DON HARDIN TEXAS BOWL

EARLY — The Red team overcame five turnovers and a 12-point deficit by creating four takeaways and tallying the final 21 points en route to a 37-18 victory over the Blue team in the Don Hardin Texas Bowl Saturday night at Longhorn Stadium.

Katy Faith West’s Cort Laird, of the Red team, was named the Offensive Player of the Game after rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another. Sidney’s Beau Cheatham, for the Blue team, was tabbed Defensive Player of the Game as he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

Trailing 18-16 with 3:31 left in the third period, the Red team dominated the remainder of the contest.

Red seized athe lead for good, 23-18, with 8:41 left to cap a four-play, 24-yard drive after Blue failed to convert on a fourth-and-1 run attempt.

Richland Springs’ Bryan Salinas scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard carry, while Laird passed to Motley County’s Bryant Taylor for the one-point conversion.

Blue’s ensuing drive ended when Rochelle’s Marty Flores was ruled to have fumbled while dropping back for a pass, which Red pounced on at the Blue 20. After losing 10 yards on the first two snaps, Salinas rumbled for 29 yards down to the 1. Three plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 3, Laird reached the end zone. The two-point kick by Cedar Park Summit’s Trevor Tanzola stretched the lead to 31-18 at the 6:25 mark.

The next possession for Blue went backwards as, after starting at their own 20 following a touchback, Blue was unable to convert a fourth-and-34 from its own 1.

Red then lost yardage all the way back to the 14, where Laird connected with Motley County’s Bryce Brady on a touchdown pass with 2:14 left for the final 19-point margin.

Blue was able to build a 12-0 lead late in first half as Red turned the ball over on its first four possessions.

Cheatham intercepted Salinas on the opening drive, then Salinas coughed up the ball in the red zone on the second possession. Blue’s third takeaway occurred when Salinas was stripped of the ball at the goal line while dropping back to pass, which Cheatham dove on for the first points of the game on the initial snap of the second period.

Trailing 6-0, Laird returned the kickoff to the Blue 27, but three snaps later Laird was picked off to end another scoring threat.

Blue responded with a 10-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with a 22-yard touchdown run by Flores, which extended the lead to 12-0 with 2:18 left before intermission.

Red closed the gap to 12-8 by halftime as a 47-yard kick return by Laird, coupled with a facemask penalty, placed the ball just 18 yards from the end zone. Four plays later, a 14-yard carry by Laird, followed by Salinas’ two-point kick, closed the gap to four points.

The first points of the second half belonged to Red as Salinas intercepted a Flores pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. The two-point kick from Tanzola gave Red a 16-12 edge with 5:08 to go in the third period.

The next drive for Blue resulted in their final points as a 10-yard touchdown pass from Flores to Sterling City’s Cole Parham pushed Blue back in front, 18-16, at the 3:31 mark of the third.

Red finished with 216 yards of total offense — 176 rushing and 40 passing.

Leading rushers were Laird with 83 yards, Salinas with 38, Cedar Park Summit’s Tyler Wells with 29, Balmorhea’s James Garcia with 24 and Brady, Tanzola and Taylor also carried the ball.

Laird passed for 31 yards while Salinas threw for 14. Hero Douglas of NYOS (16 yards), Laird (14 yards), Brady (14 yards) and Salinas (1 yard) made receptions.

The Blue team generated 275 yards — 157 on the ground and 118 through the air.

Top ground gainers were Flores with 70 yards, Isaiah Mendoza of Balmorhea with 54, Cheatham with 24 and Happy’s Zack Flatt and Robert Lee’s Austin Fowler also toted the pigskin.

Flores passed for 72 yards, Mendoza threw for 36 and Fowler had a 10-yard completion.

Leading receivers were Cheatham with five grabs for 24 yards, Parham with three receptions for 35 yards, Milford’s Carlos Venegas with two catches totaling 20 yards, Flores with a 25-yard catch and New Home’s Jonathan Garrett with a 7-yard reception.