STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
BRYAN- Friday night’s matchup between the Rudder Rangers and Leander Rouse Raiders was a nail-biter that featured constant lead changes and exciting plays, resulting in a 14-14 tie.
But fans left the stands silently not because of the tie, but because of what caused the game to suddenly end.
Rudder senior defensive player David Wilganowski collapsed on the field with roughly five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and had to be transported by ambulance to St. Joseph’s hospital. His last known condition at the time of this article was that he was responsive at the hospital, and was being transported to a Houston hospital for further care.
The Rouse Raiders came into Merrill Green Stadium on a high, after notching its first win in school history last week. And their enthusiasm showed, as their players were flying around the field with a visible energy.
After Rouse contained the Rangers – who posted 63 points against Rouse last season – to their end of the field for most of the first half, Rudder’s offense came alive as they marched 92 yards down the field to score on an 11-yard touchdown run by junior Tre Guyton, who barreled over a Rouse defender to get into the end zone.
Guyton finished the night with 167 yards on 23 carries.
The Rouse offense, which notched its victory last week with two major passing plays, quickly got on the scoreboard though, when 8:52 into the second quarter, senior quarterback Michael Botello launched a perfect pass into the hands of the wide open junior receiver Logan Kinder. Kinder, who made a one-handed catch on the play, sprinted 62 yards down the sideline to tie the game at 7-7.
Both teams got within scoring distance before the half, but a fumble by Rouse senior running back Ed Butts with 2:38 left in the second quarter and a fumble by Rudder senior quarterback Jamarcus Davenport with 0:32 left in the half prevented either from taking advantage.
The Rangers came out in the second half, and immediately put Rouse on the defensive. On the first handoff of Rudder’s drive in the third quarter, Guyton raced 70 yards up the middle of the field practically untouched to push the Rangers’ lead to 14-7.
After another costly fumble by Rudder with 5:03 left in the third quarter, Rouse capitalized by scoring on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Botello to junior tight end Austin Herring. Botello finished the night with 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams fumbled two more times in the fourth quarter, including one that was recovered by Wilganowski. The Rudder defense held strong against Rouse, pushing them to punt after a three-and-out with roughly 5:14 left in the game.
The 50-yard punt by Rouse would be the last of the game.
Rudder’s Wilganowski collapsed near the 50-yard line as the punt-play ended. Play was halted as Bryan medics worked on the 6 foot 5 inch 240-pound player, and loaded him into the ambulance as both teams watched on bended knee from the far end zone.
After Wilganowski had been transported from the field, both coaches met briefly with the officials, before deciding to end the game in the 14-14 tie.
Rudder will travel to Navasota on September 9 for their first road game of the season.