STORY BY SCOTT CLENDENIN
It was a heartbreak in Hutto for College Station on Friday night.
The homestanding Hippos rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to win the Class 5A Divisoin II bi-district showdown 56-52 over the Cougars, playing in the playoffs in the program’s first year of eligibility.
The Cougar offense was nearly unstoppable, but a key turnover with less the five minutes to play proved costly. With the Cougars inside the 2-yard line, Quinterrian White had the ball knocked from his grasp just feet from scoring a clinching touchdown.
Hutto pounced on the ball at the 5 and started a methodical drive down the field. Quarterback Tyler Herrick never panicked, and picked up key first downs with two big passes to Tyler Matlock. The second set the Hippos up at the Cougar 39, and Herrick scrambled on back-to-back plays down to the 21. Herrick found Davion Davis, who has committed to Rice, going out of bounds at the 11, and one play later, Herrick sprinted untouched around left tackle for the winning touchdown.
“It was tough. I feel for the seniors,” College Station head coach Steve Huff said. “You just need to make one more play tonight, and we didn’t do it, and that cost us.”
The offensive fireworks that most predicted for the Cougars and the Hippos rivaled those on the Hudson River on the Fourth of July, but the game turned when Hutto recovered an onside kick after cutting the Cougar lead to 52-42 on a 9-yard run by Dareyon Milligan with 10:48 to play.
Davis recovered the kick just inches from the midfield line, nearly touching the ball too early. Herrick hit Brandon Douglass on a slant pattern for 15 yards before going over the top again to Douglass for 27 yards to the 1. It took two tries before Herrick scored to make it a three-point ballgame.
“That’s one less possession that you don’t have, and they really didn’t stop us in the second half,” Huff said. “We didn’t even punt. Unfortunately it is something we are going to have to live with.”
White had dominated on the ground before the fumble, carrying the ball 37 times for 255 yards and five touchdowns. With the coaches calling on the hot-handed White, quarterback Cole Whittlesey was limited to just 3-of-8 passing for 68 yards while rushing fourteen times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Herrick completed 17 of 20 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 27 tunes for 132 yards and four touchdowns. Davis caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“Hutto is a good football team,” Huff said. “[Herrick] and some of those players they have make it very, very tough. It looked like we put enough points on the scoreboard to win it, but we needed to make just one more play.”
The teams traded touchdowns every possession of the third quarter. Herrick found Riley Farris from 7 yards out on a jump ball, and the Cougars answered with Whittlesey keeping the ball around right tackle and down the Hippo sideline for a 37-yard run for a 45-28 College Station lead.
Herrick’s 29-yard bomb to Davis again cut College Station’s lead to 10 again before White dived over from 2 yards out for the last Cougar points of the night.
The game began with a bang when College Station’s Rajah Preciado took the opening kickoff inside his own 5, sprinted down the Hutto sideline, picked up an escort at the Hippo 20 and gliding in untouched for a 97-yard touchdown return.
Herrick showed off running skills that matched his passing ability, rushing 16 yards on a third-and-14 to keep Hutto’s ensuing drive alive. After a holding penalty moved Hutto back, he scrambled around enough to find Farris behind the Cougar secondary for a 38-yard touchdown pass to convert another third-and-long.
White took over on the next drive, carrying the ball all 58 yards of it. He split the defense on a zone carry up the middle and rumbled 56 yards before he was tripped up at the 2. The coaches rewarded his effort and called his number for a 2-yard touchdown dive and a 14-7 Cougar lead.
Davis and Herrick did nearly all the damage on Hutto’s next drive as the Hippos again overcame penalties to score a touchdown. After a Herrick 14-yard draw play for a score was called back and Davis was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Herrick scrambled for 16 and 15 yards on back-to-back plays. The second play also saw holding called on the Cougars to give the Hippos a first down at the 8. One play later, Herrick dove over to tie the game at 14.
Taking over with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter, the Cougar offense hit the gas pedal and blitzed their way down the field. White again punished the Hippo defense on twisting runs up the middle, picking up two straight third-down conversions before scoring from 7 yards out to cap the 71-yard touchdown drive.
Herrick marched the Hippos down the field in response. Davis took a sweep around the right side before reversing and cutting across the field for 54 yards down to the College Station 23. Herrick scrambled for 13 yards down to the 9, and even though the Cougar defense forced them to use four downs, the Hippos scored when Herrick powered across the goal line from just inches away to tie the game at 21.
The Cougars turned a Herrick fumble into a touchdown and a 35-21 lead when White burst through the secondary for 24 yards and a score. After holding the Hippos a yard short on a fourth down attempt, Ryan Bowersox kicked a 35-yard field goal as the half ended to put College Station on top 38-21.
Story courtesy of The B/CS Eagle