Those who made the 83-mile trip to Merrill Green Stadium in Bryan on Friday night were treated to a great game of football.
The Elgin Wildcats took on the Rudder Rangers in what turned out to be a slugfest.
The Wildcat defense started off strong, causing the Rangers to punt.
After the punt, the Wildcats came out with the mentality that they were going to run the ball—and run they did. On a ten-play series that started from their own 30-yard line, they ran into in the end zone. With the score 7-0, the Rangers answered the challenge.
The Rangers used a combination of running and passing to put themselves inside the Wildcats 30-yard line. Once again, the Wildcat defense came up big and left the Rangers coach with a tough choice of going for it on fourth down. The quarterback dropped back and threw a 25-yard bomb that the receiver bobbled, but held onto, as he fell to the ground in the back of the end zone.
The Wildcats exploded onto the field after a 22-yard kick return that put them on the opponent's 48-yard line. Once again, the Wildcats pounded the ball down the Rangers' throats with two huge runs, one for 16 yards and a 32-yard dash by Peter McFarlin (#10) that left him scampering into the end zone. The Wildcats ended the first quarter with a score of 14-7.
One of the biggest blunders of the game by Elgin was a punt that only went 15 yards and gave the Rangers fantastic field position on the Wildcat 26-yard line. The Rangers put their nose to the grindstone and ran the ball four continuous times to get in the end zone, evening the score to 14-14.
With a few minutes left in the first half and on their own 25-yard line, the Wildcats ran again, again and again for a total of ten times. This not only made the score 21-14, but ate up most of the clock to take both teams into overtime.
After the bands, cheer and dance teams left the field, the Wildcats tried to keep the momentum from the first half on their side as they received the kick. As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it” —and they took that saying to heart. They ran the ball five times before coming up to a critical fourth and two on the opponent's 27-yard line. Guess what they did... they ran it again, and it busted open for a 27-yard touchdown. On the extra point attempt, the Rangers roughed the kicker, which moved the ball to the one-half-yard line and gave Elgin coach Jens Anderson the confidence to go for the two-point conversion. And they got it.
With the score now score 29-14, the Rangers were held to fourth down. On a fourth and long, the Rangers dialed up a long distance call and connected for a 44-yard touchdown, making the score 29-20. Instead of going for the extra point, Rudder went for two. The Wildcats came up big, causing a fumble on a quarterback run up the middle, and left the score 29-20.
After Elgin failed to score, Rudder’s next drive started from their own 34-yard line and they came out swinging. They sliced the Wildcat defense and got inside the Wildcat 10-yard line. On a sweep to the left, the running back leaped into the end zone. The Rangers decided to go for two again to cut the deficit to one. Two penalties and a jet sweep later, the Rangers' two-point conversion is good.
Up one, 29-28, on a read option, Daniel Gonzales (#7) took the ball 14 yards for the score.
With the score at 36-28, the Rudder quarterback ran the ball three times and was capped off by a 33-yard run after he faked the jet sweep. The Rangers went for two again. This attempt was successful with a pass in the corner of the end zone. With 8:02 left in the fourth quarter, the score is now tied 36-36.
Elgin began to lose grip on the game that they led since their first possession by having their second three and out of the game. At this moment, you could feel the momentum shift as the Ranger fans begin to get involved and make their presence known.
With another short punt, the Rangers took advantage of the short field they were given by scoring on the first two plays.
Elgin resorted to something they haven’t attempted much all game: the passing game. The Wildcats threw twice and only gained two yards. The only saving grace of the drive was a 50-yard punt that pinned the Rangers inside their own territory.
With hope quickly fading for the Wildcats, Willie Johnson (#9) snatched the ball out of the air and not only gave the Wildcats great field position, but also caused the first turnover of the game.
Taking over on the opponents 39-yard line, Elgin went back to the run game and got down to the two-yard line where they called a quarterback sneak to get into the end zone and put the game within one.
The most important play hung in the balance of what Coach Anderson decided next; do they go for the safe extra point play and try to stop the Ranger’s offense again with 1:50 left on the clock and take the game into overtime? Or do they go for two, stop them on offense and win the game? With such little time and the fact that they would have to use their timeouts on the Rangers drive in order to stop the clock, Anderson decided to go for two.
With the half moon in the air and both crowds making deafening amounts of noise, Elgin hikes the ball and runs a play that reminds me of the “Philly special,” a critical play that the Philadelphia Eagles ran against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago. After the Elgin quarterback hands the ball off, the running back pitches it back to the receiver on a reverse; all the while, the quarterback goes out for a shallow out route in the front of the end zone. As the receiver throws the ball, the Elgin quarterback goes up for the ball, but can’t come down with it.
Although Elgin had all three time outs, the Wildcat defense couldn’t stop the run of the Rangers. Allowing a 30-yard run and a 12-yard run on the following drive, which in turn let the Rangers kneel and end the game with a score of 43-42, Rangers
After the game, the both teams met in the middle of the field and said a prayer for two of the Rudder players that were in a head-on collision earlier that week.
The Wildcats will face the Pflugerville Panthers at home at 7:30 p.m. to try and get their first win of the year.