For Abilene Wylie, a play in the middle of the third quarter told the entire story. An errant snap flew over the head of quarterback Zach Smith and trickled back into their end zone. Unwilling to let his team give up even a scant safety, Smith picked up the ball and scrambled for his own life and the life of his team. As the Carolina Blue and Red jerseys of the Monterey Plainsmen converged on his left and the sideline loomed on his right, Smith threw a strike to Jonas Lundsford, who broke a tackle and was presumably heading for the first down marker. A Plainsmen defender, determined to turn this into a game of Madden with the “Butterfingers” cheat code on and Yakety Sax playing in the background, slapped at Lunsford’s ball-carrying arm.
Naturally, the ball squirted free and into the hands of defensive lineman Thomas Cavillo, who already had a pick six earlier in the game. Cavillo returned the ball to around the 35, and Monterey scored on the next drive. Wylie turned the ball over four times in the first half, and six times in the game overall.
Even though the first half was littered with turnovers for the Bulldogs, they only trailed by a paltry ten points at the halftime break. Brooks Pepper, senior tailback for Wylie, was delivering some bruising runs to the Plainsmen defenders. The senior was absolutely blistering on the ground, it seemingly was his purpose to see exactly how loud he could get two helmets to crack together.
While Monterey played excellently in the first half, the rash of turnovers for this Wylie Bulldogs squad could not have come at worse times. Zach Smith threw an interception to a defensive lineman on his own 5 yard line that was returned for a score. Cason Grant fumbled on the second play of the game. Ethan Smith bobbled a pass that ended up in the hand’s of Monterey’s Nathaniel Gregory.
Make no mistake, Monterey earned their points. Thanks to some shifty running and passing from the quarterback duo of Brylon Lawson and Jaron Jones, the Monterey offense overcame a stout Bulldog defense to put points on the board twice in the first half. In a game that became about efficiency and downfield blocking, the Plainsmen got the better of the Bulldogs late with slicing runs and deft blocking from their wide receivers.
Wylie found their groove early in the 4th, and drove the field to make it a 31-17 game. Another quick stop had the Bulldogs knocking on the door again, and they punched it on a quick Zach Smith touchdown pass. The extra point was missed, but Wylie was now within striking distance. The Bulldogs had a shot at the lead, only trailing 31-23 after missing the extra point.
That shot was short lived, as the Monterey offense promptly drove down the field, getting a crucial first down on a Bulldogs scramble coverage lapse. As they had earlier in the game, the small mistakes from Wylie were exploited by Monterey, burning the Bulldogs at every turn. In the end, Wylie had a staggering six turnovers.
On a night that both teams played a smashmouth style of football, the six Wylie turnovers were too much to overcome. The Plainsmen played more efficient than the Bulldogs, and that became the story of the whole game. Wylie could be a very solid team if they eliminated the turnovers.
As for the Plainsmen, they impressed with their physicality and their relentless rushing attack. Every single time it seemed like Wylie had clawed their way back into the game, the Plainsmen shut the momentum down with a crucial stop or a long touchdown drive. There were two teams that definitely have some potential on display tonight, and we’ll definitely see more of them as the season wears on.