By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
They call games like Saturday’s Soul Bowl a “defensive struggle,” but it wasn’t the defenses doing the struggling.
However, there was plenty of struggling going on in BTW’s 12-6 win over Green Oaks in the traditional battle at Leonard C. Barnes Stadium.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Lions’ coach Gary Cooper in a quote that might be a candidate for understatement of the year, “but it’s a win.”
Mostly the two teams were struggling to remember the snap count. Struggling to keep offensive linemen from going down field on pass plays. Struggling to not have illegal blocks.
Both teams had players spending much of the second half struggling to get up as play after play after play was disrupted with cramping issues.
Plus, there was a referee struggling to decide whether the final Green Oaks play was an incomplete pass or a touchdown in the back of the end zone … so he called both. (Eventually, it was ruled a touchdown.)
You might also have to struggle to find any ice in the general area of Milam Street after the Lions dumped bucket after bucket on the coaching staff as the clock headed toward 0:00.
Not insignificantly, there were also two groups that didn’t struggle – the bands for both schools both during the game and especially at halftime. This is the Soul Bowl, and you’d better bet that aspect of the game matters just as much as the final score.
Maybe a little too much at times.
It was hard not to get caught up in all that comes with the Soul Bowl. An $18 admission. Almost as many people outside the gates as inside. Tailgating around the BTW campus all day. The expected social media back-and-forth in the days leading up to the game.
“There were so many distractions for the kids,” Cooper said. “Sometimes they get carried away with it. But for our school and our community, this is very big.”
What was also big was a fourth-quarter interception return of 20 yards by linebacker Andrew Houston with 2:47 to play to make it 12-0.
Up until that point, the only score had come on a 5-yard run by Frank Gafford with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.
But as both teams battled through their own mistakes, you never knew when the next big play was coming. Two plays after BTW had been stopped on fourth-and-two at the 20, Houston’s pick basically ended it.
“All I saw was green (grass),” Houston said. “We had been waiting on that play and the coaches had put us in the right position. When we saw it, we just had to execute.”
“Our defense played lights out all night long,” Cooper said. “The kids played with high intensity and high energy all night.”
After Houston’s interception TD, what followed was perhaps the longest 2:47 in the history of football with penalties (of course), more cramps and confusion. Highlighting that confusion was a fourth down pass from Green Oaks’ Tovoras Lee to Delarrious Dorsey in the end zone in which the back judge signaled incompletion and touchdown all the same motion, as if he were bringing in an airplane to the gate.
The BTW coaches didn’t know if the next snap was for another play or the two-point conversion.
By then, though, there were only 12 seconds remaining and the ice buckets were flowing all along the Lions’ sideline as BTW climbed to 2-1.
It was too little, too late for the Giants (1-2).
“We came out a little flat and had some turnovers that hurt us,” said first-year coach James Bradford. “But I’m proud of my defense. Once again, we didn’t give up any points and we are still trying to find our identity. A game of this magnitude, the extra is going to be a part of it. We did a lot of things that kept stealing the momentum. Offensively, we are going to change some things and fit what we can do.”
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