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New faces helpful for Dogs

DAYTON – Before this wild 4A bidistrict tug-of-war, names such as Tyler Smith, Tanner Adams and Stephen Schlett were known only to a few Nederland football coaches.

“You never knew any of them because you haven’t been to the junior varsity games,” a jubilant Bulldogs head coach Larry Neumann crowed.

Neumann needed every unknown hero he could find plus a phenomenal show of courage from Wareall Grogan to outlast C.E. King 35-34 in blustery Bronco Stadium.

The victory lifted Nederland (5-4) into the 4A area playoff round against Magnolia next Saturday in Conroe’s Moorhead Stadium at 1 p.m. Nederland once again will be the visiting team.

Magnolia eliminated Buda Hays, 26-14, on Friday night in a 4A Division I bidistrict matchup that reportedly contained a bench-clearing brawl.

“We did it when we had to,” Neumann said among several well-wishers. “We set out to be champions and they can call themselves that tonight. It was a total team effort.

“Given the circumstances, the win was as good as probably any I’ve seen at Nederland.”

The circumstances were that one Nederland weapon after another began to drop like flies. Quarterback Kirby Bellow limped off the field with a medial collateral ligament injury with 7:16 left in the first half. Bellow never returned. Flanker Ryan Brady departed with an apparently torn MCL after an end around with 3:27 left in the third quarter. Brady ended the night, weeping on crutches.

Then there was Wareall. He ran 15 times for 220 yards, and that’s as a rusher. He added 100 more as a kick returner, changing the game with a 100-yard kickoff return at a point when the Dogs trailed 14-0 and needed a momentum boost.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Grogan said. “We had a wedge up the middle. I saw an open hole. I didn’t know that I had a chance to take it all the way. I just tried to get as much as I could.”

When Grogan finished his marathon past the Nederland sidelines, he really had a problem. Nederland recovered an ensuing kickoff and quickly headed to tie the game at 14-all. But Grogan needed and never received enough recovery time from his lengthy runback.

Grogan had cramp after cramp all night after that.

“I was cramping just watching him,” Neumann said.

Neumann was doing more than cramping when C.E. King senior quarterback Josh Williams dashed 30 yards on a keeper around his left side. Williams’ touchdown dash trimmed Nederland’s lead to 35-34 with 53 seconds left in the game.

That’s when C.E. King head coach Mike Malkowski made the risky decision to go for two points. Malkowski’s leading rusher Alvester Alexander ran for 202 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. But Malkowski thought Alexander could get around the corner on a pitchout.

Brand-new NHS safety Tanner Adams penetrated into C.E. King’s backfield to string out the play and Asa Cardenas bumped Alexander out of bounds two yards shy of the end zone.

Game over? Not so fast, Bulldogs’ fans. The Panthers (7-3) got the ball back at midfield when Byron Jones covered an onside kick. C.E, King advanced as deep as Nederland’s 39 but Alexander fumbled on the Panthers’ last-gasp and senior tackle Shelby Clark claimed the free ball.

Grogan and Alexander both delivered 200-yard-plus nights, but Grogan’s scores truly contained a home run style to them. The Nederland tailback set sail each in the second quarter on a simple stretch play but it went for 95 and a touchdown because Stefan Huber cleared out the south side of C.E. King’s defensive flank and nobody was going to catch Grogan shortly after he passed the line of scrimmage.

Add the kick return to the long run behind Huber and Nederland authored the only two plays of 90 yards or more in its entire season.

But the cramps kept coming and so did the injuries. That meant a passer from a 5-1 JV team came to Nederland’s rescue. Soph Tyler Smith was 7 of 13 for 92 in relief of Bellow and Grant Lovelady was a very effective 96 yards on 11 carries and two TDs in relief of Grogan.

Smith handed to Lovelady on the stretch play for an 11-yard scoring run and a 28-14 edge with 2:34 left in the first half. Lovelady also slanted the final three yards to cap a well-tuned 81-yard, 11-play series for a 35-28 Nederland lead with 6:48 to play. Making his varsity debut because of Brady’s injury, Schlett hauled in two catches for 24 yards.

C.E. King was far from firing all its bullets. But Nederland found a way to complete quite a character win.