STORY BY RICHARD CROOME
A&M Consolidated pushed aside the disappointment of losses to Bryan and College Station and took care of business Friday in a 57-7 victory over the Rudder Rangers on Halloween night at Merrill Green Stadium.
The Tigers (4-5, 4-2) were coming off two emotional losses in the race for the District 18-5A title, but they scored twice in their first five offensive plays and secured a playoff berth for the 10th consecutive season.
“The kids answered the call,” Consol coach David Raffield said. “We were a little worried Monday and Tuesday, but they came out and played good football tonight. It’s a good win for the team. A good football team plays well week in and week out and I’m proud of these guys.”
Consol’s divisional fate for the playoffs won’t be determined until next week when Willis and Huntsville face off for 18-5A’s final playoff berth. Consol will be in Division I if Huntsville wins and Division II if Willis wins.
“We don’t know who we are going to get to play yet, but we’re excited to have that opportunity to continue the tradition,” Raffield said. “It’s been a heck of a deal. Through two head coaches we’ve had 10 consecutive playoff appearances, and I think that speaks volumes about our community and our kids and our program.”
Derrick Dick put the Tigers on the board just 1 minute, 5 seconds into the game with a 38-yard touchdown reception from Mason Hickson. Barely 2 minutes later, Tyri Merchant broke off a 62-yard run down the sideline for another score, and the Tigers were on their way to a victory in the first meeting between the Twin City rivals.
The Rangers (1-8, 0-6) held the Tigers on downs the next two possessions, but they got pinned at their own 1-yard line to start their possession after the second stop and gave up a safety when Consol’s Abel Daily tackled Devarion Guyton in the end zone to put the Tigers up 16-0.
Merchant then finished off a 124-yard rushing performance in the first quarter with a 33-yard TD run around left end.
“We came out tonight and answered the call,” Raffield said. “We weren’t sluggish. We got after it. I think we scored two touchdowns in six plays and went on to control the ball.”
Merchant made it three touchdown runs in the opening half with a 23-yard jaunt to the right side in the second quarter. He finished with 179 yards on 14 carries in the first half and watched from the sideline in the second half.
Rodney Jernigan completed the first-half scoring with a 17-yard TD reception from Hickson. Jernigan twisted back for the grab right near the pylon to give Consol a 36-0 halftime lead.
The Tigers substituted freely in the second half, including quarterback Dayden Lane taking over on the first possession. Armond Jones scored on a 13-yard run and Lane found Cade Williams in stride on a 26-yard TD pass that Williams caught along the right sideline just as he crossed the goal line.
“It’s not so much about resting [the starters] as it is getting to watch those kids that work hard every day and don’t always get to play,” Raffield said of the second half substitutions. “I really enjoyed the fourth quarter there watching so many young kids play.”
Consol backup Tarvarias Young ran for 97 yards on 11 carries, with his next to last carry going for a 1-yard TD to finish the scoring.
Rudder avoided the shutout when linebacker Spencer Choka returned a fumble 69 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Consol got interceptions from Trey Benson and Jonathon Sylvester and a fumble recovery from James Hodges. Daily also recovered the onside kick after Rudder’s lone score.
The Rangers stopped a Consol scoring opportunity early in the second half when Rudder senior Daryl Boxley came out of a pileup with a fumble recovery deep in Ranger territory. Boxley also broke up a pass as did Rudder’s Federrian Lewis on a couple of occasions.
Story courtesy of the B/CS Eagle