The Eustace Bulldogs used a potent ground game led by junior quarterback Alejandro Sanchez Friday night, grinding out a 56-7 win over a feisty and spirited Quitman Bulldog team who refused to quit and went down fighting.
“You have to pay a price to become a champion and you must never quit regardless the situation and I did not see any quit in the team Friday night,” Quitman Head Coach Bryan Oakes said. “As coaches we have had to coach effort and discipline. We saw the effort last week and the discipline this week. This coming week we are finally going to get to coach football. I think you will see the difference against Beckville. Our guys are beginning to understand the process we are trying to teach them to be successful. “
Eustace stuck to the ground game taking the opening kick-off and methodically reeled off 14 plays in just over four minutes setting up a one yard run by Clifton Johnson for a touchdown. The point after failed and Eustace led 6-0 at the 7:55 mark of the first quarter.
Quitman returned the ensuing kick-off to their own 26 yard line. Senior running back A.J. Dunn blasted through the defense for a 12-yard gain on the first play. A pair of Trey Berry runs and an incomplete pass failed to move the chains and Josh Medlin punted to the Eustace 21 yard line. Eustace drove into Quitman territory where Garrett Taylor intercepted a pass and returned it the Quitman 30 yard line. The quarter ended with Eustace leading 6-0.
On a second and nine Eustace’s speedy Sanchez saw daylight and sprinted 71 yards for a touchdown with 10:51 left in the half to score. Sanchez would go on to rush for 152 yards on 19 carries to lead the potent Eustace offense. The successful two-point conversion made it 14-0.
Quitman was unable to muster any offense the rest of the half while Eustace would score two more times on runs of 48 and 39 yards to take a 28-0 lead at intermission. The Bulldogs, already missing standout defensive and offensive lineman Jeremy Peek to concussion issues also lost the services of running back and rugged linebacker Dunn to an MCL sprain. Peek is out for the season while the determined Dunn will hopefully return for the opening district contest at Winnsboro.
“It’s going to be to be tough to be without, not only A.J.’s (Dunn) talent, but his leadership on the field. But it will give someone else the opportunity to step up and will hopefully help in the long run,” Oakes added. “We did not do a good job defensively, but we know what we must work on and that is what we will do in practice. I challenged the team after the game. I know what it takes to be a champion and we are going to be coaching them to be champions. It is going to be tough, but this is a dedicated group of young men who have the desire to do great things for Quitman football.”
Oakes said a couple of his Bulldogs were impressive. “I got on Stephen Love real hard early in the game. He simply gritted his teeth, said ‘Yes sir” and went on to have an outstanding effort. Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Oakes noted. “And we moved up freshman Ty Holland from the JV. After A.J. got hurt, we had to make adjustments and even if he is small, Holland came up big and played tough. Holland is not afraid to hit anybody.”
Quitman came out fired up to start the second half, taking the kick-off and driving 65 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a fourth down toss to Love. Medlin completed four of five passes on the drive, tossing three to Love and one to Holland. The point after kick by Hugo Ramirez was good and the score was 28-7 with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
Eustace struck quickly scoring on the second play from scrimmage after the kick-off on a 48-yard run with 5:52 left in the quarter taking a 34-7 lead. Quitman fumbled the kick-off, but this time the hometown Bulldog defense held on a fourth and four at the 11-yard line with a great stop by the defensive line.
Quitman became their own worst enemy when a bad snap on fourth down gave Eustace the ball on the home team’s seven yard line. Eustace scored with :33 left in the third quarter to take a commanding 41-7 lead. Eustace would score two more times in the final quarter, the final touchdown with just :43 seconds to go for the final 56-7 tally.
Along with the rushing effort of Sanchez, Eustace running back Johnson ran for 126 yards on 17 carries while the visitors’ defense held Quitman offensive output to 127 total yards.
“I can’t fault our team for effort because it was there. The coaching staff believes in this team and so do their families and this community. We are getting better every time we step on the field. I feel we are going in the right direction,” Oakes acknowledged. “This team wants to be good and they are willing to do what it takes to get there. I could not be prouder of a group of young men than I am of this team. They are beginning to catch on to what we are trying to coach them to do in order to be successful. ”
Quitman will have its hands full Friday when they travel deep into the Piney Woods to take on a 2-0 Beckville team. Beckville is perennial playoff team, but Oakes said his team would be ready. “We believe we can compete and win when we go to Beckville. We will make some adjustments due to our injury situation, but we will come out ready to play,” Oakes stated. “It all comes down to execution and we must do a better job of it. We do that and we will be successful.”
Kick-off will be at 7:30 p.m. Beckville is located southeast of Longview and seven miles south of Tatum.