River Oaks 28, Prairie View 18
River Oaks ran 52 offensive plays Friday night, 27 of which were fullback dives by Tyler Avery. The no frills approach proved effective as Avery plodded for 156 yards in the Mustangs' 28-18 MAIS District 5-2A victory.
Avery had plenty of help as the Mustangs methodically chiseled away at the Spartans behind linemen John David Robertson, Alec Keomalithong, Lowell Ashbrook, Sam Conti, Michael Hollman and tight end John Ethan Hughes.
"Our kids battled hard against a very well-coached, very physical River Oaks team," Prairie View coach Bo Barton said. "Overall, I was proud of my kids. We had a couple of kids play through ankle injuries. In some cases, we were probably out-weighed by 100 pounds on the offensive and defensive line. They were more physical than us on both sides of the trenches. We did a lot of positive things tonight. We were just over-matched in some areas."
Dictating the tempo from the opening kickoff, the Mustangs marched 60 yards on 12 plays.
Facing third-and-four three plays into the initial series, Drake Tannehill moved the chains with an 8-yard pass to Cody Tindall. It was the Mustangs' only pass attempt of the evening.
Rico Gonzalez eventually capped the drive, which took 6:29 off the clock, with a 9-yard run to the right side. Bryce Hanson booted the PAT to put the visitors up 7-0. River Oaks would never relinquish the lead.
Prairie View threatened on its first series before stalling in the red zone.
Starting from their own 36, the Spartans quickly advanced into River Oaks territory on a 34-yard screen pass to Layton Rainbolt.
Shortly afterward, Rainbolt carried for eight yards on fourth-and-two for a first down at the 14.
Moments later, Brandon Dorsey batted down a fourth down pass at the goal line.
Regaining possession at its own 49 after forcing a punt, Prairie View needed just one play to get on the board. Taking a swing pass from Hayes Crockett, Rainbolt side-stepped a tackle in the backfield, picked up a pancake block from Layton Woodard at the 45 and sprinted 51 yards down the left sideline.
An unsuccessful 2-point try left the Spartans trailing 7-6 with 8:54 to play in the half.
River Oaks answered with a six-play, 51-yard drive, which culminated with Tannehill's 27-yard TD scamper to the left side — the Mustangs' longest play of the night. Hanson's PAT upped the margin to 14-6, 5:56 before intermission.
Twenty seconds later, the Mustangs' defense came up big.
Catching a fumble in the air after a big hit by Hollman on a pass in the backfield, Tyler Hitt rambled 25 yards for the defensive score. After Prairie View was flagged for encroachment, Avery's 2-point conversion padded the Mustangs' margin to 22-6.
Prairie View's offense was on the field for only 14 plays in the first half.
"I told the kids we had to take care of the ball and score when got it because they were going to play keep away," Barton said. "They scored three offensive touchdowns and we scored three offensive touchdowns. The turnover for the touchdown was huge."
Opening the second half on offense, the Spartans marched 66 yards on seven plays. Tanner Caldwell's 22-yard reception and a pair of first down runs by Crockett led to Rainbolt's 5-yard touchdown run as the Spartans narrowed the deficit to 22-12.
Following an exchange of punts, the Spartans took over on downs at their own 40 when linebacker Blake Ray stopped a fourth-and-five for a short gain.
Crockett threw to Caldwell for 19 yards on the next play from scrimmage before completing the six-play drive with a 27-yard keeper. Unable to tack on the conversion, the Spartans trailed 22-18 with 9:50 remaining.
"Prairie View has a good team. They have tremendous speed with their skills guys," River Oaks coach Robert Hannah said. "We came in wanting to stay away from the big play. We only gave up one in the first half. In the second half, the quarterback killed us."
Gonzalez returned the ensuing squib kick eight yards to the River Oaks 49.
Seven snaps later, on third-and-one from the 26, Avery waded past the line of scrimmage and accelerated into the end zone as River Oaks expanded its lead to 28-18 with 6:16 on the clock.
"I thought our offensive line did a tremendous job," Hannah said. "We were able to get some big first downs, especially toward the end of the game. I thought that was a big touchdown at the end."
Avery was also a factor defensively as his stop in the backfield for a three-yard loss, helped disrupt the Spartans' next series.
River Oaks eventually stopped the Spartans on downs at the Prairie View 42.
Three plays later, Samuel Alexander punted the ball into the end zone, and the Spartans began their final series from the 20.
A false start and Alexander's second down sack backed the Spartans up to the six. After a pass interference flag kept the drive going, Bradley Black batted down a fourth down pass.
Taking over at the 23, River Oaks ran the final 1:58 off the clock.
"They won the first half and we won the second half," Barton said. "They do a lot of things that cause us problems, and we do a lot of things that cause them problems. I knew there were going to be matchup issues all week long."
Prairie View (6-3, 1-1) closes out the regular season at Claiborne Academy on Friday night, needing a victory to clinch a wildcard bid into the playoffs.
"Claiborne is a playoff game for us, and every game after that is a playoff game," Barton said. "If we don't win the Claiborne game, I feel like we miss the playoffs."
River Oaks (4-5, 1-0) can clinch the district championship at home Friday night vs. Glenbrook.
Notes: Kentrell Spencer, Tanner Caldwell, Kolton Farrar, Blake Ray, Jacob Walker, Austin Harper, Cole Kinnaird and Caleb Tanksley were recognized during a pregame Senior Night ceremony. ... Returning from an injury, Tindall saw his first action since Week 2. River Oaks held a 27:26-20:34 advantage in time of possession. ... David Nordman, who spent the past three years as Principal at Bastrop High, is in his first year as Headmaster at River Oaks. Nordman was named to his current position when longtime Headmaster Dr. Tom Middleton retired at the end of the 2015-16 school year. ... Beekman offensive line coach John Nix, a River Oaks alumnus, accompanied the Mustangs on the sideline.