STORY BY: CHACE MURPHY
BRYAN – What looked like a trip to the woodshed turned into a nail biter for the Bryan Vikings Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium.
The Vikings withstood a strong comeback from Round Rock McNeil, hanging on to beat the Mavericks 35-28.
Bryan (2-0) took the opening kick, and almost half the first quarter, before QB Chris Johnson ran nine yards for their first score. Johnson added a nine-yard touchdown pass to TE Mike Miner at the close of the period, putting the Vikings up 14-0.
Bryan added a seven-yard touchdown run from Kevin Jefferson with 8:19 left in the first half. Jefferson converted on a fourth-down play, tip-toeing down the sidelines to put the Vikings up 21-0 at halftime.
McNeil (1-2) responded in the third quarter, getting an eight-yard touchdown run from QB Zach Kuhn. The drive was interrupted by an interception from Viking DB V.J. Banks, who then promptly fumbled the ball back to the Mavericks near midfield.
McNeil’s celebration was short-lived, however, as sophomore Bobby Johnson took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, putting the Vikings up 28-7.
A McNeil fumble on the next possession put the Vikings in good field position. Jefferson capped off the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run, and Bryan led 35-7.
Following Jefferson’s second touchdown run, Bryan head coach Bob Bellard began substituting his offensive starters. The result was a stagnant offensive effort that gave the Mavericks new life.
McNeil responded with a one-yard touchdown run from Jalen Harrell to cut the Vikings lead to 35-14.
Bryan’s second-string offense reached midfield before QB Zach Alvarado overthrew WR Tim Willett, but found McNeal DB Peyton Garrett.
Garrett’s return put McNeil in good field position. Backup QB Jordan Robinson ran in from 22 yards out to make it 35-21 with 8:21 left in the game.
The Vikings were forced to punt on their next possession, and McNeil closed the gap even further. Kuhn hit WR Nick Varinella for a four-yard TD pass to make it 35-28.
Another Bryan punt put the ball in the Mavericks’ hands late in the 4th quarter, but a Tyler Allen sack of Kuhn caused a fumble. Zac Slaydon’s recovery sealed the win for the Vikings.
Johnson was again the Vikings’ offensive leader, rushing for 127 yards and passing for 74. Jefferson added 61 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
Kuhn came into the game with 170 yards rushing on the season. He nearly doubled that total, finishing with 164. Kuhn added 47 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception.
Mavericks RB Harrell finished with 109 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown.
The Vikings have a short week to prepare for The Woodlands College Park. Bryan heads to The Woodlands on Thursday to take on the Cavaliers.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and can be heard live on KZNE, Sports Radio 1150, The Zone. The pregame show starts at 6:30.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Final
RR McNeil 0 0 7 21 28
Bryan 14 7 14 0 35
Bryan, 6:53 Chris Johnson 9 yd TD run (Chris Johnson kick), 7-0
Bryan, 0:06 Chris Johnson 9 yd TD pass to Mike Miner (Johnson kick), 14-0
Bryan, 8:19 Kevin Jefferson 7 yd TD run (Johnson kick), 21-0
McNeil, 7:22 Zach Kuhn 8 yd TD run (Will Janosek kick), 21-7
Bryan, 7:09 Bobby Johnson 95 yd kickoff returned for TD (Johnson kick), 28-7
Bryan, 6:24 Jefferson 26 yd TD run (Johnson kick), 35-7
McNeil, 10:24 Jalen Harrell 1 yd TD run (Janosek kick), 35-14
McNeil, 8:21 Jordan Robinson 22 yd TD run (Janosek kick), 35-21
McNeil, 5:41 Zach Kuhn 4 yd TD pass to Nick Varinella (Janosek kick), 35-28