Bulldogs display grit during 2nd half comeback bid against Fort Bend Marshall

Published 10:45 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

NEDERLAND — The Nederland Bulldogs lost to the Fort Bend Marshall Buffalos, 21-19, in Friday night’s district matchup at Bulldog Stadium.

Despite having a better record than their opponent, Nederland entered the contest as an underdog against a talented Marshall team. While the Bulldogs fell behind early, they showed plenty of heart in the second half and fell just short of completing a comeback.

“Things didn’t go the way we wanted to in the first half,” said Nederland head coach Monte Barrow. “We got some penalties at inopportune times and some offensive drives that had negative plays in them. You can’t do that against a team like them. But I’m super proud of the way we came back in the second half and fought to the last second.”

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The Buffalos nearly put themselves in a pinch to begin the game as the opening snap sailed over the head of quarterback Kaedon Johnson. However, Fort Bend Marshall recovered at the 4-yard line, then strung together a 96-yard drive for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs quickly responded with a score. Quarterback Ayden Sunday completed a pass over the middle to receiver KJ Tezeno, who took it 61 yards to the house. They were unable to convert the PAT, which left them trailing, 7-6.

Marshall retaliated with a big play. Johnson threw a pass along the sideline to Ja’Kayden Ferguson, which went for a 96-yard touchdown.

On Nederland’s next possession, the Bulldogs found themselves at the brink of the red zone inside the Buffalos’ 30. Facing fourth down, Sunday was sacked, resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Bulldogs go through pre-game warm-ups before Nederland’s home game Friday. (Keagan Smith/The News)

Marshall scored again midway through the second quarter when a broken coverage left a receiver wide open in the end zone.

The Bulldogs offense took over just before half. Facing pressure from the defense, Sunday threw the ball away while being sacked, which resulted in an interception in their own territory. Nederland’s defense held strong though, forcing the opponents to attempt a field goal — it was tipped by Jayse De La’o and fell short of the uprights.

Nederland headed into the locker room at halftime trailing 21-6. Barrow said the offense mainly struggled to sustain drives due to the size of the Buffalos’ front seven on defense, which put pressure on the quarterback and clogged running lanes more than usual.

The Bulldogs received the second-half kickoff, but quickly lost possession after a fumble. Following the early third-quarter mishap, though, Nederland put up a much better fight.

The Bulldogs defense held Marshall scoreless in the second half — Nederland came up with one stop on fourth down while forcing the Buffalos to punt on their other four possessions.

Around the five-minute mark in the third quarter, Nederland halfback Hubert Thomas put his explosiveness on display and rumbled to the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown rush. The two-point attempt was no good, leaving the Bulldogs trailing, 21-12.

A punt by the Buffalos was blocked on the following drive and recovered by Nederland’s Drake Sturrock, though the Bulldogs offense was unable to capitalize on the defensive highlight.

However, hopes of a comeback at Bulldog Stadium began to build in the late stages of the game.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, Nederland’s offense put together its most cohesive drive of the evening —scoring in just six plays as Sunday once again connected with reliable wideout Tezeno for a 23-yard touchdown. After the PAT, the Bulldogs trailed 21-19 with five minutes remaining.

While Nederland did stop the opponent and force a punt, a penalty against the Bulldogs allowed Marshall to retain possession. The Bulldogs forced another three-and-out to get the ball back, but had no timeouts left with just more than a minute left to play.

Sunday dropped back to pass but was intercepted by Marshall’s Norberto Dominguez, crushing any dreams of a comeback.

Despite the disappointing result, the Bulldogs remain in a good position as things stand. They sit second overall in the 5A-II District 9 standings with a 3-1 record (3-4 overall). Their next game is a road date at Galena Park next Friday.

“The way they came out in the second half makes coaches want to go back to work right now,” Barrow said. “We’ll get ready to start again on Monday. These guys love to play the game and that’s all we can ask.”

— Written by Keagan Smith