STORY BY DAVID CAMPBELL
The first Bryan Bowl came with a trophy.
The Bryan Vikings took sole possession of a better one. Bryan’s 56-19 victory over the other resident of Merrill Green Stadium, Rudder, locked up the undisputed District 18-5A championship Friday.
“For this school, for this student body and this team and the way the kids have worked, it’s what you want it to be,” Bryan coach Ross Rogers said. “Hopefully, we bring something to this community. The playoffs start next week, or really tomorrow, but we’re going to enjoy this district championship.”
It was Bryan’s first outright district title since 1998, a feat highlighted by how far the Vikings (8-1, 7-0) had to advance to achieve it. The win marked the eighth straight victory for the Vikings, who lost eight times and went winless in 14-5A last year.
“We knew we’d be better this year, but I don’t know if everybody thought that we had a chance to win the whole thing,” Rogers said. “We’re going to enjoy this, because it’s been hard work to get here.”
Rudder made sure that work continued. Led by junior quarterback David Hobson, the Rangers looked primed for a long-shot upset when they tied the game at 7 in the first quarter.
But Bryan’s defense picked up, and running back KeeKee Johnson picked up his typical smashing yardage. With four first-half touchdowns, Johnson upped his season rushing touchdown total to 30 and helped Bryan build a 28-7 halftime lead.
Bryan will play in the 5A Division I bi-district playoffs at Manor next Friday. Rudder’s first season under Will Compton concluded at 1-9 overall and 0-7 in district.
Bryan fullback Jarvis Lister averaged 19.1 yards per touch, rushing eight times for 100 yards and catching two passes for 91 yards. Lister caught a 63-yard pass from B.J. Ross to set up a touchdown pass to Jordan Driver, who usually plays on the defensive line.
Lister appeared ready to score on the long pass play, but the persistent chase of Rudder linebacker Spencer Choka and cornerback DeMarcus Dates temporarily denied the touchdown.
“Spencer is an amazing kid, who has character and class in the way he carries himself,” Compton said. “Right there behind him was DeMarcus Dates, our sophomore corner, and those two guys are not giving up on a play like that. It’s a true testament of their character … never give up and never die, thinking what else can I do to help this team win.”
It was quite a comeback effort on the play. For a season comeback, Darius Ross took top honors. Ross, who suffered a broken leg and an ankle dislocation in Bryan’s scrimmage against Killen Shoemaker in late August, returned to play defense in the 41-34 win over College Station last week. He scored his first touchdown this season with a run late in the third quarter.
Rudder got an improv touchdown from Hobson, when he flipped a pass forward to Kaidrion Latson while escaping pressure. Hobson also had a twisting 35-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. From early in the game, Hobson ran well, picking up 150 yards on 14 carries. He also hit 14 of 24 passes for 152 yards.
“He’s grown as a person and as a football player,” Compton said of his converted wide receiver, who was thrust into the starting role in the middle of district play. “That’s a tribute to him and the hard work that he’s done.”
Johnson got the first of his first-half touchdowns on an 18-yard run, carrying players into the end zone at the finish.
But Rudder stuck back, when quarterback David Hobson ran to the Viking 44 to start a 77-yard scoring drive. He hit Jermaine Mills and William Dates for key gains, with Gates’ 23-yard reception setting up his eventual two-yard touchdown run. Rudder turned down a successful field goal from Eric Hausman as the Rangers chose try for he touchdown. Dates’ run at left guard evened the score at 7-7.
From that point, Johnson and the Vikings’ defense took control. Johnson didn’t have much company in on his second 18-yard touchdown run thanks to a good initial block from fullback Jarvis Lister. Johnson concluded his night early in the second half with 20 carries for 122 yards.
Junior quarterback B.J. Ross mixed play action passes with gives to Johnson, who dived in for one score and powered in for another. Ross connected on 10 of 12 passes for 193 yards.
“They put a lot of people in the box, which people do, but B.J. stepped up and threw the ball well and we had some big plays in the passing game,” Rogers said. “It’s yard to run against eight or nine in the box, even if you’re KeeKee. We got some running game going, but we’ve got to be able to throw it when people do that to us and I think we’re doing it pretty well right now.”
Rudder positioned itself for a chance to cut into the lead late in the half, when Hobson looped a pass in to Latson. On the final play of the half, Brian Williams fumbled on a reverse and Jimmy Thomas covered for the Vikings.
“Hats off to these kids,” said Compton of his Rangers. “It hasn’t been the season that they dreamed or wrote down on paper or envisioned, but these kids who have made it through this season are going to be successful at whatever they do. They know how to wake up and go back to work after something they’ve wanted so bad doesn’t happen.”
Courtesy of the B/CS Eagle