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HS Football: Late Score Breaks Three-Game Skid for Cavaliers

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 10/27/2023

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NEW CANEY, TX -- The New Caney Eagles (4-5) fell to the visiting College Park Cavaliers (4-5) as both teams desperately fought for their spot in the upcoming playoffs.

Both head coaches understood the situation their teams were in. A win for College Park would clinch their playoff spot in the fourth-place position, while New Caney can win out and snag the same fourth-place spot.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, College Park Head Coach Kyle Coats spoke on the mindset of his squad going into the Friday night matchup.

“We were in the mindset that these guys are coming to knock us off,” said Coats. “We bought wholeheartedly into that mentality, and it showed.”

Rodrigo Bravo Jr. got the start for the Cavaliers in the hopes that he would get the offense jumpstarted as a larger passing threat. His attempt to get College Park down the field on the opening drive ended with penalties forcing a punt.

New Caney benefited from great field position due to a shanked Cavalier punt, and the Eagles immediately began their march down the field. The drive went all the way to the one-yard line of College Park, where four straight plays failed to breach the goal line.

The College Park defense made a stop and prevented the Eagles from getting on the board, but the stop pinned the offense on their own one-yard line. Bravo and the rest of the offense got out of the shadow of their own goalpost with lengthy passes to receivers in open space. The drive was humming along before another failure to convert on fourth down gave the ball back to New Caney.

Entering the second quarter, both teams continued to suffer from a lack of offensive consistency. The Cavaliers suffered from penalties at the line of scrimmage, while the Eagles could not push against the College Park front seven.

The seal was finally broken on a 54-yard rushing touchdown from New Caney quarterback Hunter Taylor. The junior took a read option to the right side of the line of scrimmage and hit open space, outrunning the College Park secondary for the 7-0 lead.

College Park responded on their next drive with a 78-yard pass from Bravo Jr. to Jordan Styles. The receiver was tackled inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line, setting the Cavaliers up with their best shot at a score. A couple of plays later, Conner Dunphy broke across the middle of the endzone for a nine-yard score that tied the teams at seven midway through the second quarter.

After getting their first score, New Caney’s offense picked up where they left off. Some explosive runs from running back Dave Stewart got the offense inside College Park territory. The drive got inside the Cavalier five-yard line, but the offense faltered again. The Eagles coaching staff elected to kick a field goal and take the points instead of running the risk. The kick sailed through the uprights and reestablished New Caney in front, 10-7.

The Cavs had a shot at scoring before the first half ended, with just over a minute left. A deep shot from Bravo Jr. nearly came down in the endzone for College Park, but a deflection kept the score at 10-7, with the Eagles set to receive the second-half kick.

The Eagles opened the second half with difficulties on the kickoff return, setting the team up inside their five-yard line. Some pressures from the Cavaliers forced a short drive that ended in a punt from the endzone.

Conner Dunphy set his team up with great field position after demonstrating his elusiveness on the punt return. From the 10-yard line, the Cavaliers only needed one play to reach the endzone as Brayden Lee-Denton took the ball from the backfield into the endzone for a 14-10 Cavalier lead.

New Caney took the following drive down the field with efficient plays. Another attempt to score from inside the five-yard line ended in a touchdown on a quarterback sneak that pushed the Eagles back in front 16-14 after a blocked extra point.

The back-and-forth affair carried over into the fourth quarter, with the Cavaliers taking a chance to respond. A 63-yard touchdown pass to Dunphy put College Park back in the driver's seat with a 20-16 lead.

Like they had done all game, the Eagles went on another lengthy drive toward the endzone to reclaim the lead. Upon reaching the red zone, the College Park defense held the line and kept New Caney from breaching the goalline again. The Eagles settled for another field goal and a one-point deficit, with plenty of time left for the team to mount another drive.

“[The defense] has done an awesome job all season,” said Coats on his unit getting red zone stops. “When we ask those kids to fight, they will fight.”

To run out the remaining clock, the Cavaliers went with a run-heavy attack on offense. The strategy did take some time off the clock, but it also got another score on the board. Lee-Denton took a handoff to the right side of the line of scrimmage and punched the run in for his second score of the night.

Needing a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion, New Caney returned to the field with 4:35 left on the clock. A fourth and one was a nail-biting opportunity for both teams to change the game in their favor.

The conversion attempt was successful for the Eagles on a handoff to Kayden Cooper. With the drive still alive, New Caney took a chance on a run from Taylor, who took the rush into the endzone. A play-action pass to the corner of the endzone connected for the 27-point tie.

College Park was afforded just over a minute for their team to get a game-winning score, and not wanting to play for overtime, the Cavaliers went aggressive. This mentality paid off with a deep shot from Bravo Jr. to Carter Deering, which set up the offense in field goal range. Instead of playing it safe and taking the three points, College Park decided to take a shot to the endzone, which was brought down by Cole Snodgrass for the score.

“We saw a little spark from [Bravo Jr.] at the end of the game last week, so we gave him a chance,” said Coats on his quarterback. “He made big things happen for us.”

Needing a miracle touchdown to tie, New Caney attempted a passing play inside College Park territory to reach the endzone. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the attempt was brought down outside the endzone, ending the game in a 34-27 win for the Cavaliers.

“That was a program win,” said Coats. “But this game is done, and we will enjoy it for the next 24 hours. Then we will turn the page and move on to our next one.”

The Cavaliers will play for a chance to clinch their playoff spot against the Conroe Tigers on Friday, November 3rd, while New Caney gets a shot at finishing at .500 with a game against Caney Creek.

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