Cougars Fall to Pats in Opener
Rector won a sprint, but lost the marathon in its season opener against Palestine-Wheatley.
Behind a solid defense and efficient offensive effort, the Cougars pulled ahead of the Patriots 8-6 Friday before falling behind 19-8 by the end of the first quarter of a 43-8 loss at home.
"We played with them there for a little while," said Rector (0-1) coach Dave Hendrix. "And then we let them get away from us and it just kind of snowballed."
After a seven-play, 71-yard drive ice-breaking scoring drive by Palestine-Wheatley, the Cougars swapped interceptions with the Patriots before Rector settled in to take the lead.
The Cougars marched 42 yards on their only scoring drive of the game, benefiting from a 15-yard Patriots penalty. Quarterback Hunter McNeely started the movement with an 11-yard pass to Andrew Carter that moved the ball all the way to the Palestine-Wheatley 16.
Following a loss of four yards, McNeely connected with running back Tommy Stokes for 15 yards to the 5. From there, Stokes sprinted in with the ball to tie the game at 6. McNeely kept the ball on the conversion attempt and scored to give the Cougars an 8-6 lead with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Palestine-Wheatley struck back just four plays later, capping a 52-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Patriots a 12-8 lead with 2:50 remaining.
After that, four consecutive turnovers grinded the Rector offense to a halt. However, the Cougars defense held on two of the four ensuing Palestine-Wheatley possessions by allowing one touchdown late in the first quarter and another early in the second while intercepting the Patriots twice.
The result was a 25-8 Palestine-Wheatley lead at halftime.
"They're a good team," Hendrix said. "Every time they got away from us, they're going to score."
The Patriots scored on their first possession of the second half for a 31-8 lead and led 37-8 by the end of the quarter.
"I liked that we didn't quit and we played until the end," said Hendrix. "We've just got to keep getting better. We've got to show more resiliency as it goes. We can't put our heads down when bad things happen."
In addition to his 15-yard reception, Stokes added 21 rushing yards on a dozen carries.
The Cougars are in the third year of a varsity team after roughly five years away from the sport.
"We're not making excuses anymore," said Hendrix. "It's time to move on."