By JOHN BLACK
This first football game of the oh-so-promising 2012 football season certainly did not go the way the La Porte faithful would have scripted it Friday night in Bulldog Stadium - except that the Dogs won it in overtime, 20-14.
The Clear Brook Wolverines spotted the Bulldogs 14 points early; clawed their way back to knot the score midway through the fourth period; took advantage of one-too-many La Porte turnovers with under four minutes left; barely missed a 50-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining; and had a first down in overtime at the La Porte 14.
But then they fumbled and Victor Holmes returned it 80 yards for the Dogs, to apparently win it - only the refs said it was no fumble. So Brook ran another play and fumbled again, and even the refs agreed it was a fumble, scooped up by Ellis Hutchinson and returned to the Brook 40. It really didn't matter how far he returned it, of course, unless he had gone all the way. As it was, La Porte got the ball on the Brook 25 and needed just three plays to gain the victory.
First it was Keith Whitely for six yards to the 19, behind the veteran Bulldog offensive line. Then it was Whitely for five more and a first down at the 14. And finally it was Johnathan Lewis going around left end and scooting into the end zone for the six-point victory.
Whew! We definitely dodged a bullet. And now the Dogs travel to Pasadena Memorial Stadium to play the South Houston Trojans in a 7 p.m. non-district match-up Friday, Sept. 7.
La Porte has numerous starters returning from a highly successful 2011 campaign that produced a 12-2 record, a regional playoff berth and historic wins over North Shore and Katy. But the Bulldogs found out Friday night against Clear Brook that history and high expectations will only carry you so far.
The Bulldogs had an impressive start, moving a total of 122 yards on their first two offensive possessions to score a pair of touchdowns and take a 14-0 lead early in the second period.
That first TD came after the La Porte defense allowed just one first down before forcing a punt, as Trevor Mouton and Corey Lee and Jesse Hickman and Justin Pickell and Alex Jones all made strong plays, forcing a punt that Keith Whitely returned five yards to the Bulldog 33.
From that point it was quarterback Jordan Jackson rifling a quick out to Jahvey Mark for nine yards; Whitely running for eight; and on an eventual third and 12 Jackson hitting Mark again for 10, forcing a fourth and two. Head coach Jeff LaReau elected to go for it and Whitely took a pitch left for six yards and the first down.
After a run lost a yard and a pass got the yard back, the Bulldogs got tricky. Jackson took the snap and pitched to sophomore Britt Grant, who appeared to be heading for a run left. But he stopped and lofted a perfect strike to David Terrebonne, who was absolutely all alone at the goal line. David hauled it in for the TD, covering 36 yards, and after Eric Medina booted the extra point, the Dogs had a 7-0 lead with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
Again, the defense was up to the task. Medina had booted his second straight kickoff well out of the end zone, and the Wolverines were soon back to the 20 after a procedure penalty (kickoffs this year are now brought out to the 25). The Brook quarterback tried to run right and was smoked by Whitely; the qb then tried to scramble and this time was hammered by Corey Lee; and Brook fumbled on the next play and lost a yard, forcing another punt.
And here comes the offense again. If you read about the Bulldogs last year, you will recognize these names - the blockers up front. The core of the offensive line returns, and you will be seeing these names plenty of times again this season...the likes of Justin King and Jose Garcia and Michael Leagan and Tony Briones and Maurice Morris and Michael Rodriguez, listed in numerical order. They opened holes that helped produce another TD.
Starting at their own 45, the Dogs got 12 quick yards from Whitely right up the middle; got nine more as Jackson hit Johnathan Lewis with a quick strike; and then another trick came out of the bag. Jackson handed to Whitely, and Keith gave it right back to Jordan. He fired a perfect strike into the end zone but the catch was barely missed. So Whitely got three for the first down, and Grant added four as the first quarter ended.
Victor Holmes came in at quarterback and it did not take him long to find success. He took the first snap and headed right, running all the way to the Wolverine eight yard line - a gain of 17 yards. And after Lewis went left for three to the five and Grant added two to the three, Jackson rolled right and hit the bullseye on a pass to Grant, who was running hard left to right, about two steps inside the end zone. The TD made it 13-0 and Medina was true for the extra point, and the Dogs had a seemingly comfortable lead a 14-0 with 10:13 left before the half.
But it was a that point that the air seemed to deflate from La Porte, both offensively and defensively. And before you knew it, the Wolverines had seven points to get close at the half; hung in there throughout the third quarter, taking advantage of several La Porte miscues; and found themselves in a 14-14 deadlock against the state-ranked Bulldogs with 6:45 left in the game.
La Porte had four turnovers in all, and in the last few minutes had two of those four - a fumble at the Brook nine, and a pass interception at what would have been field goal range for the strong-legged Medina. Instead, Brook hit a long pass and very nearly hit a field goal to win it with 18 seconds left.
So it took the overtime heroics on both offense and defense to win it.
The Bulldogs had 385 yards of total offense, including 258 on the ground as Whitely ran for 135 yards on 22 carries; Lewis added 57 on 12 carries; Holmes ran twice for 33 yards; Grant ran 10 times for 25 yards; and Clifton Figaro had one carry for six yards.
Jackson, making his Bulldog debut as a starter, hit 12 of 17 passes for 91 yards and had the one pick. Grant caught five of those passes for 24 yards; Jahvey Marks hauled in three for 25 yards; Terrebone snagged two for 37 yards and a TD; Malik Graves had one catch for 16 yards; and Lewis had a single catch as well, for 13 yards.
All in all, it was not a bad night, considering that a win came at the end. But as anyone would expect after the first game of the season, there is definitely room for improvement.