Cougars Battle Earle Bulldogs
Rector's Cougars gave a brief early scare to the state's third-ranked Class 2A team Friday night, but the overall size and speed of the host Earle Bulldogs quickly came to the fore in a 56-6 conference football verdict.
The Cougars were able to move the ball with some consistency throughout the 2A-3 contest, but they were no match in containing the Bulldogs from a defensive perspective. Earle will travel this week to Cross County to determine the conference championship as both teams move on into the state playoffs the following week.
Rector put together an impressive 13-play drive of 60 yards on the first possession of the game to take a 6-0 lead. Most of the damage was right up the middle as Chance Scott rushed five times and Garrett Buck four on the physical drive.
Quarterback Lawson Ford punched it in from one yard out for the touchdown, coming with 4:52 left in the first frame. The PAT pass from Ford was unsuccessful and the Cougars were up 6-0.
Rector then recovered an onside kick and appeared ready to get on the move again, but an official ruled the Cougars offside and the Bulldogs took over on their own 49 following the second kick.
Rector bottled up outstanding sophomore quarterback Gerry Bohanon on the first play from scrimmage, but he managed to shovel the ball to running back Richard Merritt at the last second. Merritt cut across the field to the right and rambled all the way for the score. Bohanon's pass attempt for the PAT failed and it was 6-6 with 4:23 showing.
The Cougars again put together a good drive, moving from their 41 to the Earle 16. The key play was a 26-yard pass from Buck to Bam Westbrook.
But on first down at the 16, Ford was dropped for an 18-yard loss. After a three-yard completion from Ford to Buck, a couple of failed pass attempts gave the ball back over to Earle.
Once again the Bulldogs struck quickly. On second down Bohanon found Marcus Brown open for a 63-yard pass play for the score. Merritt's run for the PAT failed and the Bulldogs were ahead 12-6 with 11:01 showing in the second quarter.
Rector fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Earle took over at the Cougar 33. Merritt lost four on first down, but Brown swept right end for 37 yards on the next play for the touchdown. Bohanon's PAT pass to Cortez Banks was good and the hosts were ahead 20-6 with 10:05 left in the second period.
Earle then tacked on two quick touchdowns to put the game out of reach, the first coming on a 16-yard pass from Bohanon to Dontrell Johnson and the second on a four-yard run by Merritt. Earle led 34-6 with 2:14 left before intermission.
Rector then began another good offensive thrust, moving from their own
40 to the Bulldog 16. Key plays were two sprints around left end by Westbrook, one for 18 yards and the other for 26.
But Ford's pass into the end zone was intercepted by Earle and the Dogs took over at the 20 with 44.5 seconds left in the period.
The final nail in the first half came as Bohanon found Brown on a 57-yard pass play for a score with 11.2 seconds remaining. The PAT failed and the hosts went into intermission up 40-6.
Earle scored on two possessions in the second half, on a four-yard run by Merritt and a 15-yard run by Banks to set the final margin at 56-6.
"Our best defense is our offense," coach David Hendrix said of the game.
"We have to be successful in ball control because they are going to score when they get it. They have scored against everyone they've played."
Hendrix was pleased with the spark of offense his team showed at times during the game. "We just came out and tried not to worry about who we were playing and just did what we do."
He said the team had some "busted assignments" on defense but Earle has a tendency to "make you look like you are going in slow motion."
The coach said his team "played hard" throughout the game. "Chance Scott was on one bad wheel but he sucked it up and played hard and got some tough yards."
The Cougars are still looking for their first win of the year, but face another tough opponent in Marked Tree in the season-closer at 7 p.m. Thursday at Temerian Field. "They are really talented," Hendrix said. "They have a good group of seniors and are already in the playoffs."
Senior Night ceremonies will start at 6:20.