5A-II District 10 champion Lake Creek Lions top Nederland in playoffs

Published 12:20 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Nederland Bulldogs’ season ended Friday night with an opening-round playoff loss to the Lake Creek Lions, 53-6, on the road in Montgomery.

Nederland entered as clear underdogs against the undefeated 5A-II District 10 champion Lions.

Outside of an early score, though, there were few bright spots to be found for the Bulldogs as starting quarterback Ayden Sunday and backup Slade Sheppard went down with injuries and the game quickly got out of hand.

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“Our team never stopped playing,” Nederland head coach Monte Barrow said after the game. “I’m always gonna be proud for that. We’re telling them it’s not about the score of one game, it’s about the journey they’ve been on since last January.”

The Bulldogs won the coin toss and deferred possession to begin the contest. Lake Creek’s potent offense quickly marched to the brink of the red zone behind the play of standout halfback Tyvonn Byars. The Lions ran it on fourth-and-one, but Nederland’s defense gritted their teeth and forced a key turnover on downs.

The black-and-gold offense took over and made a strong opening statement on the first play from scrimmage. Sunday threw a deep pass to running back Hubert Thomas, who hauled it in and took it to the house for an 80-yard touchdown.

The PAT was blocked, but the Bulldogs claimed an early 6-0 lead.

However, the Lions responded with a quick two-minute scoring drive capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass. Their defense forced a Bulldog three-and-out to get the ball back and Lake Creek scored again to take a 15-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Disaster struck soon after Nederland’s offense retook the field. Sunday exited the game with an injury to begin the second quarter – after which, the offense never recovered. While the Bulldogs gave their all, they were admittedly outmatched and held to -4 rushing yards and 125 passing yards on the night.

Nederland was unable to find the end zone again throughout the remainder of the game, but Lake Creek had no such struggles. The Lions scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, two of which were set up by fumble recoveries.

The Bulldog defense did create a turnover of their own and recovered a fumble just before halftime. Unfortunately, disaster struck again when Sheppard was injured on the final play of the half and didn’t return to the game.

Barrow said one quarterback’s injury was a shoulder issue, while the other suffered a rib injury, which made it hard to breathe.

“Those two out there are as tough as they come, he said. “I had no doubt they couldn’t go on. If they could have, they’d have stayed out there.”

Nederland’s defensive unit did play a better second half. The Lions, who despite the large lead didn’t pull the starters until midway through the fourth quarter, managed just two field goals and one touchdown through the remainder of the night.

The 53-6 loss was a tough one for the Bulldogs, whose season concluded with a 4-7 overall record. Despite the final score, Barrow was complimentary of his team’s effort and the way his players left everything on the field.

“We told them at halftime that whatever happens in the second half, you’ve got to be able to walk back into the locker room, look in a mirror and be okay with the guy you’re looking at,” Barrow said. “I think they did that.”

— Written by Keagan Smith