The highly-regarded San Angelo Central football team found the going tougher than expected against a highly motivated Hurst L.D. Bell team at Pennington Field on Friday night.
The Bobcats escaped with a 10-2 win.
Bell (1-7, 0-4) didn’t look anything close to a one-win team against the perennial football strong-boys of West Texas.
It was the Blue Raiders defense that rose to the challenge on several occasions and put the first points on the board.
The Bobcats (7-2, 4-1) were operating from their own 18 when a shotgun snap forced Central QB Malachi Brown to scramble back into his end zone to recover the ball.
A host of Bell defenders, led by Bobby Young, corralled the carrier in the end zone for a safety.
Although Bell was unable to capitalize when they started the next drive from their 45, which concluded when a fourth down reverse went awry, the defense again held. Central ended their subsequent drive on downs at the Bell 23.
The Bobcats have been playing most of the season without their regular starting QB and Texas Tech commit, Maverick McIvor. McIvor injured his knee in the second game of the season.
Sophomore Malachi Brown has been filling in for Central. He finished the game with 119 yards on 22 carries. It’s a far cry from his single-game rushing record set last week when he gained 338 yards.
After a Central interception of a Landry Choate pass, the Bobcats went 61 yards to settle for a 34-yard field goal.
The half ended with the 3-2 baseball score with Central in the lead.
After Bell flipped the field with a 43-yard punt, Central started their third possession of the second half at their 18. They were aided by two costly penalties to keep their drive alive.
But Central finally showed some of their expected power and connected for a 20-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
That pushed the scoreboard all the way to 10-2.
The Raiders had some momentum after Choate hit Conner Mullins for a 21-yard pass play. On the next play from the Bobcats’ 27, Central picked off their second pass of the night.
The Blue Raiders’ last shot at drawing even was cut short after turning the ball over on downs at the Central 39 with 1:48 remaining.
Game was over when: After Bell gave up the ball on downs with under 2-minutes to play, a Brown rush of 15 yards gave the Bobcats a new set of downs and got them out of a hole deep in their own territory.
Play of the game: It didn’t take long into the game before the Blue Raiders got the safety, which gave the squad and fans a hint that an upset was looming.
Offensive player of the game: While Choate rushed for 77 yards on 10 carries, Brown gave his Bobcats just the spark they needed.
Defensive player of the game: The entire LD Bell defense played lights-out. Specifically, the secondary continuously slapped passes away from Bobcats receivers. Among those were Kisi Moekiola, Bobby Young and Ethan Schackman.
Unsung hero of the game: Bell punter, Aaron Dozier, got off several field-position-flipping kicks, one which he managed after having to scramble for the snap.
Moment of the game: Could be a period of time when a team really took over, or really lost it for themselves; a big penalty that set up a winning play, etc.
Stat of the Game: The last time these two teams met was in the 1982 state quarterfinals, when Bell came out the victor.
Big picture outlook: For Bell, it harkens for an inevitable finish near the bottom of District 3-6A. Central escapes to keep their title hopes alive and all but assure them of a playoff spot.
What’s next? L.D. Bell will travel to Birdville Stadium on Friday to take on Haltom at 7:30 p.m. San Angelo Central will have their bye week before playing Haltom at San Angelo Stadium on Nov. 9 to finish the regular season.