“The main thing we were trying to do is keep the ball on the ground and make them scramble for it,” Head Coach Randy Palmer said. “It worked out perfectly for us.”
A tough opening drive from the Bulldogs ended in a ten yard run from senior Troy Chowns silenced the Refugio sideline. The score and a failed extra point put the Bulldogs up 6-0, the first time Refugio had trailed all season.
Three Rivers grinded the ball on the Bobcat defense throughout the game, systematically gaining four to five yards per carry, with one goal in mind: keeping the ball out of the number scoring offense in the state hands.
“That’s our style, we’re going to try and do that every game, but especially against Refugio with as how explosiveness they are offensively,” Palmer said. “We definitely wanted to keep the ball out of their hands.”
The Bulldogs racked up 334 yards rushing and found the endzone for four touchdowns with four different backs. Chowns led the Bulldogs with 133 yards on 26 carries and was paired in surpassing the century mark with fellow senior Kaleb Gee with 122 yards on 23 carries.
Junior Wes Guzman and Sophomore Hagan Johnston also joined Gee and Chowns with rushing scores of their own.
However, Refugio matched every Three Rivers’ score, often in drives under a minute, quickly squandering any momentum generated by the Bulldogs.
“They’re really fast and have multiple players with speed,” Palmer said. “Any time you have an offensive that has not just one person, it’s tough.”
The offense was so explosive and scored so quickly that it created a problem of giving the ball back to Three Rivers.
The Bulldogs would then often go on long, clock chewing drives leaving a tired Bobcat defense gasping for air, so Refugio played the possession game too, recovering three onside kicks of their own.
The move gave their defense a break, and kept the ball out of Three Rivers’ drudging rushing attack.
“To have the number one team in the state to do those kinds of things, it’s a sign of that they couldn’t stop us,” Palmer said. “I wish we would’ve recovered the kicks and have a shorter field to work with and possibly make it an even closer game.”
“It was a tough break for us, and a good idea for them.”
The Bobcats owned the fourth quarter, scoring the final 21 points of the gam. The game concluded with a reception by Refugio’s Shiloh Whetsel from Travis Quintilla with eight seconds left in the fourth, and with a 24 point lead.
Despite the 31 point margin, Three Rivers scored the most points Refugio had scored all season. At one point in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs were only ten points down from the number one ranked team in the state. A huge turnaround from last season’s matchup.
Last year the Bulldogs got blasted by Rufegio in the Area Championship in a 66-6 loss.
Palmer believes that determination and health are what aided the Bulldogs this time around.
“We have pride, and our kids didn’t like the way the game ended last year and they wanted to make sure that we put up a fight. This was also the healthiest we had been this late in the season, where in years past we had players not be able to play for various reasons. We had pretty much our full squad intact. Being full strength helped out quite a bit.”
“We really felt like we could win.“
With the loss, Three Rivers concludes the 2011 season with a 7-5 record, a record that Palmer believes does not reflect the success the team had.
“It was a successful season, but it definitely had its ups and downs,” Palmer said. “Winning a bi-district championship is big, plus beating George West is always a great accomplishment.
Palmer thinks the four consecutive bi-district championships the Bulldogs have earned by his seniors has something to do with the success.
“I’m real proud of all of all of the seniors,” Palmer said. “Since they were freshmen, they have been making the playoffs and winning playoff games. Our success is a credit to our senior class.”
The Bulldogs will most likely drop to 1-A in February’s realignment, but Palmer says the drop will not guarantee success.
“Your classification does not mean a whole lot, it comes down to how well you execute and how well you are playing. If you’re not playing good 2A football, you’re not going to play good 1A football”
“There are a lot of good 1A football teams out there, and we’re going to have to play at a high level to beat those programs.”
The Bulldogs will going looking for improvement for whichever division they play in.
“We’ll continue to work hard, and we’ll have to get bigger, faster, and stronger,” Palmer said.
“When you play a team like Refugio, it opens your eyes and lets you know that we still have work to do and if we want to get at that level, it takes time, commitment and effort to get there.”