By Ronnie Hughes | Vype
NEDERLAND – The Nederland Bulldogs needed one big quarter from their offense to get past the Fort Bend Willowridge Eagles, Friday night, in a 5A Bi-District matchup. The Bulldogs big fourth quarter propelled them over the Eagles, 22-16, advancing them to the Area Round of the playoffs. Nederland trailed through three quarters of play, but put up 15 points in the fourth quarter while the defense stepped up to keep the Willowridge off the scoreboard in final quarter of play.
The Eagles took off early and drove nearly 70 yards on their first possession to put the first points of the game on the board. Quarterback, Vaughnte Frederick, capped the drive with a three-yard keeper putting Willowridge up, 7-0, following the extra point attempt. The Bulldogs first possession chewed up nearly five minutes off the clock, but following a big sack in the Eagles territory the Big Ned would turn the ball over on downs with three minutes left in the opening quarter. Willowridge again drove the field to put kicker, Gustavo Medrano, in range for a field goal that he nailed from 37 yards out to end the first quarter with Eagles leading, 10-0, heading into the second quarter.
The two teams battled back and forth most of the second quarter as the two offenses seem to go cold. The Eagle defense came up with a huge fumble recovery that seemed to swing the momentum and get the offense going. Willowridge turned the fumble recovery into three points after driving 43 yards into Bulldog territory setting up another field goal attempt. Medrano was perfect again on the kick hitting from 35 yards out to extend the Eagle lead, 13-0, with just over three minutes left in the first half of play. Nederland’s offense finally got things going the next possession. Despite being pinned inside their own 20 yard line, they’d find some running room and passing lanes. A big screen pass to Blayne Burnett would push the Bulldogs past midfield while a screen and big run by Armani Douglas put the Bulldogs inside the Eagle 20 yard line. Junior quarterback, Bryce Morris-who was filling in for the injured Blaysin Fernandez-made the most of his snaps. He’d cap the drive with a 14 yard touchdown pass to Noah Lewis for Nederland’s first score of the night. The Bulldogs trailed, 13-7, heading into halftime.
The third quarter opened much like the second quarter with more defense than offense. Nederland received the opening kick and was pinned inside their own 20, but went three-and-out with the offense searching for answers as the Eagles appeared to be running the clock early in the second half. The Bulldog defense, however, wasn’t letting Willowridge keep the clock running and forced the Eagles to punt several times before Willowridge, found themselves in scoring position. After a long clock-draining drive the Eagles again would rely on the leg of their kicker. Medrano remained perfect on the night with a 30 yard field that inched the Willowridge out front, 16-7, with under a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Douglas gave the Bulldog offense a boost to open the fourth quarter ripping off several big runs before McMorris connected with Lewis that put the black and gold at the Eagles 28-yard line. Douglas capped the Bulldog drive with a three yard touchdown run that pulled the Bulldogs within two, 16-14, with plenty of clock remaining for a defensive stop and a Nederland rally. The Bulldog defense forced the Eagles into two situations where they’d turn the ball over on downs which gave Monte Barrow’s team plenty of extra shots to pull off the late comeback. The Bulldogs found themselves at their own 21-yard line and just under three minutes to march the field for the go-ahead score. Douglas again ripped off some big runs including a 31-yard scamper that put the Nederland at the Willowridge 17-yard line with two minutes remaining. It would be McMorris who found daylight to skip in for a three yard touchdown and put the Bulldogs up, 20-16, with not much time remaining for the Eagles. Nederland put the dagger in Willowridge with a two-point conversion when McMorris found Blake Mortera for a short pass and catch to extend the lead and essentially complete the late rally, 22-16, that ended the Eagles season.
Nederland will advance to the 5A-DII Area Round for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs will face the Marshall Mavericks; the number one seed out of district 9-5A-DII. The Mavericks hosed Lamar Consolidated, 56-14, in the Bi-District to advance.