How does their Grden grow?
Friendswood freshman quarterback Luke Grden had a stellar performance and cornerback Colton Halata had a game-changing play on defense to lead the Mustangs to a 35-14 win over Pearland Dawson on Friday at The Rig.
“You know he never blinked an eye all week,” Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann said. “He’s shown confidence since that fourth quarter against Springs. In practice he’s taken control of things, and, man, he made some nice throws tonight. I keep telling myself, ‘he’s 14 years old.’”
In his first full game (aside from some late-game mop-up duty) after taking over for injured starter Christian Lee last week at Alvin, Grden was 17-for-25 with 270 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the win.
“Last game, I kind of got my jitters out, I guess,” Grden said. “Last game was kind of like a warmup for me because I’ve never done this before.”
Friendswood will play the winner of today’s La Porte-Humble Summer Creek game noon next Friday at NRG Stadium in an area-round playoff contest.
Friendswood put together a meticulous, 68-yard drive to get on the scoreboard first. Running back Mason Barnes (29 carries, 114 yards) gashed the defense for chunks of yards to set the table for a 2-yard power run up the middle and into the end zone by fullback/linebacker Calvin Whitaker for a 7-0 lead at the 5:42 mark of the first quarter.
“Mason Barnes, he crushed it tonight,” Grden said. “With our O-line, how they split those gaps is incredible.”
Then, Grden began to find his comfort zone in the second quarter, and led the charge on Friendswood’s second scoring drive.
A beautiful 35-yard connection from Grden to Ben Redding (seven receptions, 143 yards) and a slick 13-yard QB scramble was followed by a perfectly thrown 8-yard fade pass to Austin Alvarez for a touchdown and 14-0 lead at the 5:28 mark of the second quarter.
Dawson’s offense suddenly exploded after that Friendswood scoring drive, though, to break onto the scoreboard. A 63-yard pass connection from Patrick Kramer (21-for-35, 303 yards) to Khalil Jones (three receptions, 80 yards) was followed by a 15-yard TD run by Caleb Eaton (20 carries, 118 yards) to cut the Friendswood lead to 14-7 just 37 seconds after the Mustangs’ TD.
Dawson was driving again at the end of the first half, but a huge 74-yard pick-6 by Halata provided a potential 14-point swing, as Friendswood took a 21-7 lead into the halftime break.
“Our offense did a good job, and our defense is just trying to support them as much as we can,” Halata said.
“That was a giant play for us for him to do that,” Koopmann said. “Our defense has been making plays for us all year, so it sort of made sense tonight.”
An unfortunate horse-collar tackle penalty kept a Dawson drive alive midway through the third quarter and Eaton scored from 2 yards out to cut the lead to 21-14.
After a fumble on the previous possession, Grden responded like a player beyond his years, leading a 66-yard scoring drive with a 43-yard strike to receiver Nick Swaney (five receptions, 73 yards) preceding an 18-yard screen pass TD to Barnes for a 28-14 lead with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter, as Grden really began to find his rhythm.
An interception by linebacker Blake Seiler (who also recorded a sack) halted a promising third-quarter drive by Dawson.
“I thought our front seven handled their big offensive line all night,” Koopmann said. “We were really patient on offense, and Ben Redding came up really big tonight.”
Grden threaded the needle on a 41-yard TD pass to Redding — on which the UNLV commit made a highlight-reel one-handed grab — for the dagger at the 10:26 mark of the fourth quarter.