STORY BY LARRY BOWEN
Lifted to an history victory on a memorable comeback, Steve Huff summed up the first football game between College Station and A&M Consolidated with a statement that worked in the present tense and the future tense.
The Cougars, earning the greatest victory in their program’s three seasons, rallied past Consol 34-31 before a paid crowd of 4,597 on an electric Friday night at Tigerland Stadium. Sophomore place-kicker Ryan Bowersox made an 18-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining as College Station scored the last 17 points in its first football game against the high school from which it was born.
“Those are hard on the ticker, but it is a neat thing for the community,” said Cougars head coach Huff, a former Consol assistant coach who started the College Station program in 2012. “I know I’m on the victorious side, but it’s neat to see the stands packed and finally get that game played. We have been talking about it for a long time.”
Probably will be talking about it for a long time, too.
College Station (7-1, 5-0) held on to a share of the District 18-5A lead with Bryan, which will visit the Cougars next week. College Station was favored by two touchdowns over a Consol team that began the year ranked in the Top 10 but came in with a losing record.
The Tigers (3-5, 3-2) played perhaps their best all-around first half — three quarters, really — with a surprisingly strong defensive performance. Consol scored the game’s first 17 points and built a 31-17 lead with two quick touchdowns midway through the third quarter.
“We came out strong in the first quarter, and they matched it in the second quarter,” Consol coach David Raffield said. “We came out strong in the third quarter, and they matched it in the fourth. The difference in the game is turnovers. We turned it over, and they didn’t turn it over at all.”
The most crucial turnover came in the fourth quarter, when the Cougars stripped the ball from Consol receiver Derrick Dick and recovered at the College Station 34-yard line with 4:25 remaining. A personal foul penalty moved the ball near midfield, and the Cougars marched into Tiger territory on a big completion from Cole Whittlesey to Jeremiah Booker and several hard runs by Quinterrian White.
College Station had a fourth-and-goal at the 1 when Consol called a timeout with 29 seconds left. Bowersox connected on the field goal, and the victory was secured on the last play of the game when Booker intercepted a desperation pass by the Tigers from the College Station 40.
“I was nervous,” Bowersox said. “When I made it I was extremely happy. I did it mostly for the seniors. They were all really emotional after this one.”
The Cougars had their emotions, and their resolve, tested. Consol played inspired football while College Station’s league-leading offense struggled to get in gear. Things got worse for the visitors even after the Cougars got on track, scoring their first offensive touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Whittlesey to Drake Carnes on the first drive of the second half.
Dick returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown, matching the 94-yard kickoff return by Chris Sennette that provided the Cougars’ first score. After Dick’s return, the Consol defense that ranked last in the district stopped College Station for the fourth time in six possessions, and sophomore Tyon Merchant blocked a punt.
Junior running back Tyri Merchant, who led all rushers with 129 yards on 18 carries, scored from 2 yards out a couple of plays later to push Consol’s lead to 31-17.
“One thing we hammer on the kids about is overcoming adversity,” Huff said. “They’ve never been in a big game like tonight. This was definitely a playoff atmosphere, and it was nice to see them battle and never get their heads down. Even when it was 31-17, they were ready to go the next series, and I think that’s a credit to them.”
The Tigers’ upset bid was on track late in the fourth quarter as the teams exchanged punts after Merchant’s score. Consol backup punter TJ Raniszeski leaped to catch a high snap at his goal line and produced a kick that bounced all the way to the Cougars 37, but that proved to be College Station’s launch pad.
Whittlesey hooked up with Carnes for a 49-yard gain and then lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to Booker that pulled the Cougars within 31-24.
College Station forced punts on the next two Tigers possessions, the first setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by White that pulled the Cougars even at 31-31 with 10:20 to play.
Consol’s defense came up with a fourth-down stop — the Tigers’ third of the night on their end of the field — and the home team pushed to the College Station 49 with help from a personal foul penalty. Then came the big fumble that set up the winning drive.
The Cougars got a balanced defensive effort led by speedy backs Rajah Preciado and Isaiah Goodman, linebacker Desmond Payton and end Randy Cessna.
“There was kind of a point where the defense kind of got it turned on and made some plays,” Huff said. “That’s what it’s about.”
Consol’s defense held the high-powered Cougars to 386 yards, well below their average of 500 yards, getting big plays from linebackers Will Vaughn, Derek Henicke and Abel Daily, along with Raniszeski.
“We made them punt and held them to that many yards and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Raffield said.
The Cougars gave their new school a landmark win, as the rivalry got off to a great start.
“It sets things up for years to come,” Huff said.
Courtesy of The B/CS Eagle