Photo by John Glaser
By: Bud Denson
September 17th, 2016
Oh, the soap opera that is Texas High School Football.
Friday night proved to be a test for two Austin area teams on two different journeys. The No.6 Westlake Chaparrals were looking to remain relevant and prove deserving of its top tier status. The high-profile program continues on without its gun-slinger, UT commit and reigning AP player of the year QB Sam Ehlinger (Ehlinger tore meniscus in both knees vs Katy in week 1). The Bowie Bulldogs, on the other hand, are a team on the rise and excited about the future. Past years have left Bowie out of the Austin limelight and state radar due to the success of area programs such as Lake Travis and, you guessed it, Westlake. Despite beating the former district rival two out of the last three meetings and making the playoffs nine straight years Bowie hasn’t been the Big Big in Austin. Two teams, two different journeys.
When asked about the keys to the game, Bowie junior wide receiver Azizyah Santiago said, “we need to shut down the run for Westlake and make them throw it. For us (Bowie) establish our running game, gain hard fought yards, and this matchup will show where we are as a team going into week 5 and into district play”
At kickoff the weather was a bit muggy, but there was a playoff atmosphere in the air for these two teams yearning to get to mid-season form. In front of a loud and proud Bowie home crowd Westlake received the opening kickoff. Beginning on their own 20 yard line Westlake escaped a quick three and out with a clutch third down pass from senior quarterback Matt Gense to fellow senior wide out Andrew Boykin. Next up, a long run up the middle by junior running back Nakia Watson into Bowie territory. Bowie would get to know No.25 quiet well on this night. Three more carries for Watson found him in the end zone. This quieted the home crowd.
Next up, Bowie. The kickoff found themselves on their own twenty-one yard line. Running a quick tempo offense, senior quarterback Wade Smith threw a quick strike to senior wide receiver Isaac Mayes just short of the first down. A tough run by senior running back Dalynn Threadgill secured a first down. The Westlake defense proved too strong this first series and three downs later, Bowie would be punting. A quick three and out left Westlake returning the ball back to Bowie. This next drive would prove beneficial for the Bulldogs as quarterback Wade Smith connected twice to Santiago throughout the drive, including an eighteen yard pass and catch for six. At the end of the first quarter we have a tied ball game at seven each.
With Austin’s own Mighty-Fine Burger Company shooting tshirts in the stands via air gun, the second quarter gets underway with both team’s game plans intact. After a punt by Bowie, Westlake begins the first drive of the second quarter facing a third and eight on their own ten yard line. Gense finds senior Noah Skrudland through the air for a thirty yard gain. Even after a penalty the drive would stay alive but Westlake would eventually punt.
By this point Bowie is clearly winning the field position battle, with Westlake starting out drives deep in their own territory and Bowie generally starting close to midfield. This is true again as Bowie receives this punt. Bowie drives slowly down the field via Threadgill. This running attack is keeping Westlake’s defense honest. Threadgill is slicing and dicing his way through with bursts of power for short gains, keeping the chains moving. Finally, Westlake makes a stop and forces a punt.
Westlake again starts pounding the rock this next series with Watson and junior Izaiah Faz. Facing a third and eleven, Bowie calls a timeout to make defensive adjustments. After play resumes, Gense passes to Boykin for a first down on Bowie’s twenty yard line. Next play, Gense to Boykin again, quick strike twenty yards for a TD with a minute left in the first half. So much for Bowie stopping the run and forcing the pass. At half Westlake 14 Bowie 7.
The second half begins with the field position war going in Westlake’s favor and Bowie starting out on their own twelve yard line. Going no huddle and facing third and eight on the fourteen yard line Smith is intercepted by Westlake defender LB David Dickerson. After he’s tackled at the six yard line, Westlake takes over. Three plays later Gense hits Faz for the score. 21-7 Westlake.
A poor kickoff follows and puts Bowie on the Chaps forty-three yard line. Followed by a long run by Threadgill putting Bowie inside the Westlake ten yard line. On third and long Smith finds No.7 senior WR Joey Brown for the touchdown. After the extra point and we have a 21-14 ballgame Westlake leading.
Penalties are the tale of the third quarter, with each team putting together sustainable drives and shooting themselves in the foot over and over. While both teams are vying for momentum the clock keeps ticking. Advantage Westlake. With 2:20 left in the third on Bowie’s thirty-two yard line, Watson scampers for a touchdown, seemingly putting the game away with a score of 28-14 in Westlake’s favor. Although penalties continue to hurt Bowie, with forty-eight seconds left in the third, the Bulldogs rally for a comeback making it 28-21. On this night that would be the last time the Bowie Bulldogs reach the end zone. Watson would tack on a thirty-eight yard run to put the game away in the fourth quarter giving the Westlake Chaparrals a hard fought victory. Second half field position, dropped balls and penalties would cut Bowie’s hopes short on this night.
What myself and folks who watched this game took away from it was that No.6 Westlake did not come in and take care of some light work of Bowie in Burger Stadium tonight. Bowie proved if you come in their house you’d better sack a lunch, because they don’t go out without a fight. A play here or there and this thing could have gone to the wire. Backup quarterback Gense stepped up in place for Ehlinger and threw the ball effectively in the second half opening up the playbook for Westlake. Both teams will take something positive from tonight moving forward into district play and more than likely the playoffs.