HONDO—The Nile and the Mississippi wouldn’t have been enough for Three Rivers, November 23, in its area-round match with Mason. The Punchers may not have been perfect—as if that’s any consolation for their last 26 opponents—but more than good enough in a 35-13 win.
“At times we played really well,” said head coach Kade Burns, but, “at times not as well.” Burns’ team now faces his former school, Thorndale, in the regional-round game.
The Bulldogs scored first and last, but Mason, hoping to return to Cowboys Stadium to defend its Class-1A, Division I state title, was as dominant between those TDs as it has been on most any late summer or early autumn night in 2011-12.
If Three Rivers’ opening touchdown close to midway through the first quarter bothered the Punchers, it took them 35 seconds to dim the memory: talented Rio Schmidt launched a 41-yard run by bouncing off a Bulldog like the better of two bumper cars at the fair. “He hit me, and you learn to go with it,” said Schmidt, who carried the ball 14 times for 134 yards.
Quarterback Elliot Bibb swept right end on the FieldTurf of Barry Field for the remaining 19 yards. “I was proud we responded in two plays,” declared Burns.
Late in the opening period, his squad responded again, as Schmidt made it 14-7 with a plunge from the one.
Three Rivers, led by its fine senior back, Wesley Guzman (139 rushing yards), chewed up ground much of the cool night but didn’t score. “We did well on short-yardage plays, yes,” said Mason defensive coordinator, Paul Smith, “but we didn’t do a real good job of tackling in the middle of the field.”
Bibb and Schmidt were a superb tandem on a 91-yard drive in the second quarter. Bibb, with five completions in the game, combined with Rio for one on this march and Kramer Watson for another. The quarterback made a dandy run of 23 yards for the TD. He rushed for 99 on just eight carries.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” advised Three Rivers’ head coach Randy Palmer. “Burns and his staff are doing a fantastic job.” For the four people out there who don’t know: 15-0 in 2011, 11-0 this season.
Bibb began the next drive by catching a pass—one thrown by the Bulldogs’ Hagan Johnston. The Punchers had the ball at the Three Rivers 43.
Luis Castillo took the reins and threw 22 yards to Miguel Castillo. Luis covered the remaining territory on two attempts. Mason had scored on four consecutive possessions in under 14 minutes. 28-7 was the halftime story.
There wasn’t any scoring in the third quarter, but the Punchers stopped Three Rivers on “two goal-line stands in one.” The ‘Dogs got to the 11 and couldn’t get into the end zone, but a penalty kept the drive in progress. Then they reached the seven but no closer.
“That was good for us, real big” said Smith. “We shut them down.”
Raul Silguerro and Schmidt did almost all the rushing on an 84-yard, late-third-to-early-fourth-quarter odyssey. Bibb threw 34 yards to Cody Wood for the TD.
Thorndale topped La Villa 28-7 and will meet Mason at Mustang Stadium in Marble Falls, 7:30, Friday, November 30.
“It’s not about me,” insisted Burns. He was the head coach for two years before becoming the Punchers’ mentor in 2011. “It’s about the two teams, two sets of ball clubs,” he continued, and his being there so recently with obvious ties, “doesn’t matter.”
What matters to Paul Smith is his defense. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he advised. “It’s not a question of effort, but we have to have better defense if we are to advance in the playoffs.”
Rio Schmidt was asked about the effects of being the defending state champions. “We’re the team of 2012,” he asserted. “Last year was great, but we’re in the now.
“It doesn’t matter what you did in the past to whom you play, so why would you focus on it?
“Play every game as if it’s your last—then it won’t be.”