By Jennifer Craig
The Stamford Bulldogs earned a trip to Arlington to defend their Class 1A, Division I title with a nail-biting victory for the second straight week. The Dogs defeated the Hico Tigers 34-26 at San Angelo Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs didn't put the cap on the victory until Bo Wimberly picked off a Hico pass just after the Tigers had taken their final time out at 2:33 left in the game. The cap was sealed when Wimberly converted a third and three to a first down with just 1:01 left; the first down let Wimberly go to the victory formation to run out the clock.
The Tigers served notice early that they had come to play. Cade Hitzfeld took the ball on the first play and went around right end 49 yards for a Hico touchdown. The extra point try hit a lineman in the back so the Tigers had a 6-0 lead.
Stamford was unable to move but a 57 yard punt by Wimberly set the Tigers back to their own six yard line.
Hico ran for one first down but Wood was stopped on the second third down play of the drive, which forced a punt. Dakota Mullins put too much angle on the punt as he tried to kick away from James Washington and the result was a 15 yard punt and good field position for the Bulldogs.
Washington gained a yard on a reverse then Wimberly called his own number for runs of four and eleven yards to move to the Hico 25. Eric Sanchez gained a yard on a run and Wes Hutchinson picked up another yard on a pass play. On third down Wimberly found Ligon West for a 23 yard touchdown. Washington added the PAT and the Bulldogs had a 7-6 lead and would never trail again in the game.
The third down conversion was one of eight out of 12 converted by the Dogs in the game. They were also two for two on fourth down conversions. All five of the Bulldog touchdowns came on either third or fourth down.
A penalty on the kick return pushed Hico back inside their ten yard line again, and again the Bulldog defense forced a punt.
The Bulldogs took over after the punt at the Tiger 32. Ty McLemore gained a yard through the middle. Wimberly earned a first down with a 12 yard run around left end. McLemore hit the middle again and gained a yard to the 19. Wimberly faked a reverse to Washington but the Hico defenders had the play sniffed out for a three yard loss. Hutchinson went up to catch an eleven yard pass to end the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter Wimberly worked the middle for 10 yards to convert both the first down and the touchdown. Washington's kick was blocked but the Bulldogs had a 13-6 lead.
Stamford would get the ball back just two plays later when Tyler Turner fumbled after a nice run, and the Bulldogs recovered at the Hico 45. Two plays yielded zero yards. Wimberly found Washington cutting across the middle; the OSU bound senior made a double clutch catch then sailed 45 yards for the touchdown. His extra point kick upped the Bulldog lead to 20-6.
Hico used a five play drive to stay close. The touchdown came on a 46 yard pass from Wood to a wide open Dallas Anderson. Sanchez knocked down a pass attempt for the two point conversion so the Bulldog lead stood at 20-12.
The Bulldogs weren't able to move on the next possession despite one of Washington's patented one handed grabs on third down. The punt into the wind only went for three yards so the Tigers were set up at their own 44.
Hico ran the ball on each of the eleven plays in the drive and ate up most of the 6:25 remaining in the first half. Duane Hyles carried the brunt of the rushing load, taking the ball six times for 35 yards including a 15 yard carry to give the Tigers a first down at the Bulldog 13. After Hyles carried to the eleven, the Tigers were flagged for two men in motion. Hitzfeld was hit for a three yard loss when the Bulldog defense wasn't fooled by a reverse. Wood got three yards on third down but the Tigers still faced fourth and 13. White clad Bulldog defenders swarmed Wood on fourth down and put him down for a two yard loss.
After one kneel down, the Bulldogs went into half holding a 20-12 lead.
Stamford took the second half kick and appeared to be heading toward increasing the lead. Wimberly broke free for a 30 yard run to the Hico 35. A pass to Hutchinson and two more runs by Wimberly gave the Dogs a first down at the 24. Wimberly found West but the ball came free and Blake Hyles returned the fumble from the Hico 19 to the Stamford 45.
Once again there was a steady diet of Duane Hyles, who started the drive with runs of six, six and 12 yards. Hitzfeld added a six yard carry and Wood added another. Anderson kept through the middle and the Bulldogs were called for a face mask to give the Tigers a first down at the five. D. Hyles carried over from there for the touchdown and added the two point conversion. With 5:55 left in the third quarter the score was tied 20-20 and it looked like momentum might have swung to the Tigers.
The Bulldogs faced a first and 20 after a block in the back penalty. One pass from Wimberly to Washington and the necessary yardage was in the book. An eight yard completion to West and a ten yard run through the middle by Wimberly had the Dogs sitting at the Hico 22 with a first down. Hutchinson grabbed a five yard pass and Wimberly kept for another three. Sanchez went wide for a two yard gain and a first down on third down. A pass to Washington would have gained scant yardage but the Tigers were called for two fouls on the play -- one during the play and one dead ball so that both fouls were marched off. The Bulldogs now had a first and goal from the Hico three. The Tiger defense stopped McLemore and Wimberly for no gain on successive plays and caught Washington for a three yard loss on third down. On fourth down Wimberly found West for the touchdown. Washington's kick put the Bulldogs up again, 27-20.
