Experience rules the day

Stephen Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: August 22, 2015 - 12:32 AM

After seeing its 19-0 lead dwindled down to 19-14, the Odessa Bulldogs did what they’ll do a lot of in 2015. They attacked the St. Pius X defense with their big offensive line and stable of running backs when they needed a big drive.

The Bulldogs used three different running backs on a 7-play, 60-yard drive that Mason Smith capped with an 11-yard touchdown run to make it 26-14 late in the fourth quarter, sealing an eventual 33-14 season-opening victory.

“It demonstrates the ability to take over a game against a good opponent,” Bulldogs head coach Mark Thomas said of the crucial drive. "It was a wake-up call. I was happy with the way they responded.”

Odessa was the bully in the trenches Friday night, as they owned the game up front on both sides of the ball against a less experienced Warriors squad.

"We have some young guys,” Warriors head coach Rick Byers said. "We have size this year but they’re young. Odessa has some big guys up front and they took advantage of our young guys a bit. It’s a learning lesson.”

Both teams got off to a sluggish start offensively before the Bulldogs finally broke through just before the end of the first quarter when Kobe Hardin scored on a 36-yard run.

Just before the half, Hardin struck again, this time from 6 yards out to cap a long drive of nearly 6 minutes to make it 12-0 after both extra points were missed. A key pass interference call on the Warriors late in the drive on third down kept the Bulldogs in business.

“I thought it was a play-on kind of play,” Byers said of the call. "That turned the tide. That took our focus away from what we wanted to do."

Meanwhile, Hardin, a senior, finished the game with three scores and more than 100 yards in what was his first high school football game after not playing since middle school. 

"It was awesome,” Hardin said of his first game. "Friday night lights, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

He also praised the play of the big guys up front.

"The line is big and strong,” he said. "There aren’t too many lines better than them.”

The Odessa defense continued to wreak havoc early in the third quarter as they sniffed out an option, forced a fumble and recovered deep in St. Pius X territory. Two plays later quarterback Ty Wagner found Luke Tripp from 8 yards out for a 19-0 lead.

"That shifted the momentum of our team,” defensive lineman Trevor Yates said of the fumble recovery.

Added Thomas, "We did a good job against the run game. When you can make them one-dimensional that makes things a little easier."

The Warriors would end up showing some signs of life late, as sophomore quarterback Tom Hoambrecker threw two scores. The first came from 9 yards out to Ryan Vutich, and then he connected with Sam Martino on a nice passing running to his left for a 62-yard score to make it 19-14.

"They fought back,” Byers said. "That’s good with young kids. I think that’s a big deal.”

But that’s when Odessa responded with its two finishing touchdowns sandwiched around a Brent Alumbaugh interception to move to 1-0.

"This team has a lot of potential,” Yates said. "I feel like we’re only going to get better.”