For the better part of three quarters, the Three Rivers Bulldogs and Karnes City Badgers were locked in a back and forth slugfest that resulted in an 18-14 halftime lead for TR.
At the end of the third quarter, capitalizing on an interception by Caden Soliz, who has also shown impressive abilities as a defensive playmaker, the Bulldogs took control en route to a 41-21 win to improve their season record to 3-1.
The Bulldogs moved into Badger territory with several running plays as Rigoverto Sanchez, Soliz and Austin Stutts each had big gains. Then, Soliz took to the air and found a wide open Zach Davis, who raced past the KC defense for a 29-yard touchdown reception. Soliz then ran the ball in for a two-point conversion with 2:32 left in the third quarter for a 26-14 lead.
That third quarter was marred by multiple personal foul calls on both teams, as well as injuries and a short fight on the field that was quickly contained.
The Badgers looked to regain the momentum on their next drive, but ran into a stout and spirited Bulldog defense. Jacob Amaro, Austin Stutts and Caleb Arnold were among those coming up with several big plays for TR, forcing a fourth-and-32 situation for KC that forced a punt.
Soliz suffered a leg injury late in the third quarter and was replaced at quarterback in the fourth quarter by Davis, who rambled for 16 yards to the Badger 34-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Stutts took it the distance for TR on the next play on a 34-yard TD run. Davis then blasted his way into the end zone on the two-point conversion.
The Bulldog defense continued to pressure KC on the next drive, and Arnold and Harry Yost both came up with big plays for TR.
On an incredible play, Badger receiver Warrick Thompson bobbled a catch but maintained concentration and then spun away from a pair of TR defenders on a 34-yard TD reception from Treyton Clark. The extra point kick pulled KC to within 34-21 with 7:03 left in the game.
TR wasn’t finished however, and a 36-yard run on a sweep by Stutts set up Davis’ 3-yard TD plunge with 3:39 in the game, and Amaro’s kick made the score 41-21.
The Bulldog defense muzzled any Badger hopes for late heroics, as Ezra Ascevedo and Yost both broke up pass plays and a host of Bulldogs, led by Amaro and Mark Morin, smothered the KC running back for a 3-yard loss on third down.
The Bulldogs relied on tough running by Inman to close out the game, including runs of 24, 12 and 8 yards before running out the clock.
Earlier, TR took an 18-14 lead into the half. The first score of the game was an interception by Ascevedo returned for a touchdown.
Karnes City scored the next two TDs on a 31-yard pass to Thompson from Clark and a 30-yard touchdown connection by the same duo, with Marshall Homeyer adding the extra points for a 14-6 Badger lead with 5:01 left in the first half.
A wild 62-yard TD run by Soliz with 3:54 in the half was followed by a defensive stand in which Amaro sacked the Badger quarterback on fourth and short. TR took advantage, as Amaro caught a 4-yard TD pass from Soliz with 22 seconds in the half to put the Bulldogs back on top.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Sheppard praised the team’s ability to fill in for injured players and stay focused.
“It’s always the next man up,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to be your turn, you’ve got to be ready, do your part and be able to play different positions.”
He noted that two of the team’s leaders, Soliz and Sanchez, were both injured and had to leave the game.
“If they can’t go next week, we’ve got to have somebody ready to step up,” Sheppard said.
Offensive coordinator Jaocb Waclawczyk highlighted the team’s intensity in dominating the second half.
“You were pushing them around and mowing them down in the second half, but that’s got to start earlier,” he said. “You can’t wait until the second half to do that. You’ve got to do that from the get go.”
Head coach Ramon Soliz said he was proud of the team’s poise.
“Karnes City has a talented team and they gave everything they had,” he said. “As the season goes on we’re going to see everybody’s best effort.
“I felt like we’d be able to run the ball, but (the Badgers) came in and hit us in the mouth pretty hard. We were able to come back and impose our will on them, and that’s a huge credit to this team. Karnes City has some talented players and they fought hard. It’s a credit to our guys to overcome that and get the win.”