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Strong finish helps Crosby down defending 4A state champion West Orange-Stark

September 22, 2018

The Crosby Cougars outscored the West Orange-Stark Mustangs by 21 points in the second half of their matchup.

That finish propelled the Cougars to a 35-24 victory over the Mustangs on Friday, Sept. 21 at Cougar Stadium and gives Crosby a 3-0 record as it prepares to start district play next week.

“I’m happy to be 3-0. If you’d have told me we’d be 3-0 right now, I would have been excited,” said coach Jeff Riordan. “We’re 3-0, but we have a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to fix.”

Down 17-7, Crosby forced a West Orange-Stark punt on the first drive of the second half.

The Cougars proceeded to march 81 yards down the field, culminating in a six-yard touchdown run by junior Noel Wright II.

The drive included a 35-yard pass from senior Jaiden Howard to senior Weslee Woodard on a third down and 14.

“We had to get the momentum going, “ Howard said. “I made my reads, saw him wide open, got him the ball, and asked him to do the work.”

That was one of four touchdown drives the Cougar offense would put together in the second half.

The others were: a 31-yard drive set up by a bad snap on a Mustang punt. It was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Christopher Cole. A 36-yard touchdown on an end around by senior Marquise Doucette on the first play of a drive that was set up by an interception and return from senior Vernon Hartfield, Jr. and an 17-yard touchdown scramble by Howard off of a bad snap.

“I was actually ready to run that play and then the snap was low,” Howard said of his touchdown run. “Normally the running back picks it up and tries to run with it, but I beat him to it, so I picked it up, and I stiff armed the man in front of me and I ran around; it felt good.”

In addition to the second half interception by Hartfield, the Crosby defense also had an interception by sophomore Deniquez Dunn in the second half. The Cougar defense also forced four three-and-outs in the second half.

The five first downs that the Mustangs got on their lone touchdown drive of the second half, a 79-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Jerren Terrell to senior Ja’marcus Ross, were the only first downs the Cougars allowed the entire second half.

“I told them all week if we don’t start fast and we don’t get first downs and touchdowns, we would be in for a dogfight,” said Riordan. “That’s what we got.”

Both Riordan and Howard said the bye week that Crosby contributed to the slow start.

“I hate bye weeks,” said Riordan. “You get into a rhythm and a routine with 15, 16, 17 year olds, and then you have a two week span where you’re not playing a game, and that’s what happened. It looked like we came to practice; we weren’t ready for a game, and when we finally settled in and realized we were in for a dogfight, we were okay.”

The win over West Orange-Stark moved Crosby to 3-0 in pre-district play. The other games were a 28-24 win over New Caney on Aug. 31 and a 49-47 win over Manvel on Sept. 7.

“I feel good,” Riordan said of heading into district play. “I think we’ve got a lot of things to fix, but we’re 3-0 and we beat very good teams, so you’ve got to feel good about that, but we’ve got to right the ship. We’ve got to fix some things so we’re not in dogfights.”

Crosby begins district play at Vidor on Friday, Sept. 28. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.

elliott.lapin@chron.com

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