The Golden Circle Game of the Week features a pair of teams looking to record their first victories of the young 2012 season, as the Dawson Bulldogs host the Kerens Bobcats Friday night at Ed Mitchell Field.
The Bobcats (0-1) were shut out in the first half a week ago, and scored only one offensive touchdown in their loss to Edgewood. That score came early in the final quarter on a 40-yard dash by senior RB Adreon Davis. With just minutes to play in the third quarter Kerens senior WR Kevin Townsel put his team on the board for the first time with an 80-yard kickoff return.
Kerens managed 315 yards for the night, but the always athletic Bobcats will be focused on translating their explosive offensive production onto the scoreboard in Week 1’s showdown against Dawson (0-1).
“You have to score points than 14 when you have that many yards,” Kerens coach Russell Anderson said.
The Bulldogs found the end zone frequently last week in their loss to Cross Roads, scoring in four quarters what it took them all of 10 games to accumulate a season ago. It was a promising start for a squad that came out with a chip on its shoulder, and fought hard to the very end of the nail-biter.
“We’re still a young team even though we got experience last year,” Hawkins said.
“Now we’ve just got to learn how to win.”
Junior RB Dalton Long led the charge, scoring all five Bulldog touchdowns while compiling over 200 yards on the ground. Long carried the bulk of the load, but was not the only productive rusher Hawkins had at his disposal. Dawson senior running back Brent Massey and junior Ty Skinner each gained over 60 rushing yards, keeping the defense guessing throughout the night.
“They’re much improved,” Anderson said. “He has them playing really hard. We both have concerns about playing bigger schools that have more kids.”
Kerens jumped on the Bulldogs early last season, scoring 20 first-quarter points en route to a 53-0 blowout victory. Quarterback Nate Betts rushed for 39 yards and passed for another 69 yards. Townsel began making his impact during the first quarter explosion, returning an interception 23 yards. The then-junior also logged one reception in the game, a 34-yard touchdown grab from Betts midway through the fourth period.
In last season's meeting with Kerens, Long recorded his first of three 100-yard outings, picking up 107 yards on 20 carries. Long’s performance would end up being just about all of the offense the struggling Bulldogs could muster in the loss.
The key to this year’s showdown may indeed be eliminating mistakes. Each team committed costly turnovers and penalties at inopportune times in their first action of the 2012 season. The team that is able to erase those miscues this week could have a sizable advantage Friday night.
“We made some silly mistakes that they took advantage of, and that’s what you’ve got to avoid,” Hawkins said after last week’s game. “They were really just little mistakes, but I guess you want those exposed early so that you can fix them.”
Kerens gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff and also had two turnovers that led to Edgewood points. But Anderson said the bigger problem was missed tackles, which he said may have been due to changes by the UIL to two-a-days practices. Schools were basically allowed only three traditional two-a-day practices in three weeks.
“When you get tired, you tend to tackle poorly,” Anderson said. “Our gas tank got low. We added tackling circuits this week and increased our conditioning during practice.”
Sports editor Todd Wills contributed to this story.
Kerens at Dawson
7:30 p.m. Friday
at Ed Mitchell Field
Records: Class 1A Kerens is 0-1.
Class 1A Dawson is 0-1.
Players to Watch: Kerens: QB Nate Betts, LB Mike Kline, WR/DB Kevin Townsel, OL/DL Dylan Woods. Dawson: RB/DB Dalton Long, WR/DB Marvin Manning, OL/LB Jake Strother, RB/DE Brent Massey.
When Kerens has the ball...
The Bobcats scored only two touchdowns in last Friday's contest, and in spite of gaining over 300 yards, only one of those scores came via their offense. Kerens did manage to move the ball on the ground and through the air, and WR Townsel's five receptions for 50 yards were a big part of what success the Bobcats did have. Another successful night through the air could keep Dawson off-balance and prove the difference this week in getting Kerens into the end zone.
When Dawson has the ball...
The Bulldogs racked up over 370 rushing yards in their Week 0 loss. Kerens will need to be on the lookout for the possibility of an emerging three-pronged ground attack in Dawson. Much like the Bobcats, the Bulldogs need to eliminate a handful of mistakes. If Dawson can manage to erase the miscues, its ball-control offensive philosophy could pay off nicely for the Bulldogs Friday night.
Kerens' dual-threat QB Betts will look to improve on last week's impressive performance, when he tallied 194 total yards. The Bobcats' signal caller could be in for another big night as this week's foe struggled to stop a similar QB in the first game of the year.
Junior RB Long carried the lion's share of the offense for Dawson a week ago, gaining 211 yards and scoring all five Bulldog touchdowns. Last year's leading rusher looks to have picked up right where he left off in 2011, and seems to have gained an even keener eye for finding creases in opposing defenses.
Dawson showed tremendous grit last Friday night, but were unable to corral an athletic QB with the ability to hurt them with his arm as well as his legs. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they face the same challenge again this week. If the offense can control the clock and keep Kerens off the field it will certainly help the home team pull out a win.
Kerens 22, Dawson 16.
— James Ratliff