STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
– ELGIN – The 2012 season for the Rudder Rangers appeared to be off to a somewhat positive start.
Then, with roughly three minutes left in the first quarter, everything came unraveled.
The Rangers allowed 36 unanswered points Friday night in its season opener, allowing the Elgin Wildcats to cruise to an easy 36-7 victory in Elgin.
Plagued by penalties for most of the night, as well as offensive and special teams miscues, the Rangers (0-1) couldn’t contain the Elgin (1-0) running game, allowing 267 total rushing yards, 208 of which came in the first half.
Elgin posted the first points of the game early in the first quarter, as senior running back Anthony Zepeda scrambled mid-field to the far sideline to string together a 36 yard touchdown with 10:37 still on the clock to push the score to 7-0.
The Rudder defense appeared to make some early adjustments to slow the offensive game of Elgin, but then with 3:04 left in the first quarter, Rudder senior Tre Guyton mishandled a punt from Elgin, ultimately which the Wildcats recovered at the 36-yard line.
Only six minutes later, Elgin benefitted from the turnover, as junior quarterback Te’Rel Simmons ran in from four yards out of the endzone to up the score to 13-0. What appeared to be a mishandled snap on the ensuing point-after-attempt turned into positive results for Elgin, as placeholder Anthony Nash took the bad snap and tossed it into the corner of the end zone to brother Trey Nash to increase the lead to 15-0.
Rudder’s offense couldn’t get much going on the ground or through the air in the first half to combat Elgin’s scoring onslaught, posting only 36 rushing yards and 43 passing yards with no first downs in the first quarter.
Elgin continued to post points in the first half, with scoring plays on a six-yard rush by Anthony Nash, a 46-yard scramble by Simmons, and a 22-yard pass from Simmons to a wide-open Zepeda.
Simmons finished the night as one of three athletes for Elgin that earned more than 50 yards on the ground, tallying 69 of his own, along with Zepeda who added another 89 and Jason Hart who put up 94 rushing yards.
Coming out of the locker room facing a 36-0 deficit, Rudder coach C.M. Pier made some obvious adjustments with his team, as the defense showed a stronger stance against Elgin’s rushing game, and the offense showed more life. On just its second drive in the third quarter, Guyton rushed 64 yards down the middle of the field to put the Rangers within scoring distance for the first time on the night. But offensive miscues once again led Rudder to turn the ball over on downs just eight yards away from the endzone, leaving a blank on the scoreboard heading into the fourth quarter.
Rudder’s lone excitement on the night came with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter, as junior running back Robert Lee scrambled into the middle of the field, broke multiple tackles, scramble to the far sideline and dove from 3-yards out to complete a 14-yard rushing touchdown to give Rudder its first points of the night and the 2012 season. Lee finished the night with 43 total yards on the ground.
It was all too little too late though, as Elgin manage the clock the rest of the game, running time out to grab the 36-7 victory.
The Rangers return to Bryan on Friday September 7 for its home opener against the El Campo Ricebirds, a favorite to win the District 25-3A.