STORY BY RICHARD CROOME
BRYAN – Willis’ John Lewis took care of the dirty work early, which allowed the combination of Mark Richardson-to-Shane Harrison to cap the Wildkats’ 49-14 victory over the Rudder Rangers on Friday in District 18-5A action at Merrill Green Stadium.
Lewis, a senior tailback, ran for 109 of his 134 yards in the first quarter and scored the first two touchdowns on runs of 2 and 6 yards.
When the Rangers (1-5, 0-3) slowed him down later in the game, the Wildkats (4-2, 1-2) went long with Richardson and Harrison connecting on touchdown passes of 31 and 50 yards over the middle.
“That was not what we had in the game plan,” Rudder coach Will Compton said. “The kids are still learning. Coaches are learning kids and kids are learning coaches, and we got a lot of kids in different positions. We switched some things up this week. We are going to continue to line up and continue to fight and try to do the best we can to put these kids in the best situation to win.”
Willis’ Tre’von Harrison put the Wildkats up 21-0 with a 3-yard run set up by a fumbled snap recovered by Kreg Williams.
Rudder’s defense picked things up in the second quarter, but its good work got washed away in the final minute of the half.
Starting at their own 46-yard line with 1 minute, 1 second on the clock, Richardson found Colton Todd on the sideline for 23 yards then hit a wide open Shane Harrison over the middle for the final 31 yards and a 28-0 halftime lead.
“They got some receivers with some double moves, and we blew a coverage in there,” Compton said. “The offense has to help out the defense as well. We’ve got to do a better job of holding onto the football and chewing up a little bit of the clock and sustain drives to take some time off there.”
After allowing three first-quarter touchdowns on three possessions, the Rangers stopped the Wildkats three consecutive times to stay in the game.
Spencer Choka darted through to sack Richardson for a 7-yard loss on a third-and-11 from the Rudder 23. The Wildkats got the ball back immediately on a fumble recovery by Luis Chavez after Williams broke through to sack Rudder quarterback Brady Batten.
Willis moved the ball from the Rudder 29 to the 2 on eight plays and appeared to score on a fourth-and-goal from the 2, but a holding penalty nullified the touchdown Willis missed a 28-yard field goal attempt.
Rudder defensive lineman Patrick Glover made a stellar play to stop Richardson on the next Willis drive, and Rudder senior defensive back Travis Piper made a good tackle to force the Wildkats’ first punt.
“I thought we were a little loose in the beginning, and we started settling in to what we were going to be doing,” Compton said. “They played a lot better, especially in that second quarter outside of couple big plays here and there.”
Any ideas the Rangers had of coming back ended when Willis kicker Michael Malone recovered his own onside kick to start the second half.
Lewis put Willis up 35-0 with an 8-yard TD run.
Rudder moved the ball at times, but continually started drives in it’s own end and often stalled near midfield. The Rangers still managed 18 first downs but lost two fumbles and had eight penalties for 60 yards in the second half, many on offense.
“We’ve been talking about that, that we have to get more consistent overall, and that is with everything we do — offense, defense, special teams,” Compton said. “We have some spurts that look really good, and that is all part of the process. We have to cut out the little mistakes.”
Batten completed 14 of 32 passes and rushed for 110 yards on 13 carries.
In the fourth quarter the Rangers finally got some good field position and punched it in on their last two possessions. Batten scored from the 4 after a 33-yard run.
Rudder’s Tim Tennell then recovered Eric Hausman’s onside kick, and eight plays later the Rangers completed the 47-yard drive on a Batten 19-yard run in which he faked the hand off, ran up the middle, broke outside and hit the pylon as he crossed the goal line.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him run the ball all year long,” Compton said. “He ran angry. I’ve told him all year long he has to trust his legs a little bit more, and he did a great job of running around. They took away our pass and the quick-game stuff we really like to do, so he did a great job of running the ball tonight.”
Williams Dates also picked up a tough 10 yards on a third-and-3 to keep the drive alive.
Senior linebacker Choka led the Rangers in tackles, while Charles Owens had a big sack in the second half to help stall a Willis drive.
Rudder will go after its first district win in over two years when it hosts Livingston next week.
Story courtesy of the B/CS Eagle