Saturday, October 4, 1997

Wylie 35, Eastland 16

By MARK WILSON / Abilene Reporter-News

Just one week after erupting for its best passing performance of the season, Wylie's running game came alive Friday night.

In front of a homecoming crowd, the Bulldogs rolled up a season-high 275 yards rushing on the way to a 35-16 District 6-3A win over Eastland at Bulldog Stadium.

The victory moved Wylie to 2-0 in district play, and 5-0 overall as the Bulldogs won for the 16th time in their last 17 games.

"Most important, it was a district win," said Wylie head coach Hugh Sandifer. "We don't think about it. We're just focused on playing every play with a nothing-to-lose attitude."

The Bulldogs' depth wore down the Mavericks (1-1, 1-4), with six ball carriers combining for 35 carries and those 275 yards. Quarterback Grant Gregg, who had passed for a career-high 247 yards last week in a 28-21 overtime win over Merkel, had his second straight game with more than 100 yards passing, with 116 yards.

"They have a lot of weapons, and they do a good job of giving you a variety of sets -- and being able to throw the ball makes it difficult," Eastland head coach Jeff Hooks said. "They put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of places. They did a great job, and our kids played hard. I don't think you can ask any more of them."

Eastland quarterback Justin Wharton, in only his third start of the season, passed for a game-high 194 yards, completing 11 of 25 with one interception.

"We're improving in that area," Hooks said. "We got protection sometimes well, sometimes not so well."

The Bulldogs struck the opening blow on their first series of the game, moving from their own 32-yard line after a 5-yard penalty in eight plays. Derick Hughes scooted over the right side for a 27-yard touchdown run with 8:07 left in the first quarter, capping the 68-yard drive.

On its next possession, Wylie put together an 8-play drive to go up 14-0, with Gregg carrying the final yard on a quarterback sneak up the middle.

The teams traded turnovers within less than a 1-minute span midway through the second quarter. Eastland's Kelton Moore pounced on a Wylie fumble with 7:29 left in the half, but Wylie linebacker R.D. Hussman intercepted an Eastland pass at the 6:41 mark.

But after Wylie moved to the Eastland 5-yard line, the Mavericks turned away the threat as a Bulldog pass in the end zone to Justin Groban fell incomplete.

Then the Mavs ignored the bad field position and marched 85 yards to the Wylie 10-yard line in 10 snaps. The big plays were a 47-yard strike thrown by Justin Wharton to Daryl Graham to get them near midfield and a 15-yard catch by Matt McCollum.

On fourth-and-8, with only 25 seconds to go before intermission, Graham kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut the gap to 14-3.

Whatever momentum the Mavs had built up just before halftime may have been destroyed when Wylie drove 68 yards in 14 plays on its first possession of the third quarter -- chewing up 7:11 off the clock.

Gregg again capped the series with a 1-yard run up the middle, as the Bulldogs went on top 21-3 with 1:37 to go in the third quarter.

"They ate a lot of clock up," Hooks said of the drive. "They set the tone for the second half, and I take my hat off to them. They're a good football team."

Sandifer said the team was disappointed with the way it played the final five minutes of the first half.

"No execution, and Eastland kept us out of the end zone," he said. "We had dropped our intensity, and laid it down on the field. We challenged them at halftime, and the kids responded to that.

"Our depth definitely wore them down. But I give them credit -- they kept fighting back."

Wylie stretched its lead to 28-3 at the 7:55 mark in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard plunge by fullback F. Paul Briscoe. The Bulldogs had taken possession of the ball at their own 40 after stopping Eastland on fourth-and-10 eight plays earlier.

Eastland scored two touchdowns within a 1:10 span in the fourth quarter, but a Wylie TD was sandwiched in between.

The Mavs pieced together a 75-yard, 16-play drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Wharton to Kelton Moore. That pulled Eastland within 28-10 with 2:44 remaining in the game.

But Wylie's Jason Allen, on only his second carry of the night, broke loose for a 68-yard TD run, reaching the end zone with 1:51 left as Wylie pulled out to a 35-10 margin.

On Eastland's first play after Wylie's kickoff, Wharton connected with Graham on a 58-yard scoring strike. One Wylie defensive back fell, and Graham slipped the tackle of another after catching the ball at the Wylie 27. After a Wylie timeout, Graham's extra point kick was wide right, leaving the score 35-16 with 1:34 to go.

The Bulldogs will host state-ranked Breckenridge next Friday night, while Eastland will play at Brady.

Eastland 0 3 0 13--16

Wylie 14 0 7 14--35

SCORING SUMMARY

Wylie--Derick Hughes 27 run (Grant Gregg kick)

Wylie--Gregg 1 run (Gregg kick)

Eastland--Daryl Graham 27 FG

Wylie--Gregg 1 run (Gregg kick)

Wylie--F. Paul Briscoe 2 run (Gregg kick)

Eastland--Kelton Moore 12 pass from Justin Wharton (Graham kick)

Wylie--Jason Allen 68 run (Gregg kick)

Eastland--Graham 58 bpass from Wharton (Kick failed)

Eastland Wylie

First downs 15 20

Rushes-yards 37-121 39-275

Passing yards 194 116

Comp-Att-Int 11-25-1 8-16-0

Punts 5-29 1-38

Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-1

Penalties-yards 4-26 7-51

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING --Eastland: Nathan Kidd 22-114, Martin McCollum 4-13, Danny Arnold 4-9, Justin WHarton 5-(-15), Kelton Moore 1-0, Travis Ray 1-0. Wylie: Jason Allen 2-70, Derick Hughes 11-68, Sean Bailey 7-49, F. Paul Briscoe 12-45, Danny Herrera 4-33, Grant Gregg 5-10.

PASSING --Eastland: Wharton 11-25-1, 194 yards, 2 TDs. Wylie: Gregg 8-16-0, 116 yards.

RECEIVING --Eastland: Daryl Graham 4-119, Kelton Moore 3-38, Bryan Brown 1-18, McCollum 1-15, Arnold 1-6, Ray 1-(-2). Wylie: Jon Crosswhite 3-34, Justin Groban 1-15, John Hooge 1-13, Briscoe 1-12, Patrick Barnes 1-9, Hughes 1-6.

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