SPRING BRANCH — The Smithson Valley Rangers had a solid showing while hosting the Hendrickson Hawks on Friday night.
The Rangers won 43-15 after surviving a roller coaster of a first half that saw both teams light up the scoreboard. However, once Smithson Valley’s defense made a few adjustments, the Hawks fell silent over the final three quarters of play.
“We were up at half, but it was back and forth for a while — in fact, they led,” Smithson Valley head coach Larry Hill said. “Our defense played extremely well and I thought our offensive line took over the game running the football and kind of wore them down.”
Hendrickson (1-1) did not have an ideal start to the game. On its opening possession, the Hawks were held to a three-and-out.
Smithson Valley (1-1) also started out shaky. Quarterback Luke Gombert was unable to control the snap on the Rangers’ first play, but fortunately he was able to lay on top of it.
Soon after, senior wide receiver Greg Eggleston popped off down the sideline for a dazzling 78-yard touchdown run that left defenders out of gas. Senior kicker Joaquin Rodriguez converted the PAT attempt, and Smithson Valley took a 7-0 lead over the Hawks less than two minutes into the game.
The next possessions for both teams ended in three-and-outs thanks to stout defense and a costly holding penalty for the Rangers.
Hendrickson was able to get things rolling on its next possession, but not before a 62-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Xavier Lucio was called back.
The Hawks did not dwell on the penalty for too long. Junior wide receiver Jaden Williams came up with a spectacular diving catch for 37 yards, and even after Smithson Valley got a nice sack on Lucio, the Hendrickson offense still did not falter.
Williams fought for another 32-yard catch — this time in the end zone. Senior kicker Brandon Buchanon converted the PAT, and the score was knotted up 7-7 with 4:50 to go in the first quarter.
The special teams showed up for the Rangers, and on the kickoff after the Hawks’ touchdown, they brought the ball to their own 47-yard line. A few plays later, senior tight end Chandler Cole fought all the way to the 1-yard line, and on the next play, senior running back Jacob Forton plunged into the end zone.
The score was 14-7 in favor of Smithson Valley with 1:19 to go in the first quarter.
Hendrickson had a quick offensive possession on its next go-around. Following a 55-yard gain, senior multi-purpose player Ravaughn Morgan caught a beauty of a floating pass from Lucio in the right corner of the end zone.
The Hawks converted a 2-point conversion after the touchdown and took the lead, 15-14, less than a minute into the second quarter.
The Rangers’ special teams yet again made a huge impact on the next kickoff, bringing the ball to Hendrickson’s 42-yard line. Unfortunately, Gombert later threw an interception to end the drive.
Hendrickson was unable to do anything with the turnover, and after it suffered from another three-and-out, the momentum of the game shifted greatly to the Rangers.
Smithson Valley made quick work of the Hawks on its next three possessions. The Rangers ran terrifically, and they ended their next drive with a touchdown after junior wide receiver Cooper Douglass made a magnificent one-handed catch and ran 57 yards across the goal line.
When Hendrickson got the ball back, Lucio made a poor decision, throwing an interception on a deep ball. Immediately after, Eggleston caught a dime of a pass from Gombert over the middle and glided for a massive 84-yard touchdown with 3:41 left in the half.
The first half ended 28-15 in favor of Smithson Valley.
The Rangers started off with the ball in the second half and had a promising drive stopped just outside of field goal range.
The running game picked up for Smithson Valley on its next drive, thanks in large part to Forton. The strategy also led to the clock dwindling quickly, which favored the Rangers. Gabe Hoskins ran it into the end zone on a 3-yard jaunt with 4:41 left in the third quarter — the lone score of the period.
Things started to fall apart for the Hendrickson Hawks in the fourth quarter. They were called for three consecutive false start penalties, pushing them deep into their own territory. That led to Lucio being tackled in the end zone for a safety early in the fourth.
Smithson Valley continued to pound the rock, consistently running for double digit gains with running backs Hoskins and senior Braxton Bounds.
With 6:26 to go in the game, Bounds ran in a 2-yard touchdown, but the Rangers fumbled the snap on the PAT, so the score remained 43-15.
It was quite a bounce-back for the Rangers, but Hill said there are still areas in which his team needs to improve.
“We gave them the two cheap touchdowns,” Hill said. “You’ve got to make them drive the ball. You can’t let them get it in one throw.”