By JOHN BLACK
Moving with precision on offense and keeping big plays to a minimum on defense on their home field Friday night, the La Porte Bulldogs out-manned and out-classed the Robert E. Lee Ganders, 43-16, to move to 2-0 in the early going of the 2011 football season.
The Bulldogs were guided offensively by senior quarterback Josh Vidales, who had a whale of a first half as La Porte moved to four touchdowns and a field goal in the first two quarters.
After Keith Whitely and Cameron Whilley and Victor Holmes all made fine defensive stops on the opening Lee possession, the Bulldogs got the ball on their own 28 and started their first successful movement. Whitely, a two-way starter, got the drive rolling with an 11-yard burst up the middle, then went off left tackle for 20 more and a first down at the Gander 41. With Justin King and Corey Lee and Jared Howard and Tony Briones and Maurice Morris and Blake Turlington opening up nice holes up front, the Dogs kept moving on the ground, overcoming a holding penalty along the way that wiped out what would have been a Hoza Scott first down run.
Malik Graves stepped off seven yards and then Taejon Wearen went wide right for 14 yards and a first down at the Lee 20. Hoza Scott then bulled his way up the middle on a hard run for nine yards to the 11, right before Wearen went for four yards to the seven. Whitely then followed Howard and King into the end zone for the first LP TD of the night. Eric Medina added the extra point and the Dogs were up by seven with 6:05 left in the first period.
The ensuing kickoff was not pretty, from a tackling standpoint. The Dogs had return man Jaevon Richardson bottled up near his own 20, and he appeared to step out of bounds at about the 30. But the refs didn't see it that way and he managed to cut and dart and race all the way to the end zone to tie the score at seven apiece with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
Once again the Dogs started from their own 28 and Vidales rifled a shot over the middle to Jahvey Mark for a gain of 21. He then hit Aaron Nance-Garrett for 14 more and a first down at the Gander 32. But on second down there was a fumble that the Ganders recovered, and the promising drive was ended.
No problem, however, as Malik Graves defended a long pass attempt and Hoza Scott and Alex Jones combined for a big sack on third down and the Ganders had to punt.
The second LP scoring drive did not last long. Starting at their own 44, the Bulldogs needed just one play to cover the full 56 yards. Vidales faked a pitch right, tucked the ball, burst up the middle and into the open, made one slight and very quick cut, and raced untouched into the end zone. Medina was true again and the Dogs regained the lead at 14-7.
After Medina booted the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone, the Ganders tried a pass that was picked off by Whitely, and the offense set up shop at the REL 49. Vidales hit Nance-Garrett for eight yards to set up a fourth-and-two and Whitely made the first down, barely, to keep the drive alive.
And that was a big play because on the next one, Vidales went back to pass and spotted Nance-Garrett open down the right side. It was a perfect pitch and catch for the TD, good for 39 yards and the third La Porte touchdown of the game. Medina was on the mark for the 21-7 lead.
The Ganders managed to drive for a field goal with 9:02 left before halftime to make it 21-10, but not before Whitely - now back on defense - leveled a would-be Baytown Lee receiver, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Needing to score again and also run some time off the clock, the Bulldogs got the ball on their own 25 and marched to TD No. 4. The drive started with a seven-yard run by Johnathan Lewis, then he got six more and a first down. Vidales kept for three and Wearen picked up eight and another first down. Then Vidales fired a quick strike to Nance-Garrett for a gain of 11, before Wearen swept left, went right, made an outstanding cut, and went 25 yards to the Lee 15. Vidales then kept for two before Whitely went wide for one. On third and seven Wearen went right to left again, had some fine blocking up front, put on a quick burst and darted into the end zone. Medina's kick hit the left upright, but the Dogs still had a 27-10 lead, with 4:15 left before the half.
They increased it soon thereafter when the defense held and La Porte got the ball on its own 36. Vidales went back to pass but tucked it and covered 13 yards to the 49. He then fired a bullet to Nance-Garrett for a gain of 20 to the Gander 31. After Vidales threw to Wearen for a yard, he hit Mark for a first down at the 15. A fumble cost the Dogs seven yards, but on the next play Vidales made a fabulous run for what would have been a first down inside the Gander one. La Porte was flagged for an illegal block, however, so bring it back. On third down a Vidales pass was dropped in the end zone, but Medina came on and booted a 32-yard field to make it 30-10 at the half.
The third quarter was a little sloppy and produced only one TD - No. 5 for the Dogs on the night. But before that score, Victor Holmes had a nice open-field tackle; Chad Sutherland did a good job from his linebacker slot; and Hoza Scott had a couple of huge defensive efforts. The second one came on fourth-and-long when the Ganders decided to go for it. Scott broke through and broke up the play, with a gang of tacklers producing a big loss and giving the Dogs the ball in excellent field position.
Moving from their 34, sophomore Johnathan Lewis went 30 yards for a first down at the Gander 36, then fought for five more yards. A pass missed because a referee missed a pass interference call, but it didn't matter because the Dogs had a little trickery up their sleeves.
Vidales lined up a quarterback and Wearen was in the backfield as well. The snap went toward Vidales but it was an intentional floater, and Taejon cut across, grabbed it, and raced around the left side for 23 yards and a first down at the REL eight. Whitely took it in from there as the offensive line remained in full control, and Medina made it 37-10 with 1:23 left in the third period.
There were fine defensive plays by Nance-Garrett and Sutherland and Alex Jones on the next Gander possession, and Corey Lee continued to clog up the middle like he had done all night. But no play on that drive was any bigger than the interception by Malik Graves deep in Dog territory that ended a Gander drive.
Baytown Lee did manage one more score, with 6:27 left in the game, but their two-point run try was stopped and the score stood at 37-16.
But not for long. Holmes came in to spell Vidales at quarterback and his first run covered 20 yards. After he stepped off one more, fellow sophomore Lewis raced 52 yards to the four, and Johnathan also got the TD on the next play. And by the way, Chris Webendorfer threw an absolutely devastating block on that TD run. Medina hit the upright again on the extra point try, but the Dogs were in complete command at 43-16 with 3:59 left.
La Porte had 528 yards of total offense in the game-- 399 on the ground and 129 through the air. The Dogs had 29 first downs. Vidales was 8 of 11 for 129 yards. Whitely had 14 carries for 107 yards and Lewis added 111 on 11 carries. Wearen had seven carries for 83 yards; Vidales added 59 on seven carries; and Holmes carried four times for 23 yards.
Nance-Garrett caught five passes for 92 yards and Mark had two grabs for 36 while Wearen caught one pass for one yard.
The defense held the Ganders to just 104 total yards in the first half. Lee had only 17 first downs in the game and 279 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs hit the road this coming Friday for a 7 p.m. contest against Klein Forest, at Klein Memorial Stadium.