STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
BRYAN — For a brief time Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium, it appeared every time the Rudder Rangers touched the football, they were going to score.
The Rangers (2-3, 2-1) scored on its first five consecutive offensive possessions and added a defensive and special teams touchdown en route to a 63-35 victory over the Caney Creek Panthers.
The biggest accomplishment for Rudder would have to be despite allowing more than 300 rushing yards to an opponent for the fourth time this season, the Ranger defense was able to effectively keep the Panthers (1-4, 0-2) out of the end zone the majority of the night.
Caney Creek showed signs of a competitive game early on, marching 75 yards on its first offensive possession of the game, and scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run by Panther running back Cole Streeter with 6:24 left in the first quarter. The Rudder defense made a statement on the extra point attempt however, as Mark Daveport flew through the line to block the kick attempt which was returned 61 yards by Spencer Choka for the Rangers before being drug down from behind.
Rudder would immediately answer with its own productive drive, traveling 64 yards and capping off the drive on a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Luke Piper to junior wide receiver Isiah Johnson. Piper strung together his first solid outing as a quarterback for the season and appeared noticeably more comfortable under center, throwing for 88 yards on 9-of-13 passing and two scores. Piper also added another score on the ground later in the game to compliment his 38 rushing yards.
Johnson would help Rudder hit the scoreboard again on the next drive, but did so from the defensive side of the ball. With 1:49 left in the first quarter, Johnson intercepted a pass attempt from Caney Creek senior quarterback Kadon Simmons and returned the ball 20 yards untouched to push the Rangers’ lead to 14-6. It was one of three turnovers on the night committed by the Panthers, who also fumbled the ball an additional five times on mishandled snaps or handoff attempts.
Caney Creek’s Simmons narrowed the score with 5:20 left in the second quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run, with Rudder hanging on to just a 21-16 lead at that point.
It would be the closest Caney Creek came to Rudder the rest of the night.
On the very next possession, on the first play, Rudder senior running back Tre Guyton ran 61-yards up the middle of the field virtually untouched to push the score to 28-16. Guyton finished the night as Rudder’s top performer, rushing for 229 yards and two scores.
In the second half, the Ranger offense continued to click together, adding two more touchdowns, while the defense forced consecutive three-and-out situations against Caney Creek, and even the special teams got in on the action; on the first play of the third quarter, Rudder junior running back Anthony Veal ran 80-yards down the sideline to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. In addition to the special teams touchdown, Veal also added another 46 yards on the ground and two additional rushing scores.
The Panthers strung together two consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter, including a 38-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jeremy Collins on a broken down play, but it was ultimately too little too late. Simmons finished the night as Caney Creek’s top offensive performer, rushing for 130 yards and two scores, adding 44 passing yards to his offensive totals.
Rudder travels next Friday to Magnolia West, for a kickoff time of 7:30 pm.