Prairie View 36, Union Christian 12
FARMERVILLE — Hayes Crockett and Layton Rainbolt combined for all five touchdowns as Prairie View took out Union Christian 36-12 Friday night in Bo Barton's debut as the Spartans' head coach.
While the offense played like it was Week 1 early, the defense was in charge from start to finish. Conceding only one first down in the second half, the Spartans held the Lions to 36 yards of total offense, including seven yards on 23 rushing attempts.
Prairie View received the opening kickoff and turned the ball over on downs on its initial possession.
Taking over at the Spartans' 48, UCA maintained possession for nearly seven minutes.
Nick Evans carried for 12 yards to convert a fourth-and-12, and Brandon Hunter's 19-yard reception off of a tipped pass helped set up first-and-goal at the 3.
Two plays later, Kentrell Spencer's fumble recovery at the 3 ended the threat.
Prairie View, however, gifted the Lions a score when Nick Evans recovered a loose ball in the end zone.
Trailing 6-0, the Spartans quickly moved into UCA territory at the 20 on Specner's 31-yard pickup.
Two plays later, the visitors turned the ball over on a low snap at the 23.
Evans carried for 11 yards on the first play of the Lions' next series, but Prairie View would not allow another first down until late in the third quarter. By then, the Spartans had the game firmly in hand.
A high snap and Cole Kinnaird's tackle in the backfield eventually forced UCA to punt from its own 8.
Evans, who put on a show in the Jam at the Grove, managed just 14 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game late in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
"Defensively, I thought we played well the whole game," Barton said. "(Evans) had three runs of 60 yards or better last week, and we completely took him away from everything he tried to do. I was really proud of our defense. Those kids are athletic."
Two series later, the Spartans started from the plus-35, compliments of Kolton Farrar's fumble recovery.
Five straight keepers by Crockett, including a 3-yard touchdown, evened the scoreboard with 4:22 remaining. Tanner Caldwell's leaping catch near the boundary marker on the right side of the end zone gave the Spartans an 8-6 lead.
Setting up at its own 31 after the kickoff, the Lions went backwards.
Austin Harper and Tyler Peters teamed up to stop a first down running play for a loss of three, Austin Carroll and Jacob Farr shut down a second down running attempt for negative-eight, and Jacob Farrar's six-yard sack on third down brought on the punting unit.
Regaining possession at their own 49, the Spartans needed just five plays to get back on the board before halftime.
Two incomplete passes brought up third down, before Rainbolt's 41-yard run led to a first-and-goal at the 10. Two plays later, Crockett scored from seven yards out. Crockett also ran the conversion as the Spartans' lead swelled to 16-6 with just 32 seconds remaining before intermission.
"Offensively, we played well after we got a few kinks worked out," Barton said. "Our offensive line played well and got the job done. The offensive line is probably the biggest exclamation point we have going right now."
When play resumed, the Spartans wasted no time putting the game out of reach.
Spencer chased down an errant pitch on UCA's third offensive play of the second half, enabling the Spartans to take over at the UCA 24. Rainbolt took it in from there two plays later as Prairie View opened up a 22-6 bulge.
Layton Woodard pounced on a muffed kickoff to put the Spartans' offense right back on the field at the UCA 30.
Rainbolt took it in from eight yards out three plays later as Prairie View widened the margin to 28-6 with 9:12 to play in the third quarter.
After an empty possession by the Lions, the Spartans covered 72 yards on nine plays.
Rainbolt's 36-yard run and Caldwell's 23-yard scamper helped set up Crockett's third touchdown from nine yards out. Caldwell's conversion expanded the difference to 36-6.
Fielding the ensuing squib kick at the 38, Brandon Hunter slipped a pair of tackles on his way to a 62-yard TD return to wrap up the scoring.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
"We made some mistakes, but a lesser type of kid — with everything that was going wrong — would have hung his head," Barton said. "I'll say this, the kids at Prairie View have a lot of fight in them. They kept playing, and I was proud of that."
Barton could also take pride in the Spartans' conditioning on a muggy, Louisiana August night.
"This was probably the hottest Friday we have had in a while, and I thought our kids handled it pretty well," Barton said. "I thought we held up to the heat and humidity pretty good. We didn't have any kids laying out on the field with cramps, which I was glad to see."
NUMBERS: Averaging 19 yards per carry, Rainbolt amassed 152 yards and two touchdowns on just eight totes. Prairie View rushed for 324 yards as a team, with Caleb Tanksley, Kinnaird, Caleb Christmas, Mason King, Gage Riles and Harper opening up the holes.
Crockett finished with 85 yards on 13 carries.
PENALTIES: Penalties were a problem for both teams as the Spartans were flagged 10 times for 90 yards and the Lions 11 times for 94.
"We only had one delay and one off-sides, which are the kind of penalties I don't like," Barton said. "I thought we did okay on penalties other than holding."
NEXT: Prairie View is at home Friday night against Baton Rouge CHEF.