Hico closed out the third quarter and opened the fourth with a drive that got into Stamford territory again. Two runs by Hyles gained only two yards and a swing pass to Hitzfeld got only one. Wood tried to hit Blake Hyles on fourth down but the ball hit the turf.
The Bulldogs lost the chance to add to their lead when Duane Hyles picked off a Wimberly pass at the Hico 41.
Hyles had the first big play of this drive for the Tigers when he took a pass and raced 35 yards before Wimberly caught him at the Bulldog 25. Running plays by Turner, Hitzfeld and Wood gained only five yards. On fourth down Blake Hyles broke free for the final 20 yards. The extra point attempt was no good so the Bulldogs had a slim one point lead with 5:53 left in the game.
After a seven yard kick return by Michael Gonzales, the Bulldogs took over at their own 44. Wimberly kept for a yard; on second down he found Gus West for a 22 yard pass play that carried to the Tiger 33. Wimberly was dropped for a three yard loss on first down but gained eight on second down. The senior QB worked through early traffic then took off for a 28 yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs some cushion. Washington's kick made it an eight point lead, 34-26.
Turner broke free for a 40 yard gain on a reverse on Hico's first play from scrimmage to put fans from both sides back on the edge of their seats. With 3:06 left in the game Hico had a first and ten at the Stamford 29. Hitzfeld and Wood had matching three yard gains to leave the Tigers facing third and four. The Tigers used their last time out with 2:33 -- partly due to a strategy session and possibly due to the fact that Wood had lost his helmet and the officials might have given the option of having him sit out a play or take the time out. Wood dropped back to pass but Wimberly was there to pick off the ball at the 13.
The Dogs took over with 2:27 left in the game which meant they would need to earn at least one first down to run out the clock. Wimberly kept the game in his own hands, going for four yards on first down and three for second down. On the most important play of the season to date the senior signal caller carried for four yards and a first down on third down. With just 1:01 left on the clock, Wimberly just had to take a knee one time to send the Bulldogs back to the championship game in Arlington.
The Bulldogs will face the 11-3 Shiner Comanches who defeated the Mart Panthers 49-22 to advance. The Bulldogs and Comanches will play in the opening game of the four games on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. Wellington vs. Falls City will follow at 1 p.m.; Wall vs. Cameron Yoe play the 5 p.m. game and Cisco vs. Refugio will close out the day with an 8 p.m. kickoff.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Stamford 7 13 7 7 -- 34
Hico 6 6 8 6 -- 26
H - Cade Hitzfeld 49 run (kick blocked) 11:43
S - Ligon West 23 pass from Bo Wimberly (James Washington kick) 4:19
S - Wimberly 10 run (kick blocked) 11:56
S - Washington 45 pass from Wimberly (Washington kick) 10:16
H - Dallas Anderson 46 pass from Hunter Wood (pass failed) 8:11
H - Duane Hyles 5 run (Hyles run) 5:55
S - Ligon West 6 pass from Wimberly (Washington kick) 1:12
H - Blake Hyles 20 run (kick failed) 5:53
S - Wimberly 28 run (Washington kick) 3:27
First downs 15 15
Rushing yards 33-130 45-276
Passing yards 167 88
Total Offense 297 364
Comp-Att-Int 16-18-1 5-7-1
Punts 2-30 2-16
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-56 6-27
Rushing - Stamford: Bo Wimberly 23-139, 2 TDs; Eric Sanchez 3-3; Ty McLemore 3-2; James Washington 2-(-2); Hico: Duane Hyles 17-96, TD; Tyler Turner 5-60; Cade Hitzfeld 7-60, TD; Blake Hyles 5-27, TD; Dakota Mullins 4-16; Hunter Wood 6-14; Dallas Anderson 1-3.
Passing - Stamford: Bo Wimberly 16-18-1, 167 yds, 3 TDs. Hico: Hunter Wood 5-7-1, 88 yds, TD.
Receiving - Stamford: James Washington 5-76, TD; Ligon West 5-44, 2 TDs; Wes Hutchinson 5-25; Gus West 1-22. Hico: Dallas Anderson 3-52, TD; Duane Hyles 1-35; Cade Hitzfeld 1-1.
Last Week's Games
Stamford 34, Hico 26; Shiner 49, Mart 22; Wellington 46, Albany 20; Falls City 36, Tenaha 34; Cisco 55, Leonard 6; Refugio 69, Waskom 33.
This Week's Games
Stamford (13-1) vs Shiner (11-3) 10 a.m. Thursday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium; Wellington (13-0) vs Falls City (14-0), 1 p.m. Thursday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium; Cisco (17-0) vs Refugio (14-1) 8 p.m.Thursday, Arlington's AT&T Stadium.