STORY BY DAVID CAMPBELL
WILLIS — The Willis Wildkats did what no one else has done this season. They contained KeeKee Johnson.
For three quarters, that is.
Johnson had 105 of his 178 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, punctuating it with a crushing stiff-arm on a 50-yard touchdown run to help the Bryan Vikings stay unbeaten in District 18-5A with a hard-fought 34-13 win over the Wildkats.
“We knew it,” Bryan coach Ross Rogers said of what felt like a close call despite the final margin. “It was a trap game all of the way. We just didn’t have the emotion.”
For a long time, Willis took advantage of that.
“They tackled him well,” Rogers said of Willis’ defense against Johnson on Berton A. Yates Stadium’s grass field. “I was scared of this field. It’s a little soft, and I thought it was an advantage against a big back. He wasn’t as quick on this kind of soft field.”
Johnson’s late touchdown run provided some emotion. It came less than a minute after Mark Richardson’s precise 21-yard TD pass to Shane Harrison narrowed Bryan’s lead to 27-13 just 33 seconds into the fourth quarter. Richardson hit 21 of 35 passes for 197 yards, but Bryan limited the Wildkats to 36 rushing yards.
In a game that Willis turned into a slugfest, Bryan’s body shots ended it. Johnson and Jarvis Lister churned out fourth-quarter yardage and chewed up clock. The Vikings were within reach of the goal line again when B.J. Ross took a knee to close it out.
Until then, it was never easy.
Ross’ passing was timely. He hit 17 of 25 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also followed Johnson on a roll to his right for the final 9 yards into the end zone with :07 left in the third quarter.
That started a string of three touchdowns over a span of 1:31 with Johnson’s scoring run serving as the highlight. Nearly knocked down from behind, he recovered awkwardly on the left sideline after angling left out of the backfield to start the play.
Willis threatened to cut into Bryan’s 20-7 halftime lead early in the third quarter, getting as close as the Bryan 9-yard line, but Viking linebacker Isaiah Vasquez thwarted that effort with a fumble recovery.
“We had to grind it out and had to work for it, and that will continue to pay dividends as we go,” said Rogers, whose team often milked the play clock in the huddle before racing to the line for quick snaps. “Busting out of the huddle and just going after it is something we have worked on for two years and haven’t shown it a lot. It’s something we knew we might need to grind the clock out in this type of game, and we did.”
It worked with Bryan churning out 458 yards of total offense.
Willis held Johnson in check in the first half, often cutting him down before he could get his powerful legs churning. Johnson did score the game’s first touchdown after Ross’ 22-yard pass to Joseph Hedge. The Vikings moved 62 yards on the march, which was Garrett Dohnalik’s fumble recovery to halt a promising Willis drive. At the end of a sideline play, Dohnalik simply took the football away.
Willis picked up 233 total yards but that was the first of three turnovers that helped the Vikings achieve and advantage from a Wildkat team that surrendered everything grudgingly.
A fourth-down stop by Tyson Washington set the stage for the Vikings’ second touchdown, which concluded a 10-play 66-yard march. Sterling Whitley’s lunging catch at the six set up Ross, who rolled left and dropped a scoring pass into the hands of Quaylon Newton.
Bryan appeared to take charge, leading 20-0 late in the half on a Ross’16-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Whitley with 1:25 left.
Coupled with pair of key Viking penalties, that left plenty of time for Mark Richardson to direct the Wildkats to a touchdown. He squeezed a 9-yard touchdown pass between three Viking defenders with :30 left in the opening half.
Story courtesy of the B/CS Eagle