Turnovers doomed La Marque, and Ball High just kept plugging away as the Tors pulled away in the second half for a 34-13 win over the Cougars in the return of The Clash of the Causeway on Friday at Etheredge Stadium.
“We just kept pushing and trying to execute on the offensive side of the ball,” Ball High head coach Kimble Anders said. “Defense picked it up and created some turnovers and got some stops. … The speed and tempo was good — a lot of flying around.”
The Cougars actually outgained the Tors in the game, 281-213 (and 142-76 in the first half), but with La Marque turning the ball over three times in the fourth quarter (and four times, overall, in the game), Ball High was able to pounce on the miscues — which included a 90-yard defensive score — to halt any momentum.
“You can’t turn the ball over four times, obviously, but we actually played pretty well,” La Marque head coach Mike Jackson said. “You just can’t turn the ball over like that. It is what it is. We wore down a little bit, but it comes down to turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over four times and beat anybody.”
Ball High looked impressive on its opening drive, marching 65 yards right down the field on seven plays. A nice 29-yard run by Clarence Dalton helped set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Nick Moore to give the Tors a 6-0 lead, 2:51 into the game.
A 14-play, nearly 9-minute drive by La Marque followed the Tors’ score, but the Coogs came away empty-handed after a blocked field goal attempt.
Nevertheless, La Marque’s Marlon Ford scooped up a fumble on the first play of Ball High’s ensuing drive at the Tors’ 23-yard line to give the Coogs another scoring opportunity, and the offense cashed in three plays later on a 7-yard Perry Preston TD run 27 seconds into the second quarter for a 7-6 lead.
La Marque’s offense was again moving the ball well downfield, but after a nice hit popped the ball in the air, Tors defensive back Darin Jobe snatched the ball and raced 90 yards to the end zone to put Ball High back ahead, 12-7, at the 2:57 mark of the second quarter.
The Tors extended their lead to 20-7 with 4:02 left in the third quarter courtesy of a 14-yard run by Fitzroy Vanhorne, which was set up by a 42-yard Dalton scamper.
Another long, methodical La Marque scoring drive was capped by a 5-yard Norman Saldana TD run at the 11:52 mark of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 20-13, but the final period belonged to the Tors thanks to the Coogs’ three turnovers in the frame.
“Just to be able to do that was a big difference in the game,” Anders said about the turnover battle.
After a Ball High drive stalled, defensive back Austin Lawrence gave the Tors the ball right back in excellent field possession with a fumble recovery. A few plays later, Ball High pushed its lead to 27-13 with 10:07 to go in the game on a 2-yard passing TD hookup between quarterback Martavian Jackson and Moore.
A fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff resulted in another short field for the Tors, and Dalton punched in a 5-yard TD for the final score of the game.
La Marque drove down the field one more time, but a Lawrence interception in the end zone wiped out the Coogs’ last solid chance to score.
Several Ball High penalties kept La Marque drives alive, and cutting those mistakes down is priority No. 1 moving forward, Anders said.
“That’s something that we can fix,” Anders said. “It’s a start, it’s a beginning.”
Dalton led the Tors’ offense with 97 rushing yards on 13 carries and a TD. Jackson was an efficient 9-for-12 passing with 82 yards, a TD and no turnovers.
Preston (13 carries, 83 yards, one TD) and Saldana (20 carries, 78 yards, one TD) led the Cougars’ offensive attack.
Fans packed the stadium, with admission to the game being free in exchange for one canned food item per person, as the impromptu, rescheduled return of The Clash of the Causeway gave the storm-weary community a couple of hours to escape and have fun with an old rivalry while helping out victims of the storm.
Up next, Ball High is scheduled for a 7 p.m. road game Friday at Houston Strake Jesuit, and La Marque has a home game 7:30 p.m. Friday against Houston North Forest.