Hornets defeat Clark Cougars with second-half effort
East Central senior Austin Jupe (2) returns the ball for the Hornets during the team’s 35-31 bi-district win over Clark.
East Central 35
SAN ANTONIO -- It took a bit of “catch-up” in the second half to get it done, but the East Central Hornets played hard through four quarters of football last Friday night and earned a thrilling bi-district playoff win over Clark, 35-31.
The first points of the game were posted by the Cougars, as Branden Valle scored on the ground from 15 yards out. On the Hornets’ next possession, however, senior running back Chris Armstrong capped off a quick two-minute drive with a 3-yard run across the goal line. Dalton Zigman booted the extra point for the Hornets, and the score was tied at 7-7 with 3:01 to play in the first quarter.
Clark wasted little time on its next possession, and moved down the field against a tough Hornet defense to eventually score on a 2-yard run, making the score 14-7. The Hornets were unable to find the end zone again in the first half, as the teams swapped possessions throughout most of the second quarter. In the final moments of the first half, Clark drove down into field goal range, and kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Cougars a 17-7 lead at the half.
The Cougars appeared to pick up right where they had left off in the first half, as the second half got under way. Valle scored his second touchdown of the game for Clark with 10:37 to play in the third. The extra point was good, and the Cougars celebrated a 24-7 advantage.
The Hornets have never been a team to just roll over, though, and the Black and Gold fought back, and did so quickly. Taking just 69 seconds off the clock, East Central stormed down the field, and scored on a dandy 35-yard touchdown run from Armstrong. Zigman put the extra point through the uprights, and the score was 24-14 with 9:28 to play in the third.
After a big defensive effort and stop by the Hornets, the offense took the field, and quickly scored its third touchdown of the game. The touchdown midway through the third quarter was courtesy of junior Johnathan Jackson, as he powered his way for 36 yards and the score. Zigman remained perfect on extra points, and the score was now 24-21, and the Hornets were right back in the game.
The battle raged on during the remainder of the third quarter and into the fourth, when Clark eventually found the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and the score stood at 31-21 with 9:45 to play in the fourth.
With plenty of time still left on the clock, the Hornet offense went back to work. East Central took nearly five minutes off the clock before scoring again, but added 6 to the board with a 39-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Jeremy Jones to sophomore wide receiver Wanya Ward. Zigman’s kick made the score 31-28, and things were far from over at Heroes Stadium.
The Hornet defense played well throughout the night, and once again came up with a big stop right when East Central needed it. The ball went back to the offense, and the Hornets took their first and only lead of the night, as Armstrong ran in his third touchdown of the game from 10 yards out. Zigman remained perfect on conversions, and the Hornets took a 35-31 lead with just 3:41 to play in the game.
Clark had a final chance with the ball, but the Hornet defense held the Cougars at bay, and secured the playoff win for East Central.
Statistically speaking, the Cougars outperformed the Hornets, earning more yards on the ground and through the air. Neither team threw any interceptions, and neither team lost any fumbles. The Hornet defense came up with the stops it needed to make, and the stats meant very little as East Central celebrated the victory.
The Hornets kept the ball on the ground throughout the night, throwing just two passes in the game. One of the two passes was complete, though, going for 39 yards and the touchdown by Ward.
Jackson led the Hornet rushing game with 136 yards on 18 carries. Armstrong earned 130 yards on 18 carries, and Justin Organ picked up another 10 yards on his one running play.
The win lifts the Hornets to 8-3 on the season, and advances them into the area championship. East Central will square off with Madison this Friday, Nov. 23, at Comalander Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.