By JORDAN MESEROLE
BRYAN – There were many questions about how the new on-field leaders for the Rudder Rangers would handle tough game situations, but they showed Friday night that they were ready.
The Rudder Rangers fought back from a three-touchdown deficit to overtake the Taylor Ducks 28-21 in overtime Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium in Bryan in the first game of the season for both teams.
Things didn’t look so bright for the Rangers early in the game, as senior Austin Baron mishandled the first punt of the game by the Ducks, which was quickly recovered by Corey Casey and gave Taylor position on the 32-yard line.
Taylor capitalized on the mistake, hitting the scoreboard first with 4:23 left in the quarter on an eight-yard touchdown pass by senior quarterback Jarvis Caldwell to senior running back Emmett Wiggins. The touchdown came on only the second pass attempt of the night for Taylor, which featured a run-heavy “wing-t” offense the majority of the night.
Rudder’s defense struggled to maintain the Ducks’ attack for the rest of the first half, allowing 162 total yards of offense. Caldwell put Taylor up 21-0 heading into halftime after separate touchdown passes in the second quarter to Fred Kerley and Wiggins. Of the Ducks’ five pass attempts in the first half, three were for touchdowns.
The second half, however, would prove to be much better for the Rangers who came out of the locker room obviously energized.
On the third play of the third quarter, Rudder junior running back Tre Guyton sprinted up the middle of the field for a giant 47-yard gain, which was the Rangers’ first rushing gain of more than 10 yards in the game.
Not to be outdone, facing a 4th down and 4 yards to go situation on the same drive, senior quarterback Jamarcus Davenport shed off a few tacklers and dove for an 11-yard gain to salvage Rudder’s drive.
Davenport would put the Rangers on the board for the first time with 8:30 to go in the third quarter on a four-yard run up the middle, shrinking the score to 21-7.
The Rangers’ defense also came out energized, containing the Ducks from crossing the mid-field point the entire third quarter. Seniors David Wilganowski, Kody Burton, and A’Shanian Smith led the charge racking up multiple tackles each.
With roughly three minutes left in the third quarter, Guyton closed the gap further with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Rangers down only a score at 21-14.
After forcing the Taylor offense on a three-and-out situation, Rudder took the ball over with nine minutes remaining in the game and facing one of their last few chances to even the score.
Pushed back to their own 12-yard line by penalties, Davenport launched a 35-yard pass perfectly over Taylor’s only defender and into the hands of senior Will Martin, who galloped the final 53-yards into the end zone. The 88-yard scoring play tied the game at 21.
And Martin wasn’t done.
With 4:18 left in the game and Taylor on a long drive and getting closer to their endzone, Rudder senior Claudarius Curtis flushed out Taylor’s Caldwell from the pocket and forced a hasty throw, which landed in the hands of the Rangers’ Martin.
The Rudder defense –which returned seven starters from last year’s squad- stood strong again with 1:06 in the game, when on a 4th and 4 yard situation, Curtis and senior Darian Madkins pulled down Taylor’s running back behind the line of scrimmage to force the turnover on downs.
Unable to score, the game went to overtime, where Rudder capitalized first on a touchdown score again by Guyton, who ran seven yards up the middle to put the Rangers ahead. The Rangers’ defense held strong on the follow-up attempt by Taylor, with the game ending on an interception by Rudder senior Brendan Steptoe.
The Rangers tallied a total of 332 yards of offense, after only scratching together 40 yards in the first half.
The District 16-4A Rangers will be at home again next Friday night, as they take on Leander Rouse on September 2.