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RB EJ Moore, bevy of receivers power Rouse in season-opening win over Weiss

Colby Gordon
American-Statesman Correspondent
Rouse wide receiver Jalen Becerra dives for the pass reception against the Weiss Wolves during the second quarter on Thursday at Bible Memorial Stadium in Leander.

LEANDER Plenty of the faces are the same, but that’s where the similarities stop for Rouse from last fall to this one.

Coming off a 1-9 season and dropping to Class 5A Division II, the Raiders put the rest of Central Texas on high alert they’re going to have a juggernaut of an offense for the foreseeable future Thursday with a 49-27 drubbing of Weiss at Bible Stadium.

“We have nearly 10 guys back on that side of the ball and I think we have an explosive offense,” Rouse coach Joshua Mann said. “We have a number of guys that can take it to the house at any time and you have to cover the entire field with our offense now.”

Raiders running back EJ Moore and wide receivers Drew Henson, Jalen Becerra and Troy Oliver are all a year bigger, stronger and faster, and it showed.

Moore ran for 148 yards and four touchdowns, Henson had rushing and receiving scores, Oliver hauled in a 63-yard TD and Becerra averaged more than 20 yards a catch.

Throw in an experienced offensive line and a potential star in new sophomore quarterback Mason Shorb — who threw for all of his 235 yards in the first half — and Rouse has all the ingredients to light up the scoreboard.

“We probably had the best training camp we’ve ever had with the kids paying attention to the details,” Mann said. “The seniors bonded with the juniors and they’ve embraced the sophomores who are playing. These kids just want to win and that’s why we had confidence coming in.”

And this isn’t an offense that looks like it’s going to slow down any time soon as Moore, Oliver and Becerra are all underclassmen like Shorb.

“We have a new offensive coordinator who has a good playbook, so we were confident,” Moore said. “We just did what we were taught and what we’ve been working on since June.”

The confidence coming from Rouse was apparent from the start as it began the game recovering an onside kick that set the contest’s tone.

Shorb hit Henson for a 32-yard scoring strike three plays later and the Raiders would never trail.

“I grayed a little bit thinking about starting the season with an onside kick this week,” Mann joked. “But our special teams coordinator insisted on it and he was right.”

Weiss (0-1) took advantage of a short field from an interception later in the quarter and scored on Devin Cross’ 13-yard run, but Rouse (1-0) responded in less than minute on its ensuing drive with Shorb’s long touchdown pass to Oliver.

Moore capped off two long drives — including one that started at the Raiders 1 after a goal-line stand — in the second quarter with a pair of 5-yard TD runs, then reached the end zone from the 9 just before halftime as Rouse led 36-13 at the break.

Henson’s 21-yard scoring jaunt and another 5-yard touchdown run from Moore sandwiched Weiss quarterback Dior Bradfield’s 16-yard TD strike to Price Morgan in the third, with the Wolves duo hooking up again from the 21 in the fourth.

Bradfield finished with 304 yards and three touchdowns passing — also throwing a 22-yard TD to Tavian Cord in the second quarter — and Morgan had an impressive 10 catches for 146 yards to pace Weiss in former Hutto coach Steve Van Meter’s debut leading the Wolves.

“Rouse out-coached us, out-schemed us, were more physical and played with a lot more polish than us,” said Van Meter, who certainly didn’t hold back his true feelings of the night. “Overall, it was a butt-kicking. … We’re young, but we can’t use that as an excuse. We fielded varsity players and we just have to be more physical. We play Hendrickson in two weeks, so we need to grow up really fast.”

Meanwhile, spurred on by its experience last season, Rouse plans to keep repeating its performance from Thursday going forward.

“It’s just fun winning,” Moore said. “We’re coming back with a vengeance this year. We’re going to be something special, I can promise you that.”