Rangers shut down Unicorns, earn 9th straight trip to playoffs
NEW BRAUNFELS — Smithson Valley clinched its ninth consecutive trip to the playoffs Friday night after outlasting New Braunfels 20-3 at Unicorn Stadium.
The Rangers (5-4, 5-2) were shut out in the first half but used a 20-point onslaught in the final two quarters to keep their season alive. Running back Jacob Forton provided a spark with a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the Rangers the lead for good.
“Coach (Larry Hill) gave us a great halftime talk and we knew what was at stake,” Forton said. “We had to come out and hit them hard.”
Smithson Valley tacked on a pair of Mason Reid field goals later in the third quarter and turned to its defense to salt away the win. Each of the Unicorns’ first three possessions in the fourth quarter ended with a turnover on downs.
The Rangers’ Darlington Frasch added a 1-yard TD run with a minute and 50 seconds remaining in the game.
New Braunfels (4-6, 3-4) dominated the first half, outgaining Smithson Valley 200 yards to 47 and racking up 12 first downs to the Rangers’ three. However, a 29-yard field goal by Chase Mercer was all New Braunfels had to show for its efforts prior to intermission.
The Unicorns had an opportunity to vault ahead by two scores late in the second quarter when they drove to a first-and-goal situation at Smithson Valley’s 3-yard line. A tackle for loss and false start penalty pushed New Braunfels to the 6, and Ranger defensive back Jalen Nutt jumped a short route on third down to intercept the ball just outside the goal line.
“I knew it was coming,” Nutt said of the interception. “We’ve been practicing it all week.”
The Rangers advance to face Austin Lake Travis in the first round of the postseason.