In his first varsity start as Mustang quarterback, junior Reggie Garrett had all the right plays and all the right players to turn in a superb performance that ended in a 42-21 win over the Nederland Bulldogs Friday night at Dan R. Hooks stadium.
Not only did the offense have a strong showing, but the young Chain Gang defense held the Bulldogs to 173 yards while forcing five interceptions and two fumbles.
“The kids played good on both sides of the ball from start to finish,” Head Coach Dan Hooks said. “I was a little apprehensive going in after the Vidor scrimmage, but the kids knew what we had to do and they did it.”
On just the second play from scrimmage, sophomore Justin Thomas stepped in front of a Kirby Bellow pass, giving the Mustangs the ball with only a little time off of the clock. Three plays later, senior Trey Franks caught a quick pass and took it 16 yards for the first score.
Bellows luck only got worse as Thomas picked off his next pass, setting up the second score, a 1 yard blast up the middle by sophomore Britton Lindsey. Lindsey finished the game with a two point conversion and 20 carries for 118 yards.
“I feel like the back-to-back scores at the beginning of the game were the turning point,” Garrett said. “I felt a little nervous at the beginning of the game, but not as much as I would’ve expected. After the game, I felt like a great weight had been lifted off of me.”
Not to be outdone, Nederland answered back with a score of their own at the end of the first quarter, making it 13-7. A Bulldog miffed punt set up the next score, a 42 yard pass down the sideline to Justin Francis, to up the score to 19-7.
Answering back, the Bulldogs scored on a screen pass from Bellow to Grant Lovelady to make it, 19-14. Garrett had an answer of his own, with less than a minute to go in the half when he threw to Francis in the middle of the field. The ball bounced off of Francis and landed in the hands of senior James Haynes who only had to turn and take the tackle that pushed him over the goal line. Lindsey added the two point conversion.
“Haynes catch off of Justin Francis took the air out of Nederland ’s sails,” Hooks said. The Mustangs left the field for halftime, leading 27-14.
The Mustangs received the kick-off after the half but were unable to score and were forced to punt. Nederland cashed in on the punt with a nine-play scoring drive that ended when Bellow hit receiver Brent Salenga from 19 yards out to up the score to 27-21.
But Garrett and company did not get discouraged. On the first play from scrimmage, Garrett hit receiver Mark Roberts down the left sideline for a 79-yard scoring jaunt.
Thomas was not finished and picked up his third interception for the night in the fourth quarter when he picked off Nederland ’s back-up quarterback, Tyler Smith. The interception led to a 33-yard field goal made by senior Justin Sparrow.
“All three interceptions were exciting,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to get in the end zone, and although I didn’t score, all three led to scores.”
Haynes finished off the game with a 31-yard touchdown run around left side.
The Mustangs had a great night depending on several key players up front on the line, offensively and defensively. Senior Van Jordan centers the offensive line, with senior Laramie Phillips and juniors Donovan Rubin, Evander Guillory and Justin Petry finishing it off.
On the defensive line, junior Terry Rubin holds down the nose guard position, while seniors Stephen Cook, Da’Jewel Nelson and Brandon Arnold, along with sophomore Lawrence Gilmore take the other duties. Starting linebackers are juniors Brenson Lindsey and Darius Mitchell. The secondary consists of Thomas, Franks, Haynes, juniors Wilson Washington, Darius Robinson and Shaquille Jackson and sophomore DeCarlos Renfro, who all see playing time. In fact, Robinson and Jackson each had an interception in the win.
The Mustangs know that a victory is great, but the next game will be here on Friday and this one just happens to be the Orange Bowl, which will be played at Battlin’ Bear Stadium on Friday at 7:30 pm.
“This has been a rivalry game for years and with Coach Crouch and Coach Pierce over there, it is only going to make it more intense,” Hooks said. “The records don’t mean anything for this game. Both teams will play hard.”
At Bear Country, the key player will be quarterback Hunter Gonzales with standouts Tevin Jones and Preston Armstrong handling the running back and receiver duties.
“Coach Crouch has done a good job and I believe they are headed in the right direction,” Hooks said. “They have played well in both of their scrimmages, beating Silsbee by two touchdowns.”
While both teams are always up for the game, Garrett feels confident in the Mustangs.
“This is a big game for the team, but I feel that we have to be confident in order to be successful,” Garrett said.
The sub varsity teams also played their first games against Nederland this past week at Nederland . The freshmen team lost, 18-0, while the JV team beat the Bulldogs, 40-0.