By Elizabeth McKamy
The Gladewater offense outscored Atlanta 21-7 in the 3rd Quarter and the Bear defense shutdown the potent Rabbit running attack, allowing only 13 rushing yards in the 2nd half, giving the host team a 42-27 victory here at Jack V. Murphy Stadium Friday night. The win keeps Gladewater atop the District leader board and gets them one step closer to the District crown and a #1 seed into the State 3A D1 playoffs.
The Bears, who have outscored opponents 85-34 in the 1st Quarter, found the going tough against a ball control Atlanta offense and a stubborn Rabbit defense. Gladewater won the toss, but deffered to the 2nd half as is their custom. Atlanta took the opening kickoff, using a steady diet of Jr RB Keith Kinney, and drove from their own 15 yard line to the Bear 45 in 6 plays, but on 2 & 9 the Gladewater defensive line broke through and tackled Kinney for a 5 yard loss. After an incomplete pass and a 32 yard punt, the Bear’s offense went to work from their own 18 yard line. Proving that they could run the “ground and pound” as well as any team, Gladewater marched down the field in 10 plays. Mixing in a couple of pass plays, the Bears got on the scoreboard when QB Tristan Holmes hit Jr WR DJ Allen with a 22 yard touchdown pass. Kicker Justice Hassek’s extra point was good and the Bears led 7-0 with 3:50 left in the 1st Quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff the Bears tried an onside kick, but the Rabbit’s Adrian Kennington fell on the loose ball, giving Atlanta great field position at their own 49 yard line. It only took the Rabbits 6 plays to cover those 51 yards, tying the game on QB Justin Pierce’s 30 yard touchdown pass to Kam Dickerson. K Daniel Hernandez’s kick was good and the score was knotted at 7 with :37 left in the 1st Quarter.
On the Bear’s next possession they ran up against a tough Atlanta defense, giving the ball back to the Rabbits at the Bear 41 yard line. Despite the good field position Atlanta couldn’t get anything going and punted the ball back to Gladewater. It only took the Bears 3 plays to cover the 81 yards to their 2nd score of the night. Holmes hit Kolin Lewis with a short pass, but the speedster Lewis outran all Rabbit defenders 70 yards for the score. Hassek’s kick was good and the Bears went back ahead 14-7.
Atlanta notched the score at 14, going 75 yards in 8 plays, scoring on a 5 yard run by Kinney with 2:54 left in the 1st half. The tie lasted all of 1:31 as the Bears took the ensuing kickoff and went 64 yards in 3 plays. RB Eligia Carter got his only TD of the night on a run of 60 yards. Hassek, who was 6 for 6 kicking extra points on the night, banged his kick through the uprights, giving Gladewater a 21-14 lead with 1:21 left in the half.
It didn’t take Atlanta long to put more points on the board after a 72 yard kickoff return by Rabbit Alijuah Drayton set Atlanta up at the Bear 18 yard line. The Gladewater defense once again stepped up holding the Rabbits to a 24 yard Hernandez field goal with :17 left in the 1st half. Atlanta inched a little closer after the ensuing kickoff took a Rabbit bounce away from all Bear receivers, ending up in Atlanta possession at the Gladewater 25 yard line. With :05 left on the clock K Hernandez hit a 33 yard field goal to get the Rabbits within one point at the half.
The Bears came out for the 2nd Half determined to put some distance between them and the Rabbits on the scoreboard and that they did. Taking the 2nd half kickoff Gladewater went 48 yards in 7 plays, scoring on a 12 yard run from QB Holmes. Hassek split the uprights giving the Bears a 28-20 lead. After the offense took care of business, the defense put the brakes on the Atlanta running attack. After being held to only 2 yards, the Rabbits were forced to punt. The Bears, who have blocked 2 punts this year for touchdowns got a partial hand on the punt. An Atlanta player, thinking it was a free ball, fell on the football at the Rabbit 42 yard line, setting Gladewater up with great field position. Two plays later Bear RB Walker got his first TD of the night, scoring on a 4 yard run with 8:17 left in the 3rd Quarter and giving the Bears a 15 point lead.
Atlanta got on the board for the last time with 2:52 left in the 3rd Quarter. QB Pierce hit Couley with a 40 yard touchdown pass to pull within 8 points of the Bears, but on Gladewater’s next series RB Walker plowed in from the 2 yard line to put the Bears up 42-27.
The Rabbits tried one last march, driving to midfield, but an interception by Bear’s Tyrone Maddox squashed the drive and Gladewater went back to their “ground and pound” to run out the last 7:50 of the game.
Gladewater will travel to Jefferson to take on the Bulldogs, Friday, October 16th at 7:30 pm.