By JOHN BLACK
GALENA PARK (Sp) -- The La Porte Bulldogs took advantage of three huge mistakes by the North Shore Mustangs in the second quarter here Friday night, overcame a 23-point Mustang run, then got offensive life late in a thrilling 38-30 victory in a key 21-5A football game.
It's the first La Porte win over a North Shore team in as long as anyone can remember.
There were five touchdowns scored with five minutes left in that heart-stopping second period, and three of them were scored -- in succession -- by the Bulldogs. In fact, La Porte had a 24-0 lead with 5:02 remaining before the half, before the Mustangs managed to take advantage of a Bulldog bobble to make it interesting.
The Bulldogs, under the direction of head coach Jeff LaReau, are thus 7-1 on the season and still unbeaten in 21-5A action, with two games left in the regular season. They host Port Arthur Memorial at 7 p.m. this coming Friday in Bulldog Stadium, then hit the road Nov. 4 for the league finale at Beaumont West Brook.
Against North Shore, all the pre-game experts were pointing toward a low-scoring, defensive affair. And the first 19 minutes followed that script. But then the dam broke late in the second stanza, and those in the audience looked like they were watching a tennis match as the two teams raced back and forth down the field.
The Bulldogs could not get much going on their first possession, and Josh Vidales punted it away. The defense was ready as Malik Graves and Hosa Scott and Chad Sutherland and Chris Hickey made stops to force a punt that was killed on the La Porte eight yard line.
What followed was an impressive offensive effort. With linemen such as Maurice Morris and Justin King and Chris Webendorfer and Jared Howard and Michael Leagan and Tony Briones and Juan Garcia and Trevor Nelson working hard up front all night, the offense found sustained success. They got a first down on a third-and-three effort as Keith Whitely ran for three; they got a second first down as Vidales rolled right and threw to Cameron Whilley over the middle; they converted a third-and-eight as Johnathan Lewis went wide left for exactly the yardage needed; they converted another third-and-eight when Vidales hit Aaron Nance-Garrett cutting left to right across the middle for a gain of 12; and tack on 15 more yards on a Mustang personal foul and you have s first and 10 at the North Shore 23.
The drive stalled so Eric Medina came on and booted a 38-yard field goal that split the uprights, and the Dogs had a 3-0 lead with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
The Mustangs had slightly more success on their next possession, but Nance-Garrett and Scott and Nance-Garrett again and Whilley and Malik Graves had strong defensive efforts, forcing another punt. The LP offense could not move, and another punt gave the Mustangs the ball on the La Porte 40.
It looked like North Shore was poised for a score, despite defensive effort by Tyrone Graves and Victor Holmes and Sutherland and Hickey, and Hickey again. But the tide shifted rapidly. Facing third and goal at the 11, the Mustangs got fancy. They tried a halfback pass back to the quarterback, but Hosa Scott was not fooled. He stepped in front of the receiver, tipped the ball, juggled it, took control and raced down the left sidelines for 85 yards. He dove into the left end zone with a Mustang hot on his trail. TD La Porte. Medina booted the extra point and the Dogs had as 10-0 advantage with 5:02 left before halftime.
Medina then kicked off and the ball hit the turf in front of the deep returnees and over the heads of the blockers. Lewis raced down and recovered at the Mustang 19. Whitely got four yards; Vidales kept right for a first down at the seven; Vidales rolled right and threw to Ellis Hutchinson, who hung on despite a big hit, putting the ball at the two; and Lewis skirted the left side for the score with 3:21 left. Medina made it 17-0.
North Shore had a nice return of the ensuing kickoff, and starting at midfield looked poised, once again, for a score. They were aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called against the Dogs, and had a first down at the La Porte 31. But then the Mustangs fumbled and once again, Hosa Scott was on the spot. He scooped up the loose pigskin and ran untouched some 65 yards to paydirt. With Medina true as usual, the Bulldogs had a 24-0 lead and only 2:42 remained before the half.
But nothing comes easy, especially against North Shore. The Mustangs marched quickly to a score, then took advantage of a La Porte fumble on the ensuing kickoff to score once again, and it was 24-14 at the half. Five touchdowns in barely more than four minutes. What looked like it could have been a laugher turned into a nail-biter.
It got closer early in the second half as the Mustangs took the kickoff and drove from their own 32 to the La Porte 4. That was as far as they got, however, as they had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to cut the lead to 24-17. And just to make it interesting, the Mustangs intercepted a pass and drove for another score late in the third stanza, but Malik Graves blocked the extra point attempt, and the Dogs were left clinging to a one-point lead. But not for long.
Starting at their own 36, the Bulldogs had an impressive offensive drive that resulted in seven more points. It started with a great spinning run by Whitely up the middle for 16 yards. Lewis ran hard for five yards, before Whitely got two and Taejon Wearen stepped off a first down at the North Shore 35.
Back it up for five because of a false start but that's no sweat because on first and 15 La Porte got tricky, and it worked. Vidales handed to Whitely going right; Keith handed it to Lewis, going left; and Lewis raced down the left sidelines, following Vidales. Vidales got enough of a block near the goal line to help Lewis get it in, and after Medina kicked La Porte was up by eight at 31-23 with 56.1 seconds left in the third period.
So now we needed some D, and we got it. Credit Alex Jones and Mark Guzman particularly, and the Stangs were forced to punt. Thus began La Porte TD drive No. 2 of the second half.
Starting at their own 22 with 10:36 left in the game, the Dogs moved to a first-down run by Lewis; a six-yard counter run by Whitely; a counter to the left by Lewis that got the ball to the North Shore 42; and soon thereafter one heck of a third-down play. Vidales faked a handoff, went back to pass, and spotted Wearen streaking down the left side. The throw was right there; the catch was a fine one; and the ball ended up on the North Shore one yard line. Chad Sutherland ran it in from there on first and goal, and after Medina kicked the Bulldogs had a 38-23 lead.
But not for long as here came the Mustangs again. They scored with 4:50 left in the game, and the Bulldogs were not out of the woods yet.
The offense could not get a first down, so the defense had to come on to put it away. The Mustangs had the ball at their own 39, and they had two minutes and 58 seconds to get to the end zone. They went for it all on the first play, and Victor Holmes was there to pick off the bomb, giving the Dogs the football at their own 20. Whitely ran three times for the first down that clinched it as the Dogs were able to run out the clock.
How sweet it is!!! Wins over Deer Park and North Shore in the season. What could be next?