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Grizzlies claw Wildcats in district opener

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    Peter McFarlin, #10, takes advantage of an O-line blocking. Photo by Ron Ramirez
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Peter McFarlin, #10, gets through the line.
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    Lyndon Rangel, #2, zeroes in on a Grizzly runner.

Thursday night football games are tough. Most fans have work or school the next morning. Maybe a drive through some of the worst traffic from Elgin to Austin to Leander didn’t sound like much fun. Possibly your fantasy football team had players from the Packers or the Eagles on them and you wanted to watch the Thursday night game instead.

Regardless, the smallest Elgin crowd I have ever seen was on hand Thursday night to witness Elgin (1-3) and the Leander Glenn Grizzlies (2-2) open up 5A-2 Region IV District 13 play at beautiful A.C. Bible Stadium. Few in number, nevertheless, these brave Wildcat fans were loud and supportive of their team.

Many coaches and players have very differing opinions on whether they want a week off from play after an exciting and momentum building comeback win like the 'Cats had over Pflugerville two weeks ago. The schedule of course has the final say, but many would rather keep playing while they feel the iron is hot. Others are happy with resting the body and mind, and more time for game planning.

In my opinion, the 'Cats played a bit flat for much of the game. The tackling, the blocking, the passing all lacked crispness. Don’t get me wrong. These players played hard. They sweated and hit and got hit. The game was a good game. But Elgin lost to a team that I believe is not as good as Elgin but deserved to win because they played like Elgin had played all year. Harder.

The Elgin defense started the game in high fashion, stopping two Glenn drives on fourth down and short tries. Elgin did have one good drive in the first quarter, with their own fourth down attempt falling incomplete in the end zone. But a defensive penalty gave the 'Cats another chance, and quarterback Daniel Gonzales took advantage. He lofted a pass 20 yards downfield that was hauled in beautifully by Daveon I’som, #1, for a touchdown. Jaden Strong kicked the extra point and Elgin led 7-0 after one quarter.

The second quarter saw both teams take turns with unsuccessful drives until Glenn hit pay dirt with their running back going in from three yards out to tie the score 7-7 at halftime.

The second half had been a strong point for the 'Cats offense all year long. On Elgin’s second drive, Gonzales rushed around end for a seven-yard gain but was hit hard on the play. Peter McFarlin switched from running back to quarterback and led the team while Gonzales sat out for a few plays.

On the next series, Gonzales was back. Good tough runs by Tristan Carlos, #32, and Peter McFarlin, #10, got the 'Cats going into Grizzly territory. Trey I’som also had a nice catch in the drive before a Glenn interception in the end zone stopped the possession.

The second half also saw star Glenn running back Shamir Nichols enter into the game for the first time, and the running attack became much stronger for the Grizzlies. He sliced and diced and hurt the 'Cats on several key runs, including both Glenn touchdowns in the second half. Glenn drove the ball 75 yards and scored to take the lead 14-7. The Wildcats then went all the way to Grizzly one-yard line before a penalty forced a field goal, and Jaden Strong, #34, was successful in adding three points to the Wildcats' score. The third quarter ended 14-10 Glenn.

Quarter four saw the Grizzlies extend their lead on a long march down-field, scoring a touchdown with 6:36 left in the game, making the score 21-10 Glenn. With Gonzales out now as quarterback due to health concerns, McFarlin quickly took the team downfield, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Trey I’som to tighten the score to 21-16 Grizzlies. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.

With 4:55 left in the game, Elgin tried an on-sides kick that they had a chance to contest but were unable to recover. Now they had to get the ball back to give the offense another chance and possibly win the game. Glenn showed their merit and tenacity by taking the ball and refusing to give it back to the Cats. Time after time, they made the key runs when needed to keep making first downs, and the Wildcats just couldn’t make the stops to get the ball back. The Cats had a chance when Glenn fumbled the ball, but could not jump on the recovery. The Grizzlies kept the ball the entire last few minutes and ran the clock out to take their second win of the season.

The 'Cats ended up with 85 yards passing and 165 yards rushing for the game. They also had three starters injured who had to leave the game; quarterback Gonzales and defensive stars Hood and Simmons all suffered injuries in the second half.

The Wildcats Homecoming game will be Friday night, October 4 at 7 p.m. against the Mustangs of Marble Falls.