By CLINT FOSTER
STRAWN - This is what Texas high school football is all about. A crowd of over 1,000 packed Greyhound Stadium on a windy September night in Strawn to witness the latest chapter of one of Lone Star State’s greatest and most storied six man football rivalries. This time the home team got the revenge it was looking for, as the Strawn Greyhounds (3-1) held off the Gordon Longhorns (1-3) to win 75-30.
It was a tight battle from the start, with the Horns and Hounds trading scores into the first half of the second quarter. Then with the score 16-14 in favor of Strawn, Hounds quarterback Harrison Nowak connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Abram Jaramillo. It was the first of 22 unanswered points, three touchdowns of which came on Nowak throws.
Nowak played a terrific game, going 8 for 14 with 294 yards passing and five touchdowns and an additional 37 yards rushing on two carries. He looked like the “S” on his helmet belonged on his chest as he was constantly avoiding sacks and making good decisions to find open receivers downfield. Nowak said getting a statement win after losing to Gordon the last two seasons made the game even sweeter.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “The past two years, we played them so close and it just didn’t happen for us. It felt good to get a win this time.”
What truly keyed Strawn’s surge was when Ross Alison intercepted Gordon’s Seth Allen in the endzone to end what was a very promising Horns drive that could have kept them within two with the score 24-14. Instead, the Hounds drove down the field for another touchdown. Alison had a great game as well for the Hounds, leading them in tackles with seven and scoring both a rushing and receiving touchdown.
Another Greyhound who shined on Friday night was former Longhorn Coletyn King. In his first game against his former team, King exploded for 115 yards on 21 carries with two rushing touchdowns and another 84 yards and a touchdown on three receptions.
After Strawn’s 22-point flurry, the Horns played tough, but try as they might, they could not claw back enough to close the gap. In the end, Alison’s 15-yard rushing touchdown would ice the game, allowing the Greyhounds to 45 the Longhorns with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter.
As Gordon head coach Joe Kostiha feared going into the game, the Longhorns’ youth proved to be their biggest weakness. They began the season with only two players that had ever played a snap of varsity football, much less on the big stage that the Gordon-Strawn game presents. Kostiha got leadership from those two seniors – Jacob Wigington led the Horns with 44 yards and two touchdowns on the ground – but the team’s growing pains continued in what proved to be another hard non-district game in this still young season.
“Our inexperience showed tonight more than anything,” Kostiha said. “That’s the stuff that we have to work on and get better for later in the season. We knew coming into it that it was kind of a murderers row type schedule. Right now I’m not even concerned with who we’re playing. It’s about us trying to improve and get to the place we need. We need these preseason games to be able to work through kinks.”
The final score may not reflect it, but Kostiha’s young defense really played very well throughout the game. They consistently stopped Strawn on first through third down but it was big plays on fourth down that killed the Horns against what Kostiha called a “really good” Strawn team.
“It sounds silly when you give up 75 points, but our defense really played well,” he said. “The only thing I didn’t like about what we did was we gave them some really easy stuff.”
On the other side, there is no doubt the Greyhounds were making plays all over the field, but head coach Dewaine Lee acknowledge that his team benefitted from some good luck on key fourth down conversions that contributed to the victory. No fourth down conversion was bigger than the 4th and 45, which Nowak turned into a 55-yard touchdown pass to Nic Miller – who is not usually a staple of the Greyhounds’ receiving core.
“I think we got some breaks,” he said. “They’re a quality team. They’ve got a lot of speed. I thought our kids stepped up when they needed to. I was pleased with their effort overall.”
Lee was particularly proud of Nowak’s performance, whom he said was sick all week. He said his junior quarterback is a true playmaker who just keeps getting better and better.
With the big rivalry game behind them, both teams will look to continue to improve as they face other tough opponents next week. Strawn will travel to Newcastle to play one of the state’s top-five teams and Gordon draws Waco Live Oak, whom Kostiha said “rarely get scored on and are averaging over 60 points a game.”
“Basically we’re just trying to get better,” Lee said. “We’ve got to enjoy this win and get ready for the next one at Newcastle.”
“I was proud of the kids’ effort and how we fought,” Kostiha said. “We’re going to be OK. We’ve just got to keep working, keep fighting and learn from this experience.”
Strawn will play the Newcastle Bobcats (3-1) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday on Bobcat Field in Newcastle. Meanwhile, Gordon will play the Live Oak Classical Falcons (4-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Waco.
By CLINT FOSTER
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