STORY BY LARRY BOWEN
COLLEGE STATION – The Bryan Vikings had a different decade plan.
Bryan ended a nine-year losing streak to A&M Consolidated, riding a huge game from senior running back KeeKee Johnson and a signature defensive play on a night full of offense to take a 56-44 victory at Tigerland Stadium on Friday night.
Although it wasn’t a sellout, the first edition of the Crosstown Showdown held outside Kyle Field since 1990 was played before a big crowd. The teams produced enough offense to fill a large venue, combining for 1,173 yards.
The Vikings (4-1, 3-0) held on to a share of the District 18-5A lead by beating Consol for the first time since 2004.
“It’s been nine long years that they’ve been beating us,” Johnson said. “It means a lot that we’re finally the team to beat them.”
Consol (2-4, 2-1) slipped to third place in the district, but it didn’t go down easy.
The Tigers turned what at halftime appeared to be a blowout into a thriller with a huge second-half rally, as junior running back Tyri Merchant almost managed to match Johnson’s brilliance. In the end, Consol could not overcome a terrible start that saw Bryan race to a 35-6 lead.
“I’m really proud of the way we came out of the locker room at halftime,” Consol coach David Raffield said. “The frustrating part is we didn’t change anything. The difference was we decided to play. I just wish we would have come out of the gates like that.”
Bryan never trailed, but the Vikings’ once cushy lead shrunk to five points twice in the second half. Consol pulled within 42-37 late in the third quarter. After the Vikings answered with Johnson’s fifth touchdown, Merchant scored his fourth of the game and third of the half to get the Tigers within 49-44 with 9:23 remaining.
The Vikings didn’t blink. Bryan went 75 yards in seven plays with Johnson scoring on a 15-yard run to extend the lead to 56-44 midway through the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to come back,” Bryan coach Ross Rogers said. “We just had to keep our offense going and slow them down as best we could. We didn’t slow them down very good, but our offense kept scoring.”
Consol, which had scored on all five possessions of the second half, needed two more scores in the last 6:38. The Tigers made a bid, driving 70 yards to the Bryan 2-yard line, but on third down Mason Hickson’s pass was intercepted by junior safety Cal Malone, who made his first start in place of injured Garrett Dohnalik.
“Cal stepped in and made some great tackles,” Rogers said. “For a junior to step in front of that ball in the end zone, that was huge.”
The Tigers couldn’t stop Bryan to get the ball back.
“We had a chance,” Raffield said. “We had a play that we knew was a good football play, and we failed to execute it.”
Neither defense did much to slow down the featured running backs.
The 230-pound Johnson, who wears No. 33 and reminds some veteran observers of former Consol standout Clif Groce, pounded away relentlessly for 338 yards on 35 carries.
“My coach told me to put the team on my back and I did that,” Johnson said. “I came out with strong intensity.”
The slender Merchant’s intensity fueled Consol’s comeback. Merchant ran for 280 yards on 27 carries. He was best in the second half, gaining 220 yards on 16 rushes.
Quarterback B.J. Ross provided a perfect complement to Johnson. Taking advantage of Consol’s focus on the big running back, Ross ran for 119 yards and completed 10 of 17 passes for 166 yards.
Story courtesy of the B/CS Eagle