STORY BY RICHARD CROOME
BRYAN – Rudder head football coach Will Compton knows it won’t be too long before he’s enjoying a Gatorade bath, but Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium he could only be a spectator as the Killeen Ellison players drenched one of their assistant coaches after ending its 31-game losing streak.
The Eagles beat the Rangers 33-13 as Rudder saw its own losing streak reach 13 straight.
“It’s for the kids. They’ve worked so hard,” second-year Ellison coach Trent Gregory said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they’ve been prepping and planning just like all the other ball clubs throughout the state and come up short a couple of times, but they persevered.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, some of the Ellison players found offensive line coach Sam Brandt, leaving Gregory alone.
“I’m just glad they got him rather than me,” Gregory said. “It would have felt good, absolutely. I love these kids to death.”
Ellison (1-1), the second straight Class 6A team Class 5A Rudder (0-2) has faced, got the win with a balanced attack that included a little trickery in the opening half and plenty of ground-pounding in the second half.
The Eagles also got a little help from the Rangers, who had three fumbles and 16 penalties for 114 yards.
After stopping the Rangers on a fourth-and-4 fake punt by holding Spencer Choka to 3 yards, the Eagles went 49 yards in six plays, capped by a Deon Burch 4-yard run to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Brandon Johnson set the TD up with a 31-yard run, carrying three or four Rangers for almost half the yardage.
The Rangers appeared score late in the first quarter on a Choka run, but an illegal procedure penalty called the play black. Two more 5-yard penalties pushed the Rangers back to Ellison’s 13-yard line, and Rudder missed a 30-yard field goal attempt just a bit wide left.
“We call them mental breakdowns when we are jumping offsides and false starting like that,” Compton said. “That is us having to get better. Those things we have to get better at, staying focused in the red zone and in critical situations, fourth-and-short and third-and-short.”
The teams exchanged punts the next four possessions. Then the Eagles went to a little razzle-dazzle with wide receiver Christian Jackson finding a wide open Devon Johnson for 61 yards and a 13-0 lead.
The Eagles had two other opportunities to score in the opening half, but Choka and JT King stopped Raziel Brooks on a fourth-and-1 at the Rudder 30 and Choka picked up a botched handoff near the goal line and ran it back 58 yards with 46 seconds to go in the half.
Rudder set up another scoring opportunity after Vincent Sandle sacked Ellison sophomore quarterback Carl Robinson, forcing a fumble that Chris Espinoza recovered.
Again a 10-yard penalty kept the Rangers from sustaining a drive.
“We can’t play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game,” Compton said. “It’s easy to say if we would have done this or would have done that this game would have been a little bit different, but hats off to the Ellison staff.”
Robinson scored on a 2-yard run a play after throwing to Jayden Smith for 37 yards. The touchdown put the Eagles up 20-0. They made it 27-0 on a Brandon Johnson 1-yard run. He carried the ball on six of that scoring drive’s eight plays for 50 yards.
Rudder senior Deshawn McMillan set up the Rangers’ first points with a 51-yard kickoff return.
Brady Batten hooked up with McMillian three plays later for a 26-yard pass down the sideline, then sophomore receiver Eric Peterson went in motion and took a handoff for 15 yards and a touchdown with 7:28 left.
Ellison’s Brooks got the points back on the next drive, carrying seven straight times and scoring from a yard out.
“Our defense spent a lot of time on the field, and those guys put in a lot of work today,” Compton said. “Their offensive line really came of the ball and teed off pretty good. Our kids were resilient and kept on scraping back.”
The Rangers converted on two fourth-down plays in the waning minutes to get the final points. Batten found David Hobson for 22 yards on a fourth-and-3, and on the ensuing play McMillan made a one-handed grab for 29 yards.
On fourth-and-4 from the 9, Batten rolled right and zipped a pass to Jermaine Mills, who pulled the ball in and made sure his feet touchdown down in the end zone.
It was another sign of hope to Compton.
Courtesy of the B/CS Eagle