HARDIN

Flat and emotionally drained, La Marque managed to find a way to avoid a potential upset in their District 12-3A-I opener Friday night.

Perry Preston rushed for 233 yards and a touchdown as the Cougars pulled away with a 33-22 win over the Hardin Hornets, balancing their record to 3-3 this season. Myles Launius added a pair of touchdown passes on a night where the offense amassed 467 yards despite stretches of sloppy play.

“The kids were able to pull this out,” said La Marque coach Mike Jackson. “We have to do a better job of protecting the ball and avoiding penalties. I don’t know how many we had (eight for 65 yards), but I’m sure it’s not going to look pretty once we see the film.

Trailing 22-21 midway in the third quarter, Preston, who had already scored on a 45-yard run in the first half, exploded for a 67-yard run that set up Norvan Saldaña’s 22-yard run that became the go-ahead score with 1:54 remaining.

Jaylin Walker’s interception put the Coogs in position to put the game away as running back Devin Smith recovered Saldaña’s fumble in the end zone to finally give La Marque breathing room with 3:23 left in the contest.

Hardin (4-2, 0-1) stayed in the game behind quarterback Ryan Snell, who threw three touchdown passes, including a 44-yard Hail Mary to Tyler Parker to close out the first half with the Hornets down just 21-15. The Hornets took their only lead of the night on the opening drive of the second half when Snell found Dylon Smart on a 13-yard scoring toss.

Launius hit Kordel Stewart on a 24-yard touchdown pass before hitting Joey White on a 39-yard touchdown in the first half.

The Cougars were playing with a heavy heart as the mother of all-district defensive tackle Marlon Ford passed away on Tuesday. Ford played and recorded six tackles and a pass deflection on the night before his teammates rallied around him in a touching sign of unity.

La Marque plays Anahuac at Etheredge Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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