The Alexander Bulldogs punched their ticket to the 29-6A playoffs with a 29-21 victory over the late charging United South Panthers at the Student Athletic Complex.
It’s been a tough road for the Bulldogs so the excitement overwhelmed the team once the victory became a reality. Head coach Joel Lopez was emotional when talking about his team.
“With the adversity this program has been through between last year and this year, these kids have worked hard and against all odds, they did really well. I’m real proud of these guys.”
A reflective Lopez added, “It’s great to be back [in the playoffs].”
After the Bulldogs struggled in their opening offensive series and were forced to punt, the Panthers’ ground game easily move the ball on their opening stanza, pushing the Alexander defensive line all over the field. United South capped a 14-play, 95-yard drive with a four-yard scoring run by Efrain Hernandez to take a 7-0.
Bulldogs running back Camilo Pedraza quickly answered with a 70-yard sprint to put his team within striking distance. Alexander got on the board a few plays later after Pedraza found the end zone from one-yard out. The sophomore added a two-point conversation to put the Bulldogs up 8-7. Things slowed for the remainder of the first quarter as both defenses were able to hold the opposing offensive charges.
The tide turned in Alexanders’ favor midway through the second when the Panthers shanked a punt that led to great field position for the Bulldogs on United South’s 38-yard-line. Quarterback Matt Conner, who ended the night with 116 yards passing, a touchdown and one interception, converted on a third-and-long to keep the drive alive. Pedraza added his second score of the half via a 2-yard-rush from the Wildcat formation. The Bulldogs took a 15-7 lead.
After a three-and-out from United South’s offense, the Bulldogs added another score when Conner found junior wideout Albert Laurel, Jr., on a 45-yard bomb. Alexander ended the first half leading 22-7.
Things didn’t get any better for United South at the start of the second half after Alexander defensive back Carlo Huerta intercepted an Ismael Contreras pass to get the Bulldogs’ offense back on the field.
Soon after, Conner hooked up with Laurel, Jr., on a 44-yard-catch-and-run that to put Alexander at the Panthers’ five-yard line. Pedraza – he ran for a total of 94 yards on 24 carries — added his third rushing touchdown of the night to extended the lead to 29-7.
For the rest of the third and most of the forth quarter, the Alexander defense suffocated the Panthers’ offensive, leading to another turnover and causing several three-and-outs.
Just went it seemed that Alexander would cruise to victory, United South showed they have heart and roared back behind quarterback Ismael Contreras.
With 4:13 left in the game, Contreras connected with Efrain Hernandez on a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers added a two-point-conversion to pull within two scores.
After United South recovered an onside kick, junior running back Sergio Vela bullied his way into the end zone on a 10-yard scamper to pull within eight points with a little over a minute left in the contest.
United South’s comeback hopes were shattered along with their playoff chances when the Bulldogs recovered the next onside kick attempt and ran out the clock to preserve the 29-21 victory.
“[United South] is a great team that’s well coached and they gave us everything they had tonight. The difference was that our kids kept chopping wood all night long,” said Lopez.
Going into the final game of the regular season against their bitter rival the United Longhorns, Alexander can rest easy knowing that their post-season spot is secured.
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