STORY BY LARRY BOWEN
It took overtime, but what’s a few more minutes when a program has waited 15 years for a district football championship?
The Bryan Vikings put together a big second-half rally then answered after College Station scored on the last play of regulation to force overtime, with Bryan claiming a 41-34 victory in a battle for at least a share of the District 18-5A title on a cool Friday night at Cougar Field.
Bryan (7-1, 6-0) already was assured of a spot in the playoffs and the top seed in the 5A Division I bracket. The Vikings added to their treasure haul by clinching at least a share of their first district championship since 1999. Bryan can claim its first outright crown since 1998 by beating Rudder to end the regular season.
The fantastic finish made the end of Bryan’s wait even more sweet.
“It was a great game,” Bryan coach Ross Rogers said. “It was better than I needed it to be.”
College Station (7-2, 5-1) also came into the showdown having clinched a playoff berth as the district’s top seed in Division II. The Cougars, in their third year overall but competing in a district for the first season, wanted more.
“It was a good ballgame,” College Station coach Steve Huff said. “The kids put everything they had into it. I thought they fought hard. We just didn’t make plays down the stretch when we needed to make them.”
The Cougars scored the first 17 points and grabbed a 24-7 halftime lead on a wild play just before intermission. College Station, which overcame a 17-point deficit the previous week to beat A&M Consolidated, wound up on the wrong end of the comeback against Bryan, which rode the combination of senior running back KeeKee Johnson and junior quarterback B.J. Ross through a thrilling second half and overtime.
Bryan took its first lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Ross, his third of the game. That capped a 75-yard drive that put the Vikings up 29-24 and further squeezed a College Station offense that had not scored in the second half.
College Station responded quickly and impressively. Senior running back Quinterrian White broke three attempted tackles on a 32-yard run that put the Cougars ahead 31-27 with 6:46 left.
The Vikings didn’t blink. Bryan marched 88 yards in 16 plays, converting five third downs along the way. The 230-pound Johnson, who finished with 228 yards on 39 punishing carries, scored on a 5-yard burst as the Vikes took a 34-31 lead with 1:06 remaining.
Unshaken by the daunting circumstances, the Cougars rallied again. Senior quarterback Cole Whittlesey completed a couple of huge passes, including a 17-yarder to Drake Carnes that carried College Station to the Bryan 18-yard line.
Sophomore place-kicker Ryan Bowersox drilled a 35-yard field goal as time expired to make it 34-34. A week earlier, Bowersox made an 18-yarder with 25 seconds remaining to lift the Cougars over Consol 34-31.
“They were down against Consol and came back,” Rogers said. “Consol was down against us and came back. It’s just a lot of great high school football teams.”
College Station came close to stopping the Vikings on the first possession of overtime. A false start left Bryan facing a fourth-and-6 from the 21. Ross threw an incomplete pass while being pressured by Isaiah Goodman, but the Cougars were flagged for defensive holding and Bryan gained a first down. One play later, Johnson plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out to put the Vikings ahead.
“Once we got the momentum and got back close, I knew our kids would keep responding,” Rogers said. “It’s a credit to [the Cougars] that they tied it. I didn’t know how many overtimes we might go.”
College Station’s last chance came on fourth-and-8 from the 23 after a couple of runs and an incomplete pass. Whittlesey, who passed for 189 yards, tried to connect with flanker Chris Sennette over the middle, but senior linebacker Coleman Johnson tipped the ball away to ignite a Bryan celebration.
“I knew as soon as he threw it that I was going to be able to hit the ball, and that’s what I did,” Johnson said. “It felt incredible. It was one of the hardest-fought games we’ve ever had. We got off kind of slow, but we finished with the strongest second half we’ve had all season. We did it in the biggest game, and we’re the district champs now.”
The Cougars were fast out of the gate. College Station used two touchdown runs by White and a 31-yard field goal by Bowersox for a 17-0 lead. Ross got the Vikings going with a 63-yard scamper for a touchdown, but College Station appeared to have everything going its way after the wild end of the first half.
On a play with two penalty flags, Ross rolled out and lofted a short pass to Joseph Hedge. The ball wound up on the ground, with College Station’s Cedrick Williams picking it up and charging 68 yards to the end zone. After a couple of conferences, the officials ruled it a catch and fumble, allowing Williams’ touchdown to stand.
Bryan scored two touchdowns in less than a minute midway through the third quarter. Johnson had a 4-yard run, then Ross scored from 8 yards two plays later after the Cougars failed to cover a pooch kick with Bryan’s Joe Graves recovering at the 18. The Vikes failed to convert either extra point attempt, but the comeback had begun.
White finished with 187 yards on 31 carries.
Story courtesy of B/CS Eagle