CROSBYTON — Brannon Rodgers knew his Crosbyton defense might allow a touchdown or two from high-powered Ralls.
So “if you allow the six, stop the two” was the coach’s formula heading into the game.
Rodgers’ math was on point Friday.
Two touchdowns plus a pair of two-point stops equaled victory for Crosbyton on Friday night in the 86th annual Crosby County Championship game, a 13-12 Crosbyton victory.
“Ralls runs a lot of two-point conversions in the game, and we felt like that would be the difference in the game all week,” Rodgers said after the win, “and we worked hard on defending two-point plays and thinking we might give up a touchdown. But if we got the stop on two points, it might be the difference.”
Crosbyton (4-5, 2-1 in District 4-1A, Division II play) held the ball for more than 30 minutes Friday in a slow but steady attack, taking a 13-6 lead 29 seconds into the fourth quarter on a Michael Gutierrez run.
Ralls got the ball back and pounded it in six plays later when Jonathan Van Gundy broke two tackles and rumbled 26 yards for the score.
Crosbyton forced a fumble on the conversion try, and Ralls (6-3, 2-1) would have to try to stop the Chiefs for the first time that half. Crosbyton’s only other drive was a 19-yard, 90-play marathon of a series that lasted 10:12 and culminated in Gutierrez’s score.
It looked to be more of that as the Chiefs churned away behind Gutierrez — who finished with 110 hard-fought yards on 26 carries — but Austin Moreno underthrew a play-fake to an awaiting Kaleb Reese, who intercepted the ball and set up the Jackrabbitts at their own 36.
Ralls ran eight consecutive plays up the gut with Jonathan Van Gundy to bring the ball down to the 35 with 37 seconds left.
The Crosbyton defense held Ralls until a facemask penalty gave the Jackrabbitts new life on a fourth down, setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Reese’s attempt was short, and the Chiefs mobbed the field in celebration.
“The field goal came up a little bit short, but I couldn’t be dag gum prouder of the kids,” Ralls coach Tim James said. “They hung in there. When these two teams collide, it don’t matter if you’re 9-0 or 0-9, it’s going to be a battle.”
Both teams entered Friday’s clash hungry for playoff position and for the Crosby County trophy.
The game was a bit snippy early on, but both teams calmed down for a short match won up front.
Ralls had a big kickoff return by Van Gundy to start the second half with the game tied at 6, starting the Jackrabbits at the Crosbyton 15.
But the defense stuffed Ralls’ potent duo of Reese and Van Gundy, forcing a turnover on downs.
Adam Ortiz, who crept up from the safety position and made a touchdown-saving tackle on an earlier return, said the game was going to be grind-it-out from the start.
“It’s my senior year, I’ve never lost to those guys and I knew they had a good squad,” said Ortiz, who was one of several runners who complemented Gutierrez by taking it on the wing. “They’re good. They’re better than usual. ... We knew we were going to have a tough game and have to give it our all.”
Van Gundy finished with 166 rushing yards on 23 carries, but couldn’t break a run over 9 yards after his fourth-quarter score. Van Gundy started the game taking the ball up the gut on the triple-option attack and occasionally on the pitch, which helped lead to an option keeper by Ralls quarterback Fernando Zavala to open the scoring in the second quarter.
Crosbyton responded with a 15-play touchdown drive, ending with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Moreno to Austin Morris. Isaiah Henn missed the point-after kick, but Henn’s point-after in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
“It’s not the last game, we’re going to keep playing,” James said. “We’re going to make the playoffs. We got to take care of Smyer next week but we’re going to keep playing.”
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CROSBYTON 13, RALLS 12
Ralls 0 6 0 6 — 12
Crosbyton 0 6 0 7 — 13
RAL — Fernando Zavala 7 run (run failed); 9:52
CRO — Austin Morris 5 pass from Austin Moreno (kick failed); 1:13
CRO — Michael Gutierrez 8 run (Isaiah Henn kick); 11:31
RAL — Jonathan Van Gundy 26 run (run failed); 8:17
First downs 8 18
Rushes-yards 35-165 50-217
Passing yards 0 75
Comp.-att.-int. 0-3-0 5-9-1
Punts-avg. 1-41 2-21.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 2-5 5-30
RUSHING: Ralls, Jonathan Van Gundy 23-166, Fernando Zavala 2-4, Braxton Jones 1-0, Kaleb Reese 9-(-5); Crosbyton, Michael Gutierrez 26-110, Brien Berry 4-41, Brenner Fox 8-32, Adam Ortiz 6-22, Nathan Childers 3-7, Austin Moreno 3-5.
PASSING: Ralls, Zavala 0-3-0—0 ; Crosbyton, Moreno 5-9-1—75,
RECEIVING: Ralls, NA; Crosbyton, Nathan Pena 1-40, Morris 3-22, Gutierrez 1-13.