By JOHN BLACK
Anyone on hand in Bulldog Stadium Friday night might find it hard to believe, but a year ago on the same turf, the Bulldogs had to stop a winless Baytown Sterling two-point conversion attempt late in the game to beat the Rangers and keep the momentum of their outstanding 12-2 season.
They did not allow themselves to get in that same situation this year. Putting together a great defensive effort and a balanced and relentless offensive attack, the now 4-1 Bulldogs built a 35-7 halftime lead on their way to a 42-21 victory over Sterling.
It was the first 21-5A contest for both teams in 2012, and now the Bulldogs have an extra day of preparation, before hitting the road to meet Beaumont West Brook at 6 p.m. this coming Saturday. An off week will follow, before "Big Game No. 1" on Oct. 19 when the Bulldogs host the Deer Park Deer.
Friday night, by the way, marked the 2012 Homecoming festivities for LPHS. During ceremonies at halftime, senior Sadie Selmser was named Homecoming Queen and senior Devan Gay was named Homecoming King. Devan's brother Philip Gay, the 2011 LPHS Homecoming King, was on the field during the presentation.
As for the Bulldogs, they had their way against the Rangers, and a couple of turnover hiccups in the first half didn't really matter - although one produced the only score of the half for Sterling.
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and drove briskly down the field. Their first play from scrimmage was a bomb from quarterback Jordan Jackson to wide receiver Jahvey Mark. It was a beautiful pass and great catch with a Sterling defender in what appeared to be excellent position. It covered 39 yards, and after Keith Whitely and Britt Grant and Jackson and Johnathan Lewis got good yardage, La Porte was in position for a score. But as Whitely was running for a first down through the middle of the Ranger defense he was hit and fumbled and Sterling recovered at the seven.
That only delayed the inevitable. John Nelson had a big defensive play to knock down a bomb attempt; Corey Lee stuffed a run; and Alex Jones and Lane Albertson threw the ball carrier for a three-yard loss on third down to force a punt. And with a clearing block from John Nelson, Grant had a fine spinning return to set the Dogs up at the Ranger 32.
The scoring drive took one play. We will pause here to tell you that the Bulldogs were without two of their key offensive linemen - Maurice Morris and Tony Briones - for the third straight week. But Michael Leagan and Justin King and Jose Garcia and Tyler Davis and Jared Howard and Trevor Nelson and Michael Rodriguez banded together to dominate the line of scrimmage in the first half.
Now back to that brief scoring drive: Whitely took a handoff right, made a great cut, broke into the open and sprinted into the end zone, covering the full 32 yards quickly. Eric Medina booted the extra point and the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead with 6:45 left in the first quarter.
After Lee and Jones and Trevor Mouton combined for a tackle and Hoza Scott blitzed into the backfield to throw the runner for a four-yard loss, the Rangers had to punt. It was a bad one, and the Dogs took over on the Sterling 18. This scoring drive took three plays: Lewis ran for two; Whitely ran wide left for nine and a first down at the seven; and Clifton Figaro went wide right and was simply too fast for the Ranger defense. He scooted into the right corner of the end zone for the score, and Medina kicked true for a 14-0 lead with 4:48 left in the initial period.
Garrett Green made the first tackle of the next defensive stand, right before Corey Lee made a nice tackle and Ellis Hutchinson broke through and dropped the runner for a two-yard loss to force another punt.
The Bulldogs had to drive 72 yards to get TD No. 3. The drive started with a five-yard run by Grant, followed by a 12-yarder from Whitely for a first down to the 35. After a five-yard loss on first down, Jackson went back to pass. He fired long and true to Victor Holmes, who made an impressive catch despite being well defended. The play covered 30 yards in all, and the Dogs were in business.
After Whitely got three and Lewis added four, Keith broke through the middle for 11 yards and a first down at the Sterling 22. And on second and 10 Jackson threw a quick out to Mark, to the left. Jahvey put on quite a show on his way into the end zone, dancing and spinning and avoiding would-be tacklers to cover the full distance. Medina made it 21-0 with 10:46 left before the half.
Medina booted the ensuing kickoff nearly into the Ranger locker room. Scott, from his linebacker spot, went deep to knock down a long Sterling pass attempt, and two plays later Hoza got a fumble recovery at the Ross 14.
This actually set up the only Ranger TD of the half, because on third down from the 12 the Bulldogs tried to get tricky and the halfback pass was picked off and returned some 100 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. That made it 21-7 with 8:12 remaining before the Homecoming ceremonies.
No sweat. David Terrebonne took the ensuing short kick and went wide down the left sidelines all the way to the Sterling 38. Whitely stepped off eight yards before Holmes took a pitch right and made it all the way to the four. The Dogs were flagged for holding on that run, but still had a first down at the 22. Whitely ran for four before Lewis employed a great stiff-arm and cut to gain nine and a first down. From the nine, Keith would not be denied, fighting his way into the end zone behind great blocking. Medina made it 28-7 and 5:56 still remained before halftime.
The Rangers did manage to get their initial first down of the half on their next possession, but the drive did not last long and the Dogs got the ball on their own 29. Whitely got four yards and Jackson threw to Grant for seven and a first down at the 40. On second and 10 Jackson used a semi-screen pass to Grant in the middle of the field for a gain of 16, and then Jordan threw to Terrebonne for three more yards. Another short pass - this one Jackson to Whitely - gained five. On fourth and two with 59 seconds left, Jackson optioned right and kept for a first down at the Ranger 32.
Jackson threw to Lewis for four yards, and on second and six Jordan's pass to the middle of the field to Grant was right on the mark. Britt picked it out of the air and eluded two Ranger defenders to reach the end zone with 34 seconds remaining before the half. Medina's kick made it 35-7.
The second half got a little sloppy as the La Porte offense began to have trouble moving the ball and the defense started giving up real estate. Sterling managed two more TDs, but after the first one the Bulldogs responded very quickly.
On the ensuing kickoff, Victor Holmes gathered the boot in at the one and basically just flat outran everyone. He covered the 99 yards to paydirt in a very brief period of time, and Medina's sixth boot of the game was, as usual, right on the mark.
The Dogs led 42-14 with 10:23 remaining in the game, and the Rangers scored a meaningless TD on a long pass with four seconds left to end the scoring.