STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
BRYAN – The Rudder Rangers looked like they were on their way to a victory Friday night against Bastrop, but offensive woes in the second half allowed the Bears to come from behind in a 27-17 victory at Merrill Green Stadium.
With a strong second-half performance by senior running back Trae Bunton, Bastrop (3-1, 1-0) easily cruised to the victory over the Rangers (1-4-1, 0-2) who have now dropped four straight games in a row.
Rudder set the tone early in the first quarter on Homecoming Night, when on the first possession of the game and just the second play, junior running back Tre Guyton scrambled 60 yards up the middle of the field untouched into the endzone to put the Rangers up an early 7-0.
But Bastrop was not to be outdone. 20 seconds later, Bunton ran 59-yards down the field untouched as well to even the score up at 7-7. The run was part of Bunton’s 111 first-half rushing yards, who finished the night with 271 total yards.
Rudder’s defense would dictate the pace of the second quarter, with interceptions by Ranger junior defensive back Mark Davenport on back-to-back possessions by Bastrop, and a fumble recovery by senior Claudarius Curtis on the Bear’s third possession in the second quarter.
Rangers’ junior kicker Colton Bayer sent Rudder into the locker room with a 10-7 lead after nailing a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
And then, things would stall on both sides of the ball for Rudder in the second half.
After forcing Rudder to a quick three-and-out in on their first possession of the third quarter, Bastrop blocked a punt attempt by senior Austin Baron and took over possession on its own 16-yard line. Two plays later, Bunton dashed into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown, giving the Bears its first lead of the game. It was the last time that Rudder would be in front the rest of the night.
Rudder’s offense struggled as much as its defense did, only tallying up two first downs in the second half and 45 total yards. The Bastrop defense held the Rangers to three-and-out drives on three of its next four possessions, and forced four punts by Baron who averaged 34.8 yards on seven punts for the night.
Bastrop pushed the lead even further on an 89-yard touchdown run by Bunton with 11:29 left in the fourth quarter, putting Rudder’s deficit at 24-10.
Rudder came alive late in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Ranger senior Darian Madkins deep in Rudder’s own end of the field. Two plays later, senior quarterback Jamarcus Davenport connected with senior A’Shanian Smith – who is normally a defensive star and is second on the team with 42 tackles – for a 8-yard touchdown pass.
It was too little too late however, as Bastrop took over with less than a minute in the fourth, and easily kneeled the ball to end the game for the 27-17 victory.
On one of the high-notes of the game, prior to the game the Rudder cheerleaders presented a check to the Bastrop team in the amount of $17,250 to use towards wildfire relief funds. Wildfires in early September destroyed more than 1,300 homes in the Bastrop area, including those belonging to seven players and two coaches on the Bear’s football team.
Rudder senior David Wilganowski was also named homecoming king during halftime. Wilganowski’s football career ended on September 2 when he collapsed on the field in a game against Leander Rouse and had to be revived by trainers.
The loss pushes Rudder’s early hopes of staying alive in District 16-4A even further away, with only four games remaining in the regular season. Rudder will have a bye-week next Friday, and will return to action on October 14 when it travels to face Manor.