SEGUIN — Unicorn power overwhelmed Matador magic Friday night in Seguin during the 107th edition of the storied Guadalupe River Bowl.
New Braunfels (2-0) found itself locked in a serious battle after the Mats connected for a long touchdown toss to open the third quarter, but the Unicorns tacked on three second-half scores to secure a 45-26 victory.
New Braunfels now leads the all-time series 66-38-3 and has won each of the last six rivalry matchups against Seguin.
“We’re playing hard and there’s great effort on the field by our guys,” New Braunfels head coach Glenn Mangold said. “We still have a ton of things we need to clean up so we can progress and become a little better each week, but we stuck with it. We made some errors here and there and kept on playing.”
New Braunfels answered the Matadors’ early second-half score by putting together a 75-yard drive that was capped by a 28-yard touchdown strike from Peyton Driggers to Lucas Dorrow, who kept his feet in bounds while making the catch near the front pylon.
The Unicorn defense quickly forced a turnover on downs, and the offense marched 58 yards in five plays to find the end zone again. This time, Myles Miller was Driggers’ target on a 16-yard TD throw.
Seguin’s last gasp came on a 1-yard TD reception by Trevor Waz with 10 minutes left to play, but Driggers had one final heave in store. The junior signal caller tossed his fifth TD of the night on New Braunfels’ next drive after hitting Garrett Thompson in stride for a 37-yard pass play.
Driggers finished the game 18 of 24 for 253 yards and was able to shake off a pair of interceptions in the first quarter. Dorrow also had another monster night, as the senior receiver recorded eight grabs for 132 yards and a pair of scores while also rushing for 33 yards on five carries.
“We threw a couple of interceptions and hurt ourselves and gave them some momentum, but I credit our guys,” Mangold said. “We kept playing and we were able to bounce back from a little adversity and get back to work.”
The first half certainly wasn’t short on action, as New Braunfels and Seguin combined for 38 points, three interceptions, one fumble and a blocked punt during the opening 24 minutes alone.
Self-inflicted wounds kept the Unicorns from building a sizable first-half advantage despite the fact that New Braunfels picked up 15 first downs compared to the Matadors’ four and also controlled time of possession.
After an interception in the end zone cut the Unicorns’ opening drive short, Chase Mercer gave New Braunfels a 3-0 lead when he successfully booted a 38-yard field goal with 6:47 left in the first quarter.
The kick was set up by a fumble recovery from defensive tackle John Rodriguez that ended Seguin’s opening drive.
Disaster struck two possessions later when Driggers bobbled a snap before firing a pass to the outside that was read by cornerback Dillion Gutierrez and picked off. Gutierrez then cut back to the middle of the field to avoid Driggers’ tackle attempt and raced into the end zone to give Seguin its first and only lead of the contest.
New Braunfels answered with its best drive of the young season — a determined 16-play, 94-yard march that mixed the run and the pass well and crossed the goal line on a 3-yard burst up the gut by Ryker Purdy.
On the next Matador possession, the Unicorns’ defense forced a third-and-long situation and watched Micah Rodriguez go deep over the middle. His pass fluttered and was cradled by safety Kaden Walker, who returned the ball to Seguin’s 41-yard line to give the Unicorns prime field position.
New Braunfels later faced a third and goal at the Matador 8, but Driggers was able to scramble to his right and find Thompson open in the end zone. Mercer’s extra point put the Unicorns up 17-7 with 3:44 left until halftime.
But just when it appeared that New Braunfels had begun to pull away, Seguin answered with a bolt of lightning. On the first play of the ensuing drive, running back Marques Washington found a seam and accelerated ahead for an 82-yard scoring run.
The PAT failed, but the Unicorns’ lead had been trimmed to 17-13 with 3:07 left until intermission.
New Braunfels’ next drive stalled deep in its own territory, but the Matadors were forced into their own punting situation following a third-down sack by the duo of James Windrow and Matt Littlejohn.
Moments later, the Unicorns’ Kendrick Thompson made a game-altering play by blocking the kick, which gave New Braunfels possession at Seguin’s 29-yard line with 50 seconds to go in the period. As it turned out, that was more than enough time, as Driggers took to the air and hit Dorrow for a TD pass down the seam.
The play increased New Braunfels’ lead to 24-13.
“John Schluter is one of our new coaches that we hired this year and he’s in charge of the special teams, so he’s doing a really good job,” Mangold said. “Our kids are really buying into making a difference on special teams.”
The Unicorns also made strides with their ground game on Friday. Purdy eclipsed the century mark and finished with 107 yards on 16 carries, while Ryan Wilson added 85 yards on nine totes.
Garrett Thompson finished with two catches for 45 yards and a pair of scores and Miller hauled in two passes for 30 yards and a TD.
New Braunfels has one final non-district challenge remaining before venturing into District 26-6A play. San Antonio Johnson is set to travel to town this coming Friday for a 7:30 p.m. contest at Unicorn Stadium.