score as a Crockett running back broke containment for a 90-yard touchdown run. The Cougars followed up with a solid PAT kick, taking a 0-7 lead over the Lions.

The Lions answered on their next possession, capitalizing on Cougar penalties and the Lions’ athletic prowess to push downfield for a scoring drive, capped with a 29-yard rushing touchdown from Ronald Hutchinson. The Lions made good on the two-point conversion and took the 8-7 lead.

Crockett came right back on their next offensive possession, making good on big passing play and several strong rushes, and finding their way back to the end zone. A bobbled snap cost the Cougars, as they missed their attempt at a two-point conversion.

The Lions took the ball back on their own 40-yard line, and proceeded with a slow, steady march into Cougar territory, with DJ Ellison pushing his way into the end zone on a 3-yard rush. Enrique Villegas found the uprights, and brought the Lions back into the lead at 15-13, with about a minute left in the quarter.

The Lion defense locked down on the Cougars in the second quarter, with senior defensive lineman Gunner Brown was instrumental in breaking up the Cougars’ drive, leading in coverage on a key tackle, and blocking a Cougar punt from fourth-and-long. The defensive line, along with a false-start penalty, left Crockett reeling, and put the Lions at first and goal at Crockett’s 5-yard line.

Curtis Hawkins made a big stand against the Cougars, barreling over three defenders for the touchdown; Villegas logged another good kick, and the Lions increased their lead to 22-13.

“Moving Curtis to halfback provides a challenge for the defense on how they scheme defensively,” Herman said, a point which Hawkins illustrated as he stacked up 180 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.

The Cougars regrouped for yet another scoring drive, cutting the Lions’ lead to 22-19 with 8:23 left on the clock in the half.

After trading defensive blows and having both teams turn over on downs, the Cougars found the end zone again with a 37-yard rush, and made the conversion to regain a 22-27 lead.

The Lions did not let that lead stand.

After a fumble and recovery on the kickoff return, Lockhart put together another solid drive, ending with a 14-yard keeper by Nick Sanchez to regain a 30-27 lead as the first half closed.

The catfight continued through the second half, as the teams continued to match nearly score-for-score on offense, while the defenses struggled to stop their opponents.

On the opening kickoff return, the Lions picked up a procedural penalty and opened their drive at their own 40-yard line. Hawkins, Ellison and Hutchinson took turns driving the ball, with Hawkins finally powering across the goal line to increase the Lions’ lead to 37-27.

Crockett came back with another touchdown on a long rush, but senior Bailey Girouard and junior Logan Clinger were able to break up the play and keep the Cougars from another conversion, allowing the Lions to hold on to a 37-33 lead.

The Lions turned over on downs; on their next possession, the Cougars were plagued by penalties, and a big stop by senior Kenneth Lampkin pushed Crockett’s quarterback to second-and-16. The Lion defense locked down again, forcing the turnover at the Lions’ 42-yard line.

Although the Lions were in striking distance of their next touchdown, a fumble inside the 5-yardline gave possession back to the Cougars. Ellison stepped up with a saving tackle, putting Crockett back in control of the ball at their own 26.

The Cougars found their way deep into Lion territory, looking for a touchdown from the Lions’ 15-yard line. On a fourth-and-2 play, Lampkin once again hit big, sacking the quarterback for a 3-yard loss and forcing the turnover.

Lockhart pushed back one more time, storming across the field and capping the scoring drive with a 38-yard touchdown from Hawkins. Villegas made good once again, opening the Lions’ lead to 44-33 in the last five minutes of the game.

In a last-ditch effort, the Cougars took to the air, making their final scoring drive on a series of passing plays, before a 2-yard charge up the middle closed scoring at 44-41, with just over two minutes in the game.

The Lions used their last possession carefully, making slow gains from first-and-10 at their own 23, keeping careful watch over the ball. As the clock ticked away, the Lions continued their drive, finally taking a knee with 20 seconds left on the clock to claim the 44-41 victory.

The Lions will open District play this week, traveling to Seguin to take on the Matadors (0-2, [0-0]) in the District 27-5A opener.

Thus far this season, the Matadors have been unsuccessful, with big losses to the New Braunfels Unicorns (42-21) and the Vista Ridge Rangers (54-21).

“Seguin is similar to Crockett in many ways,” Herman said. “They have explosive speed and play-making ability at quarterback and at running back. They have a large sure-handed receiver that they like to throw to. Their line is big and strong. Defensively, they gave us fits last year and now have a couple coaches on staff that have some Slot-T familiarity. This will be a strongly contested first district game.”

Matador Stadium is located at 815 Lamar, in Seguin. Kickoff is slated at 7:30 p.m.

(Additional information courtesy of Rob Ortiz)

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