West Rusk Raiders roll past Mineola

Posted 9/15/22

There aren’t many ways to couch a decisive defeat of the home team. The West Rusk Raiders scored touchdowns on seven of their eight possessions Friday at Meredith Memorial Stadium and handed Mineola a 46-13 defeat.

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West Rusk Raiders roll past Mineola


There aren’t many ways to couch a decisive defeat of the home team. The West Rusk Raiders scored touchdowns on seven of their eight possessions Friday at Meredith Memorial Stadium and handed Mineola a 46-13 defeat.

A description of the game has to start with the wide offensive line splits which West Rusk employs. Those wide splits are designed to create just a bit more running room along the line of scrimmage. When the splits are combined across a standard five-man offensive line, it can have a telling effect.

Against a gap or stunting defense, wide splits can be disastrous for an offense as high risk comes to offset the high reward. However, against a defense which reads and reacts, wide splits just make it tougher to decipher where the offense is attacking and much more difficult to make the tackle.

West Rusk churned out 523 yards from scrimmage. Time and again, their talented ball carriers sliced through gaps in the defense, often within reach of defenders. The offensive scheming of West Rusk combined with the quickness and strength of their backs left the Jackets making many tackles in the secondary.

Just to prevent Mineola from concentrating exclusively on defending the running game, West Rusk employed an accompanying passing attack. It featured both a vertical component and a series of wide receiver screens.   

The best schemes in the world have to be executed. The Raiders played near error-free football.

The Jackets scored on their only two significant drives of the night. Down three scores in the second quarter, Mineola crossed midfield when quarterback TJ Moreland connected with wide out Brady Shrum for a big gain down to the Raider 36. A penalty pushed the Jackets back to midfield. 

Dawson Pendergrass cut back through the left side of the Raider defense – behind a nice block by D.J. Newsome which collapsed the edge – and picked up 22 yards. On a fourth-and-10 from the Raider 23-yard line, Moreland was sacked with a big loss, however, West Rusk grabbed his face mask and the penalty gave the Jackets a first down on the 11-yard line.

Two plays later Pendergrass cut through the weak side of the defense to score. West Rusk led 20-6.

The Raiders answered three plays later. A wide receiver screen went for 35 yards, and the visitors scored on a 25-yard play which was a chockfull of missed tackles. The Jackets were clearly frustrated and it was obvious in their tackling issues. 

In one of the notable individual plays of the night, Isaiah Gardner busted through the line to block the extra point. He also stuffed a play on the goal line in the Raiders’ first scoring drive. There were other notable performances. 

Braydon Alley and Pendergrass made timely plays in the secondary, knocking a number of passes away. Edgar Rubio and Chris Rossie had strong moments at their defensive end positions, despite the fact that both were facing oversized West Rusk linemen.  

Pendergrass ran for 157 yards on 20 carries. He also knocked a touchdown pass out of a receiver’s hands, and early in the contest, corralled an errant punt snap. He had to race back deep into Mineola territory, field the ball, avoid two defenders, run upfield and punt the ball. It averted an early disaster. 

He also figured prominently in the Jackets’ second score. At the end of the third quarter,

 trailing 40-6, Moreland hit consecutive passes to Mario Bautista and moved the ball into Raider’s territory. Pendergrass carried the ball for 22 yards down to the Raider 30-yard line. 

On the next snap, Moreland faked the outside lead to the right with Pendergrass, pulled up and lofted a perfect pass to Alley who ran a go route from his offside wing position. The ball dropped in just over his shoulder and Alley accelerated into the end zone. 

In a game which was dominated by the opponent, there were some bright spots.

Few football teams have the size, speed and strength that West Rusk is enjoying this year. The fact that they executed well made their effort especially noteworthy. The Raiders averaged 65 yards per drive on the night. This translates into a lot of attention to detail and discipline. 

The Yellowjackets are not going to be the last team to fall to West Rusk this year, and West Rusk is not going to be the last good team that Mineola faces.

The Jackets are going to have to capture those moments of tactical success – like the back-to-back stops against the West Rusk ground game early in the second quarter – and build a path to realize those successes over the course of a game.

The Yellowjackets travel to Bullard on Friday for the last pre-district game of the season.