STORY BY DAVID CAMPBELL
Neither team had to play like this. With split divisions, both Bryan and College Station were assured the top playoff seeds in District 18-5A before Friday night’s kickoff at Cougar Stadium.
Some teams demand more.
The Vikings were seeking their first district title since 1999. The Cougars had a dead-aim look on the three-year school’s first football title in their first chance to win one, a dream they refused to lose without a fight.
With an impressive but steady comeback, Bryan won 41-34 when Coleman Johnson leaped high to knock away Cole Whittlesey’s fourth-down pass toward the end zone, preserving the victory in the first overtime.
It was a flawed masterpiece. Both teams had fourth-down penalties that kept opponent drives alive. College Station’s flag sliced deeply into the Cougars’ chances, setting up the only score of overtime, a short KeeKee Johnson run.
A controversial and hotly-debated fumble call on a pass thrown to Sterling Whitley turned into a touchdown return by Cedrick Williams and a 24-7 College Station halftime lead.
But flawed or not, the Halloween showdown was a treat. They can’t play one another again — who could take the stress? — but they made it clear that neither the Vikings nor the Cougars should be overlooked in postseason play. They proved themselves resilient, tough and intensely competitive.
The Vikings twice trailed by 17 points as a defense led by Cougars junior Rajah Preciado found a way to do what no other team had done on a regular basis. He brought Johnson, Bryan’s running powerhouse, with low driving tackles for minimal gains.
Bryan left the field at halftime with no momentum. Then the Vikings had to leave their halftime locker room because a fire alarm went off, and they had to kick to a hot College Station offense to open the second half.
But Bryan scored the first three touchdowns of the second half, helped in large part by a pooch kick recovered by Joe Graves and by the Vikings’ reliable backfield duo of Johnson and B.J. Ross.
Bryan did it with little passing, but Johnson had a season-high 39 carries and 228 yards. Ross rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries.
Cougars’ running back Quinterrian White, who came dressed to play like Johnson on Halloween, countered with a 32-yard scoring run to hold the Vikings at bay.
Yet by the time Johnson sliced through right guard on a 5-yard run to give the Vikings a 34-31 lead, there seemed an air of inevitability that had take over for Bryan. The Vikings converted four times on third-and-4 or more during that go-ahead drive.
The Vikings seemed to have flipped every advantage in their favor. They didn’t have the win, though, Bot yet. Somehow College Station rerouted the river before it became a waterfall.
Whittlesey directed the Cougars into field goal position, moving 47 yards in nine plays. As he had done a week earlier when College Station staged its own 17-point rally, sophomore Ryan Bowersox connected on a field goal with no time remaining. It was hardly a chip shot that he drove through from 35 yards.
Halloween is usually a night of characters. Friday, the Vikings and Cougars made it a night of character.
Courtesy of the B/CS Eagle