By JOHN BLACK
PEARLAND (Sp) - The La Porte Bulldogs, still missing a few key men but not missing an ounce of heart, fought from behind here Saturday afternoon to beat the Fort Bend Bush Broncos, 21-17, and advance to the third round of the Class 5A, Division II playoffs.
The 11-1 Bulldogs, under the direction of head coach Jeff LaReau, now face the Katy Tigers this coming Saturday, at Reliant Stadium. The time of game was not set as of presstime.
All the "experts" have been saying how tough it will be to play the nationally ranked Tigers. But remember this: La Porte is 1-0 against Katy in the most recent post-season action, having beaten the Tigers by a 9-7 count last year. Sure, Katy is savoring the thought of a rematch. But the Bulldogs were up to the task a year ago, and considering the never-say-die attitude they have displayed of late, this rematch could be interesting.
Also remember that La Porte, with many players on the 2012 squad having started throughout the 2011 season, are now 23-3 in the past two years. That may not be all the way up to Katy standards, but it's a close as anyone else in the region has been.
The second half of the La Porte-Bush match featured mostly defense, although Bush did managed to put together a drive midway through the third quarter, resulting in a 24-yard field goal for the Broncos that extended their lead to 17-7 with 7:45 left in the third stanza.
But on their next possession, the Bulldogs answered - quickly.
Facing third and five, quarterback Jordan Jackson fired to Jahvey Mark near the left sidelines. Jahvey gathered it in at about the line of scrimmage, split two defenders, managed to get free of another one, and raced into the end zone. The play covered 62 yards. Medina's kick made it 17-14, and the Bulldogs regained the momentum.
Add to that the fact that one of the best Bush defenders was flagged for a personal foul on the Mark touchdown and was ejected from the game. And to give the Dog backers even more to cheer, just two plays later Lane Albertson got a huge sack, forced a fumble, and pounced on the ball at the Bronco 18.
Talk about great field position! Surely we've got a least three points to come out of this?
But it was not to be. Medina's 35-yard field goal try was blocked, and Fort Bend Bush dodged a huge bullet.
The Broncos had three big runs on their ensuing possession to gain great field position, but then the Dog D dug in and forced another punt. Credit Lane Albertson, with an assist from Mark Guzman, for a sack and pat Alex Jones on the back for stopping a running play prior to that punt.
And speaking of the punt, it was a beauty by Medina, and it was muffed by the Broncos and scooped up by Ellis Hutchinson at the Bush 31.
Grant ran hard for 11 yards and a first down but he came up limping. So Britt had to go to the sidelines, replaced by big linebacker Hoza Scott.
Now would be a good time to point out two things: No. 1) The two most prolific runners for La Porte this season, Keith Whitely and Johnathan Lewis, both missed their second straight playoff game due to injuries; and No. 2), the Bulldog offensive line REALLY took charge on the go-ahead touchdown drive. Credit Justin King, Michael Leagan, Maurice Morris, Tony Briones, Jose Garcia and Michael Rodriquez for clearing the holes on that final TD drive, and give credit as well to Tyler Davis for some hard work earlier in the game in place of Garcia.
Anyway, let's talk about the TD drive. It was Scott taking a pitch left, making a fine cut, and bulling for nine yards to the 12; it was Scott fighting to the three; and it was Scott getting the final three yards for the score with exactly nine minutes left in the game. Medina made it 21-17.
The Broncos had one more chance to regain the lead, facing a fourth and 10 from the Bulldog 49 with 2:02 left in the game. They had no chance. Big senior defensive lineman ate up his blocker and blasted the Bronco quarterback for a 12-yard loss. There was 1:58 left, and that was the ball game - after Grant had two runs for 11 yards, and got 15 more for a facemask. Jackson just kneeled on the ball the rest of the way, and the Bulldogs had the big win.
What can you say about the first half? Bush had two big plays for touchdowns, resulting in a 14 points. The Bulldogs had one big play in those same first 24 minutes, resulting in seven points. Otherwise, the defenses prevailed.
Eric Medina started the game by booting the opening kickoff well out of the end zone, and Bush went three-and-out, trying three passes and hitting just one, for five yards. And the Bulldogs took the ensuing punt and appeared poised to put the first points on the board.
The Dogs started at their own 41 and on second and 10 Britt Grant ran for eight yards. He then got four more and the first down into Bush territory, and later ran for a first down at the Fort Bend 37. Victor Holmes was thrown for a six-yard loss but the Broncos were flagged for a facemask, so step off 15 yards from the spot of the foul and you've got a first down for the Bulldogs at the Bush 23.
On third and five quarterback Jordan Jackson rifled a strike that would have gone for the first down but Jahvey Mark could not hold on. So bring on Medina for a field goal try of 36 yards - normally a chip shot for Eric. But the senior booted it plenty long enough but barely wide left, so the Broncos dodged a bullet.
Bush hit a big play with a quarterback scramble on a third down, but could go no further and had to punt again. This time another decent looking La Porte offensive push ended in a Bush interception, but that was no problem because Trevor Nelson made a stop on defense and Lane Albertson had a sack, with help from Alex Jones, and Mark Guzman smoked a receiver on third down, forcing the third Bush punt of the game.
After the Dog offense could get nothing going, Bush got the ball on its own 37 and found quick success. On third and four from the Dog 43 the Broncos threw a quick hitter left, the receiver got pass the first line of defense, and he set sail for the end zone. That's 57 yards in all, and the Broncos had a 7-0 lead with 8:50 left in the second period.
Again the Dogs appeared to be moving, but big linebacker Hoza Scott, in a running back, got separated from the ball and the Broncos had it at their own 33.
The La Porte defense, however, rose to the occasion. Scott and Corey Lee combined to throw a runner for a loss of four; Albertson had a big rush and a sack for a loss of six more; and Guzman had a sack for a minus three, forcing a Bush punt.
The Dogs had good field position at their own 44 after the punt, and they took advantage. Grant got four yards, then went left for a first down at the Bronco 45, with 2:08 left before the half.
After a motion penalty moved the ball back five yards, Clifton Figora stepped off eight yards, with 1:31 left. Then came both good news and bad news for the Bulldogs.
The good news is that on second and eight Jackson went deep down the left sidelines to Mark. The pass was perfect and Jahvey was well behind everyone and hauled it in. The play covered 42 yards, and Medina's kick made it 7-7.
The bad news is that there was still 1:24 left in the half, and that gave the Broncos plenty of time to regain the momentum with a touchdown drive. Bush hit seven of eight passes for the score.
To make matters worse, Bush had been flagged for a penalty on the previous play and the clock started with the Broncos running a play. Anything caught that was not in the end zone would have likely ended the half.
But that was not the case, so Bush carried a 14-7 lead into the halftime dressing room.
It did not last. So now bring on the Tigers!