By DR. DAVID DAVIS
The 2015 season was a dream come true for the George Ranch Longhorns as they finished 16-0 and captured the schools first state title. George Ranch opened in 2010 so they are a very young school.
Before George Ranch moved up to 6A this year, the Longhorns and the Dawson Eagles were already familiar with one another as the two team played one another in non-district the past two seasons with the ‘Horns pulling out 35-17 and 42-25 decisions in 2014 and 2015.
Dawson was primed and ready this year as George Ranch joined District 23-6A. The Longhorns haven’t found easy treading in the biggest class in Texas as they entered the game against the Eagles having already lost to Dickinson (28-14) and The Woodlands (42-14).
It appeared that George Ranch might knock off the Eagles for a third straight time, but Dawson head coach Eric Wells and his staff had this year’s team primed and ready to meet the challenge though it took a little while for the Eagles to get started.
George Ranch (2-3) jumped out to a 21-7 first half lead as Dawson was trying to keep pace early in the game.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard when running back Lance Charles scampered 38-yards for a score and then Dawson cut the lead to 21-14 at intermission on a 12-yard scoring run by running back Darrius Smith.
Dawson got the ball first in the second half at their own 35. It took 10-plays, 65-yards to score as Smith burst into the end zone on a 10-yard TD, but the PAT missed the mark leaving the Eagles still trailing 21-20.
George Ranch took the ensuing kickoff from their own 39 to the Dawson 16 before the Eagle defense stiffened forcing the Longhorns to settle for a 33-yard field goal at the 1:09 mark of the third quarter to lead 24-20.
That’s when an inspired Dawson team would take over and score the next 21 points in the final period.
Dawson began their drive at their own 14 and got a crowd-pleasing run from Darrius Smith as he sprinted 47 yards to the George Ranch 39.
Two plays later, quarterback Zach Smith, who returned from an injury in the opening game of the season, found Nico Thomas open for a 38-yard pass completion to the Longhorn one-yard line.
Charles got the call on a 1-yard plunge giving the Eagles a 27-24 lead following the PAT by Claire Jeffress.
With 7:25 left in the game, the Eagles increased their lead with a 52-yard scoring pass from Zach Smith to Darrius Smith for a 34-24 advantage.
The Dawson defense really came alive as they could see the momentum shifting over to their side and and a victory in sight.
Bryce Victorian intercepted a pass in the end zone, Isaiah Chance recovered a fumble, and Frederick Kearney-Gibbs came up with an 18-yard sack to end three George Ranch drives.
The final sack left the Eagles on the George Ranch five-yard line setting up the final Dawson score as Chase Thibodeaux scored on a 1-yard dive with 45 seconds left to finalize the victory.
Zach Smith was a welcome sight as he provided the much needed leadership in such an important game, plus Nico Thomas, who had done a phenomenal job at quarterback in Smith’s absence, was able to return back to his wide receiver position which proved important in the second-half rally by the Eagles.
Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. Darrius Smith Smith rushed for 148 yards on 25 carries and two scores on the ground and one receiving.
“I just told the guys they did a phenomenal job,” Eagle head coach Eric Wells said. “The defense bent a little, but they forced some turnovers and came up with some big plays that put George Ranch in long yardage.
“Offensively, we kind of found our niche in the second half and just did what we do.”
Dawson (4-1, 1-0) will travel to face Brazoswood at Hopper Field on Friday, Oct. 7 at 7:00 p.m.