Ft. Bend Travis Defense Stuffs Ft. Bend Bush into Third Place

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Photo via Houston Chronicle
Jacob Payne @LilJakespeare
October 22, 2016

The Ft. Bend Travis Tigers now stand alone in second place in 6A Region III District 20 after imposing their will on the Ft. Bend Bush Broncos 40-14. The Broncos were broken in front of a sparse visiting crowd at Mercer Stadium on Friday night. Those that did attend saw the Broncos get manhandled on both sides of the ball, but most glaring was the disappearance of their offense in the second half. Like watching grainy footage of Big Foot, spectators couldn’t afford to blink if they wanted to see Bush’s total of 48-yards in the second half.

Ft. Bend Travis, on the other hand; had no problems executing their offense as planned. The Tigers earned 359 yards overall and were rewarded 22 first downs throughout the game. Travis’ attack was fueled by running back Naveon Mitchell’s chunk yardage runs and wide recievers Arjei Henderson’s red zone targets. Mitchell logged 182 yards on 23 carries and had one rushing touchdown. Three of Henderson’s six receptions were caught for touchdowns.

Neither offense really seemed up to the task in the first two quarters, but Ft. Bend Bush would look their best in the game’s beginning stages. Bush drew first blood and opening the wound was Broncos quarterback Wade Freeman on a 36-yard zone read to the 10-yard line. Running back Justin Harper then shed tacklers on his way to a 7-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead. Ft. Bend Travis head coach Trey Sissom knew his team’s success would depend on their ability to bottle up the explosive Freeman.

“Their quarterback, Freeman, he is a stud” Sissom said. “We had put emphasis on it all week about trying to contain him as much as possible. You’re not going to stop a kid that is that good.”

Freeman did lead the Broncos in rushing on Friday, but it was for a modest 50 yards on 11 attempts and no touchdowns.

Ft. Bend Travis’ strategy would be to get the ball into the hands of their playmaker wide receiver Arjei Henderson, and they did so first on a 19-yard screen pass from quarterback Amryn Jeffrey. According to Coach Sissom, Henderson’s skill set elevates as the field begins to narrow.

“We’re about matchups” Sissom said. “With Arjei out there and our quarterback AJ (Amryn Jeffrey) throwing to him, we think we probably have an advantage when we get down in that goal line when it’s tight. We knew once we got down inside the red zone that we would have an opportunity to take some shots with him, and it paid off.”

Pay off it would as Henderson’s next target found the end zone on a five-yard jet sweep out of the Wildcat formation. A bobbled snap on the extra point try forced Tigers kicker Garrett Urban to scramble and heave the recovered ball up for grabs. It fell into the unintended hands of Broncos safety Casanova Bradley for an interception. With 3:54 left in the first quarter, Bush led Travis 7-6.

The Tigers defense bent just enough without breaking in the first half, coming up with two huge goal line stops. The Broncos were threatening from inside the ten-yard line after a 28-yard screen pass to wide out Shawn Thomas. On a fourth and goal, Broncos running back Justin Harper was stood up and denied at the one-yard line by an unyielding Travis defense. Bush, however; would once again reach Travis’ doorstep before the half. Freeman found space on another productive zone read, taking this one 31 yards into Tigers territory. Freeman then found wide receiver Dantae Donahue on a 17 yard-pass to give the Broncos first and goal. Freeman’s next pass missed the mark and intercepted by Tigers defensive back Zach Zimos. The pair of red zone turnovers held the Broncos to just seven points in the first half.

Travis’ dominating defense gave the Tigers offense great field position all night long, but they wouldn’t really need it when handing it off to running back Naveon Mitchell. Mitchell outmaneuvered an overmatched Bush defense on a 39-yard touchdown run with 9:10 remaining in the second quarter. Travis failed to redeem their previously missed extra point on an unsuccessful two-point conversion, leaving the score 12-7. A blocked punt recovered by Travis’ linebacker Jody Tatum at the Broncos 20-yard line set the Tigers up for another scoring opportunity before halftime. When Travis reaches that end of the field, they turn things over to Arjei Henderson. Henderson hauled in two passes for 22 yards on the efficient drive, one of which he caught on a fade route in the corner of the end zone as Jeffrey hung in there and delivered the ball under extreme duress. Travis converted their first PAT, taking a 19-7 lead into the half.

Travis’ first two drives of the third quarter resulted in a punt and a turnover on downs. Only a 15-yard facemask penalty called against the Bush defense would get the Tigers offense back into a rhythm. Solid blocking picked up the remaining slack and opened the door for a 22-yard Mitchell counter run play to the four-yard line. Two plays later, wide out Nathan Davis pounded it up the middle for a one-yard touchdown burst. Travis’ lead grew to 26-7 with 4:09 left in the third quarter.

As woeful as the Broncos appeared to be on offense, they didn’t look much better on defense. Their only chance to slow the Tigers down came at the expense of the rules. Bush was penalized 11 times for a total of 86 yards. One of the more blatant infractions came on a pass interference call that saw Tigers wide receiver Grant Griffin completely assaulted by a Broncos defender. In defense of the guilty party, it did prevent a surefire touchdown. The flag almost seemed justified until the following play when Mitchell slipped and slid his way through would-be-tacklers on a slick 33-yard run. Like the handing off of a baton, Henderson assumed his usual goal line responsibilities by cashing in on a two-yard jet sweep for a touchdown. Travis now led Bush 33-7 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.

Mitchell’s night concluded when he was helped off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury. He wouldn’t be missed for long. His replacement in the Travis backfield, linebacker Jacob Owens, had no trouble stepping in and contributing an eight-yard touchdown run of his own. The Broncos would eventually return to the end zone thanks to a 29-yard touchdown run by running back Cortland Neal, but the damage had already been done. The final score: Travis 40 – Bush 14.

Ft. Bend Travis solidifies itself as the sole possessor of second place in 6A Region III District 20, improving their overall record to 6-2 and district record to 4-1. The Tigers will play a Thursday night game against the 4-4 Ft. Bend Hightower Hurricanes on October 27. Ft. Bend Bush loses their third game of the year, falling to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in district play. The Broncos will face the first place 7-0 Ridge Point Panthers on October 28.

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