by Jeff Gayle
KERENS-- You would think the Grapeland Sandies would be down in the dumps after a tough loss to state-ranked Alto on homecoming and maybe collapse against a 5-1 Kerens squad. But they started tough on defense and hung in on offense to make the game close with a 30-18 loss in Bobcat Stadium on Friday, Oct. 17.
The Bobcats received the opening kickoff and started at their own 30, but were shut down by the Sandie defense and forced to punt.
The Sandies set up at their own 35 and quarterback Isaac Lewis carried the first two plays for gains of 10 nine. Dropping back to pass, Lewis was sacked for a 10-yard loss that stopped the drive and forced a punt.
An excellent punt by Jaques Faulk set the Bobcats up on their own 13. Once again the Sandie defense stepped up and forced a punt.
Starting at the Bobcat 38 after an excellent return by Faulk, Lewis passed to Dontavian Bass for 18 yards but the Sandies stalled and turned the ball over on downs at the Bobcat 17.
Mixing runs by Duncan and running back Nate Betts, the Bobcats moved down and scored on a 3-yard run by Betts. The 2-point attempt was good on the Betts run to give the Bobcats an 8-0 lead at the start of the second.
Rodney Davis returned the kickoff 40 yards to the Bobcat 40. Two failed pass attempts and a short run forced another Sandies punt.
The Bobcats' next drive ended with a fumble and a recovery by the Sandies at the Kerens 35. Faulk caught a pretty pass from Lewis and took it to the Bobcat 4, setting up a Lewis-to-Faulk TD pass on the next play. The PAT was no good and the Sandies trailed 8-6 with 4:58 to go in the first half.
Starting at the Sandie 25 after Faulk's kickoff, QB Duncan ran down the right sideline for 67 yards to set up first and goal at the 8. Betts scored two plays later and Hall ran in the 2-point conversion bringing the score to 16-6 with 3:38 in the half.
Starting on the Sandies 30, Lewis ran for 10 and Kaleb Leonard picked up 5 before the drive stalled. On the following punt, the ball was shanked and the Bobcats took over with good field position at their own 40. The Sandie defense stepped up with some great tackling and a quarterback sack of 13 yards to force a Bobcat punt.
The Sandies then started a nice little drive with an 8-yard run by Lewis, who then passed to Riley Chipman for 22 yards and a first down. With time running out in the half, Lewis passed deep for Davis but Kerens intercepted as time ran out.
The second half started off badly for the Sandies. After a good kickoff return, Lewis dropped back to pass and was intercepted again. The Bobcats started in good field position at the Sandie 45 and methodically drove down the field with short runs. The Sandie defense stood up with tough hits by P.J. Lewis and Zach Lewis to force a fourth and goal. Duncan took the ball himself for the short TD. Betts tried for the 2-point conversion but Dustin Ackley shot through and stopped him short, holding Kerens to a 22-6 lead with 7:13 in the third quarter.
Starting at their own 20 after a long kickoff, Lewis kept for 5 yards and then handed off to Chipman for 7 and Kaleb Leonard for 5. When the drive stalled, the Sandies lined up to punt but it was time for a little trickery. Chipman faked the punt and ran for a first down. Then a nice drive started with Lewis running for six and Tink McQuirter catching a pass for 10. Chipman then ran for 18 on a reverse and Lewis gained 13, but an untimely penalty pushed the Sandies back. Dropping back to pass, Lewis was sacked for a 10-yard loss and the ball was turned over on downs.
The Sandie defense once again stepped it up on Kerens' next possession. Dustin Ackley, Ashton Henry, Rodney Davis and Jonathan Rodgers rose to the occasion and shut down the run game. The Cats tried a reverse, but Ackley and others stopped it for a 12-yard loss to set up a punt.
Following a short punt the Sandies set up on their own 45. Leonard ran for 7 yards and caught a pass for 12 yards. After Chipman caught a 10-yard pass, Lewis took the ball inside the 10 where Chipman ran it in for the TD. The PAT failed and Kerens led 22-12 with 5:38 left.
An excited crowd watched as the Sandies tried an onside kick, but the kick failed and the Bobcats started with excellent field position at the Sandies 39.
Three short runs resulted in the TD by Tavion Hall and Duncan ran in the 2-pointer that put Kerens in front 30-12 with 2:50 to go.
Davis returned the kickoff to the Sandie 40. On second down, Davis caught a Lewis pass and broke three tackles for a first down at the Bobcat 45. On second down, Lewis hit Tink McQuirter down the sidelines for a beautiful 45-yard touchdown pass. A 2-point conversion fell short.
The game was much closer than the final score showed. The Sandies really stepped it up and pushed hard against a much larger and more experienced Bobcat squad.
McQuirter really stepped up and played great at the receiver spot with 3 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Chipman had 4 catches for 42 yards, Faulk had 3 catches for 38 yards and a TD, and Leonard had 2 catches for 20 yards.
Quarterback Lewis was the Offensive Player of the Game with an excellent night. Lewis completed 13 of 33 passes for 198 yards and two TDs. He also carried the ball 23 times for 52 yards.
Other standouts were Dontavian Bass, Aaron Davis, Cameron Riess, Wesley Lord, and Kaleb Leonard and Dylon Gilpin.
Defensive leaders were P.J. Lewis, Jaques Faulk, Wesley Lord, Riley Chipman, Zach Lewis, Dustin Ackley and Rodney Davis. This was obviously the best game this defense has played all year and the entire squad played great. It was a tough decision, but the Defensive Player of the Week was Dustin Ackley.
After the game, Coach Shawn Brown said he thought his players performed well. He felt like the Sandies won special teams and kickoffs and he was proud of their overall effort. But, he added, they have to keep working hard and have a finishing instinct.