Rector Junior Cougars Complete Historic Season
The Rector Junior Cougars made a lot of football history with their resounding 37-0 win Thursday night on the road at Midland.
With the victory, the outstanding group of young men achieved the first undefeated football season in junior or senior high football since the sport was reinstated at Rector in 1974.
It also was only the third conference championship in that period, matching the accomplishments of the 1987 Senior Cougars and the 1990 Junior Cougars.
The Junior Cougars allowed only one touchdown from scrimmage all year in amassing an 8-0 record and outscoring their opponents, 171-12. The final four games were shutouts.
Asked what made this a special team, coach David Hendrix quickly pointed to the physical nature of their play. "We just took the will out of people early in the game," he said. "There were maybe some teams that had as much or more athletic ability as we did, but we just really took it to them physically.
"This team worked so hard to get to where they're at," the coach added. "From the seventh grade on, they have really been dedicated to the weight room. They have gotten so much stronger and faster. They also have great attention to detail, to a degree that is somewhat unusual for kids of that age."
He said the Junior Cougars are always very attentive in the film room, learning all they can about each opponent.
Rector thoroughly dominated the Junior Mustangs, rolling up a 268-30 total yardage advantage. Rector posted 18 first downs to only three for their opponents.
The Junior Cougars never punted, scoring on every possession except one that resulted in a fumble.
Rector rolled to a 23-0 halftime lead and tacked on a pair of third period scores to win going away.
After stopping the Junior Mustangs on three downs to start the game, Rector marched 46 yards in six plays, with Joseph Baker going over from one yard out with 3:00 showing on the clock. Max Ford added the PAT on a run and the Junior Cougars were up 8-0. Key plays on the drive were a 27-yard sweep around right end by Shannon Patterson on the first play from scrimmage and a 14-yard burst up the middle by Baker that carried to the Mustang one-yard line.
Midland was forced to punt again without making a first down and this time the Cougars went 70 yards on six plays. Ford had a 21-yard run around left end and then another 21-yarder to the other side that
carried to the Midland 28. Ford then scored four plays later from three yards out. The PAT pass from Parker Bucy to Keaton Speer made it 16-0 with 7:30 left in the second period.
The Junior Cougars mounted their third scoring drive late in the second period, going 61 yards in six plays. Key plays were runs by Ford and Baker and a pass from Bucy to Ford. The touchdown came with only 27 seconds left in the half on a five-yard sweep around left end by Ford. The PAT kick by Ford was good to make it 23-0 at intermission.
Rector put the game away with scoring drives of 65 and 49 yards in the third period. Ford did most of the damage on the ground, with some help from Baker.
Baker scored from the Midland 13 with 7:04 left in the third period. The extra point kick was blocked and Rector led, 29-0.
Bucy tacked on the final touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 1:13 showing in the third. Clayton Morgan made the PAT conversion to set the final score at 37-0. A "running clock" made for a quick fourth quarter, leading to a jubilant celebration by the Junior Cougars and their fans at the close of the game.
Ford led the way offensively for Rector with 133 yards on 13 carries. Baker went 10-67 on the ground while Patterson was 2-36. Chance Gray ran for 41 yards for Midland, most of it late in the game.
Rector notched 244 yards rushing and added 24 passing as Bucy hit both attempts -- 17 yards to Patterson and seven yards to Ford.
"It was kind of a typical game for us this year," Hendrix said. "We were the better team, but we didn't take anything for granted. We just couldn't lose sight of what we needed to do. I guess you could say it
was a very business-like approach."
On holding the Junior Mustangs to only 30 yards of offense, Hendrix said it has been that way all year. "They bought in fully with what we were trying to do," he said.
Hendrix thought Morgan "played really well" on defense, as he and Bucy completely shut down any Midland efforts to run wide.
He said Ford, Patterson and Baker "did what they always do" in running hard and setting the tone offensively.
Looking at the season as a whole, Hendrix said this team has a bit more speed than normal for a Rector squad and "our whole line played very physical all year."
Asked when he realized this team would be special, he cited the Salem game, a contest in which the Junior Cougars made some mistakes early in the game and failed to score, allowing the Junior Greyhounds to take the lead.
Rector came back to win the game, 14-6. "Things weren't going well, but I saw it in their eyes that they weren't going to let the early problems get them down. They have the attitude that they can come back and win.
"A lot of this group's success has to do with their parents and the way the community has backed them," Hendrix said. "Almost every parent I either played football with or grew up around them. They know me and I know them and that's important. I never worried about how they would respond in any situation."
Hendrix plans to move the freshmen up for the final two senior high games, home contests against Marked Tree and Midland. He thinks the younger players will supply some much-needed depth. He also knows the older players will accept them on the field and look forward to working with them in trying to secure a senior high win before the year is over.
"The sky is the limit for this group," Hendrix said of the Junior Cougars. "Most all of these kids grew up here and they are committed to being successful for our school and community. They just have to get faster and stronger and not get complacent.
"Our ultimate goal is to get in the state playoffs," the coach said.
Hendrix concluded by emphasizing two other points:
1. "These senior high kids we've had going before them over the last couple of years have made it all possible. They knew they were in for some tough times in getting football going again here. They have taken their lumps, but I am thankful for them for starting the program back. This junior team wouldn't be here if it weren't for the efforts of the senior high players."
2. "The Old Man is smiling." That is Hendrix' reference to his football mentor, the late Paul Temerian. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for him." Temerian coached Hendrix in high school and had great success with the Cougars. Hendrix said coach Temerian would be very proud of the dedication and accomplishments of these Junior Cougars.
Members of the team include:
Freshmen -- Gage Parrish, Trace Sanders, Zane McNeely, Travis Slaughter, Jason Braman, Clayton Morgan, Parker Bucy, Shannon Patterson, Max Ford and Ben Owens.
Eighth Graders -- Keaton Speer, Joseph Baker, Chris Hufty and Landon McClung.
Seventh Graders -- John Ford Hendrix, Jeron Bucy, Logan Emerline, Lane Casebier, Andrew Williamson, Jacob Braman, Levi Jukkola, Connor McCluskey, Zack Williams and Levi McElhany.
Hendrix was assisted by coaches Robert Dorman and Clinton Haley.