All night long, the Bulldogs kept knocking on the door without success. When they finally did turn the knob, coach Cody Carney made sure he and Hitchcock slammed the door shut on La Marque.
Carney’s decision to go for two paid off when Tygar Turner’s conversion run proved to be the difference in a hard-fought 8-7 win over the Cougars, clinching an outright District 12-3A-1 title for Hitchcock, which finishes the regular season with a 6-3 record (5-0 in district) and a bi-district round trip against Trinity this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It was a simple call,” said Carney of his decision after Turner’s 7-yard touchdown run pulled the Bulldogs within 7-6 with 9:06 remaining. “We had been running the ball well all night against them and liked our chances to get it in.”
Hitchcock amassed all 297 of its yards on the ground yet were unable to break the game open as three turnovers hampered its cause. The Bulldogs dominated the clock, holding the ball for more than 32 minutes while holding La Marque (5-5, 3-2) to a season-low 99 total yards.
The Cougars struck first when quarterback Myles Launius hit a wide open Norvan Saldana for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 8:15 left in the first quarter, but it would be the high water mark for an offense that has now gone three straight games with less than 250 total yards. Hitchcock’s ability to control the clock kept La Marque from being able to establish a footing.
“We made mistakes, but I told our players to keep their heads up,” said Carney. “I felt like we should have scored more than we did, but we kept missing opportunities. I have to credit our defense for the way they played. We had a busted coverage on the touchdown, but they played with a playoff-level of intensity all night long.
La Marque bent but didn’t break until the Turner touchdown. Kristian Franklin stopped a Hitchcock drive with an interception, while Jaylin Walker’s recovery in the end zone after a Drevian Archibald fumble allowed the Coogs to keep the Bulldogs at bay.
The Cougars had one last chance to seize the lead, but a holding call negated a 9-yard run by Launius on a fourth-and-4 late in the fourth quarter. Hitchcock stuffed Perry Preston on the ensuing play and then ran out the final 2:47 of the clock.
“Give them credit,” said Cougars coach Mike Jackson. “Their slot-T offense is hard to stop when they get it going. Our kids played their hearts out, but they made one more play than we were able to do so.”
Hitchcock was none too pleased when the Cougars planted their flag in the middle of the field prior to the game. “That made us super fired up,” said Archibald. “They did that on senior night and that just further motivated us.”
La Marque will face Coldspring in the Region III, bi-district round. Coldspring has won the last three games against the Cougars, including a win in last year’s bi-district round that marked the first time La Marque was knocked out of the postseason that early since 1985. A time and place has not be set yet.