Unicorn comeback

New Braunfels running back Ryker Purdy looks to shake off a Johnson tackler and advance down the field for more yardage Friday at Unicorn Stadium. Purdy ran for a game-high 160 yards and three scores during the 28-21 triumph.

A tidal wave of royal blue swallowed up the Johnson Jaguars Friday night during a riveting come-from-behind win at Unicorn Stadium.

After trailing 21-7 at intermission, New Braunfels (3-0) pitched a second-half shutout while also using its relentless ground game to wear down the Jags.

Running back Ryker Purdy scored on a 39-yard touchdown run with 2:06 left to play to give the Unicorns their first lead, and the defense added a fourth-down stop moments later to preserve a 28-21 non-district win and catapult New Braunfels into District 26-6A play with an unbeaten record.

“Tonight we decided we were going to believe in each other,” New Braunfels head coach Glenn Mangold said. “We were our own worst enemy for a while there, but to those kids’ credit, they kept on chipping away and waiting for it to happen.

“It finally did.”

The Unicorns became an immovable object on defense for the final two quarters, as Johnson mustered just 68 total yards in the second half and turned the ball over on downs three separate times.

With the Jaguars effectively silenced, New Braunfels crept closer on the scoreboard when Purdy burst through the line of scrimmage for a 29-yard score with 9:02 left in the third period.

The Unicorns’ next possession was cut short by an interception, but Johnson was stopped on a fourth-and-10 try from New Braunfels’ 25 while attempting to go for it all. The Jaguars’ Ty Reasoner lofted a pass to Shane Johnson in the end zone, but cornerback Jaden Schriewer stayed in position and knocked the ball away to keep the comeback bid alive.

“[Reasoner] was looking upfield, so I just kept my backpedal and made a play,” Schriewer said. “We just really came together in the second half and just performed and let our offense have an opportunity.”

The Unicorns took the ball and moved 75 yards in nine plays to pull within a single score. Peyton Driggers capped the march by pulling the ball down and sprinting ahead for an 8-yard TD with 10:31 remaining.

Johnson managed to pick up a first down on its next possession, but New Braunfels stood firm and forced a punt.

The Unicorns then saw a pass from Driggers tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off by Matthew Rodriguez, who gave the Jaguars great field position at New Braunfels’ 29-yard line.

Following two incomplete passes and a tackle in the backfield by linebacker James Windrow, Reasoner was able to connect on an 11-yard pass play, but Stephen Kelsey tackled the receiver short of the first-down marker to give the offense one final chance to vault ahead.

This time, the Unicorns cashed in thanks to a run-heavy 79-yard drive that took nine plays to cross the goal line. Driggers converted a key fourth-and-2 along the way with a tough run in traffic, and on the very next snap, Purdy found a hole up the middle and exploded forward for his third TD run of the night.

“Big thanks to my linemen — they created wide-open holes for me,” Purdy said.

The play of New Braunfels’ defense was made even more impressive by the fact that it came into the contest without starting linebacker Matthew Littlejohn and also saw defensive end Michael Nuckels ejected during the opening drive. Windrow, who was seemingly everywhere for the Unicorns, said he and his teammates didn’t let the adversity affect them.

“We knew we had to put in more teamwork and work together as a unit,” Windrow said. “It gave guys a chance to step up. This is an incredible win for our team and we’re just going to get better.”

Purdy ran for a game-high 160 yards and three scores, while Driggers added 65 yards on 10 carries. Aaron Seidel notched 31 yards on seven totes.

Through the air, Driggers was 14 of 27 passing for 170 yards. Craig Johnson hauled in four passes for 69 yards to lead the receiving corps.

On the flip side, Johnson’s one-two punch of Reasoner and Justin Rodriguez were held to a combined 110 yards on the ground after coming into Friday night averaging 244 yards per game.

“Their quarterback and running back are outstanding football players,” Mangold said. “Doing enough to slow them down is an accomplishment.”

New Braunfels will now prepare for the annual Wurst Bowl against Canyon, which also marks the beginning of District 26-6A play. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. this coming Friday at Unicorn Stadium.

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