By TONY EIERDAM
BURKBURNETT – On the surface, Burkburnett’s 24-8 win over the Mineral Wells Rams was one of five non-district games MWHS has failed to come out on top.
But with mounting injuries as each week passed, the Rams found other productive players on offense, but defensively seemed outmatched.
But here Friday night the Rams were competitive and aggressive on both sides of the ball and for the first time this season were in the game at the half as the Bulldogs led 16-8.
Although the offense ran out of time, the MWHS defense gave Rams fans hope for District 6-3A play that starts in two weeks following next week’s open date.
The Rams moved the ball well on offense, and with the exception of just a couple of breakdowns defensively turned in their best defensive effort of the season.
It could not come soon enough for Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence.,
“It’s like I told the team after the game, our record is 0-0 and all these five (non district) games are gone,” Lawrence said. “We got better, we stepped up to the plate and we have to get ready for Castleberry, and we have two weeks to do it.
“I think we are walking away from this one with a positive attitude.”
The Rams’ offense found ways to move the ball on the Bulldogs. Sophomore running back Tristan Seargeant had success once again with runs between the tackles, gaining a team-high 82 yards, and receiver/running back DaShawn Hicks was a threat on the outside.
Quarterback Caleb Acosta also had bright moments throwing the football, including a touchdown pass near the end of the opening half that kept the Rams in the game.
“We moved the ball all over the field, we just had a problem getting it into the end zone,” Lawrence said. “We missed a field goal that would have cut the lead to five, and to win games we have to score when we have the opportunities.
“Defensively, we played well, but we pin them down at the two and let the drive 98 yards (for a touchdown). I thought special teams played well, but we just have to continue to get better offensively and defensively.
“This gives us confidence going into district. This was our best game and we are getting better.”
Although the Rams’ defense allowed 296 yards on the ground, its bend-but-not-break effort kept the team in the game.
Rams defensive coordinator Neil Mesler was pleased overall with the defense.
“I thought the kids did a good job of executing the game plan,” Mesler said. “I thought the physicality Burkburnett showed us will prepare us for Castleberry (in the district opener), and I feel the defense took a big, big step forward.
“For the most part our tackling was good, but we missed some open field tackles that hurt us. But that is something we can correct in practice.
Overall, I am very pleased with the defense, and although we gave a little bit too much at times and had a busted coverage I feel we improved.
“This was absolutely our best defensive effort of the season.”
Burkburnett took advantage of a Rams’ lost fumble and traveled 31 yards on its ensuing drive that ended with a 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Bryan Lewis. The Bulldogs extended their lead to two points, 8-0, after scoring on a “swinging gate” play on the conversion.
Burkburnett found the end zone again as Lewis threw a 43-yard touchdown strike to Rizonn Hendricks, and the pair hooked up for the two-point conversion as Burk built a 16-0 cushion.
Trailing by 16, the Rams got the ball on their own 25-yard line with 38 seconds left in the first half. Hicks carried on first down for 13 yards down the left sideline, and Acosta connected with senior receiver Colby Kissinger – back after suffering a concussion three weeks ago – for a 36-yard bomb that set the Rams up at the BHS 26.
On the next play, Acosta was feeling pressure and scrambled to his right. The junior threw on the run to Kissinger on the right sideline, who came back and caught the pass at the seven, spun around and hurdled a would-be tackler and galloped seven yards untouched into the end zone with just two seconds remaining in the half. The Rams cut the lead to 16-8 after Acosta ran in a two-point conversion.
In the third quarter, the Rams had a chance to cut the lead to five points after moving the ball 52 yards on the ground. Receiver/running back Kelly Williams gained 23 yards on two carries on the drive, while Seargeant added 35 yards on four totes.
However, Patrick Folkner’s 27-yard field goal attempt had plenty of height and distance, but officials ruled the kick sailed wide.
Burkburnett then began to drive the ball on the Rams. The Bulldogs scored just one more time in the game – on a 17-yard sprint by the crafty
Lewis followed by the quarterback running in the two-point conversion – but the real damage was done as the Bulldogs ran valuable time off the clock.
The Rams would touch the ball just three more times in the contest, with one drive ending on a punt, another on an interception and the final drive on downs.
The Rams will be off next week and will begin district play on Oct. 11 at home against Castleberry.