BLOOMING GROVE --- The Rice Bulldogs and the Blooming Grove Lions played a game for the ages Friday night at Lions Field in Blooming Grove. Rice took control early in the game and went up by 17 points only to see the Lions storm back with the next 25 points before losing 33-25 in overtime.
They held that lead until eleven seconds remained in the contest and then watched as the Bulldogs tied the game to take it to overtime. The final eight points were scored by Rice and they came away with a 33-25 OT win. Rice goes to 1-1 in district play while the Lions drop to 0-2.
Rice played the game without running back Jerry Montgomery, who was injured last week against Palmer. Rice head coach Andy Mills turned to senior quarterback Tanner Carlisle and the passing attack to get that early lead. Carlisle completed 11 of 22 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
He also suffered two interceptions in the second half. His leading receiver was Josiah Miles who came away with 4 catches for 69 yards. Elizhah Nezar had five catches for 94 yards. Tommy Bernal led the rushing attack for the Bulldogs with 63 yards in 12 carries. He had a rushing touchdown as well.
Lion quarterback Carson Rucks had a good game as well. Rucks completed 16 of 30 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception. His leading receiver was Damon Lovett who finished with 5 catches for 78 yards and 2 scores. Matthew Beacom, who had five catches for 39 yards. Josh Glasco had two for 39. Colton Nicholson had two grabs for 27.
Tailback Jalen Coleman was injured early in the game, left for a while, came back, and then was injured again, this time to be taken away by ambulance with a possible concussion. Before he left he picked up 36 yards on six carries. Lovett led the Lions with 37 yards in 12 tries and he also scored a touchdown.
The Bulldogs were led on defense by Saul Diaz, Angel Banda, Adrian Santoyo, Bernal, and Hayden Brown. The Lions received stellar defensive play from Glasco, who had the two interceptions, Michael Adkins, Dakota Coker, Jordan Kincaid, Isaac Haden, and Toby DeVries, and Jacob Esparza.
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff at their own 41 yard line and took off on a 59 yard drive that covered 10 plays and used over half of the first quarter clock. The 10th play of the drive was a pass completion to Dakota Jessie from Carlisle for the touchdown. Elisa Pena kicked the extra point to put Rice up 7-0.
The Lions could not get any offense going on their ensuing possession and wound up having to punt. Rucks got away a nice 35 yard punt, but Nezar returned it 50 yards to set up the Bulldogs at the Lions 9-yard line.
The defense of Blooming Grove held, however, and Mills went to his kicker Pena to put points on the board. Pena responded with a 20-yard field goal to put Rice up 10-0 with 3:22 left in quarter number one.
The Bulldogs next score was set up by the Lions being unable to move out from deep in their own territory. A short punt had Rice once again knocking on the door at the Lions’ 26 yard line. It took six plays from there but Jessie was able to punch it into the end zone from one yard out on a run. The kick by Pena increased the Rice lead to 17-0.
It was the defense and special teams of the Lions that finally helped get Blooming Grove on the scoreboard. The defense stopped a Rice drive and forced a punt. A 34-yard punt was returned 26 yards by Glasco to the Bulldog 46.
Coleman carried for four yards to the 42 on first down and then Rucks hooked up with Lovett on a nice pass down the sideline for the Lions’ first points of the contest. A conversion pass attempt failed, but Blooming Grove had cut the margin to 17-6.
Rice’s ensuing possession ended in disaster as a fumble was recovered by Lovett of the Lions to set them up at their own 36. The passing of Rucks and a big 21 yard run by Coleman helped move the home team to the visitor’s 25. A facemask penalty against Rice tacked on another 15 and Blooming Grove had a first and goal at the ten. Those ten yards were covered on a pass from Rucks to Lovett for the score. The conversion pass attempt failed, but the Lions had cut the margin to five at 17-12 with 1:25 left in the half.
A long Blooming Grove drive midway through the third quarter ended at the Rice six when Rucks threw an interception. However, they got the ball right back when the Bulldogs coughed it up at the nine and Coker recovered at that point. A pass incompletion was followed by a 1 yard run by Joe Velasquez to the eight and set up third and goal from there. A pass to Glasco from Rucks was complete on the third down play but he was hit and fumbled in midair. Luckily for the Lions Nicholson was right there to grab the fumble in the air while standing in the endzone. After a brief discussion by the officials, the play was ruled legal and the touchdown stood. The extra point kick attempt failed but the Lions had their first lead of the night at 18-17.
A pass interception by Glasco of an errant Carlisle pass set up the next Lion touchdown. Glasco made the interception at the Bulldog 45 and returned it 40 yards to the five yard line. Carlisle made the tackle to prevent the touchdown on the return but it only delayed the trip into the endzone by the Lions by one play. Lovett carried the final five yards for the touchdown. Emmanuel Rosas kicked the extra point and the Lions extended their lead to 25-17.
Rice came right back on their next possession and used 14 plays to move to the six yard line. The drive stalled at that point, though, and Pena came on to attempt a 22 yard field goal. The Lions’ defense was able to get enough penetration to push a Bulldog offensive lineman back just enough so that Pena’s kick actually hit him and was recovered by Blooming Grove at their own 15 yard line.
Needing to pick up first downs to run out the clock was what the Lions hoped to do. They managed to pick up one but were forced to punt with less than two minutes left in the game. Rice started their drive at their own 40 and were able to move to the Blooming Grove 46 with 20 seconds left. A nice pass from Carlisle to Nezars covered 45 of those 46 yards and set Rice up at the one. Carlisle took it in himself to pull the Bulldogs to within two at 23-25. Carlisle then carried in for the conversion to tie the contest at 25-25 with 11 seconds left in the contest.
Blooming Grove started the overtime at the Rice 25 yard line. The running of Lovett and Rucks moved them to the 2. On third down Lovett carried to the one and on fourth down Rucks was stopped short of the goal line and the ball went over to Rice.
The Bulldogs covered the necessary 25 yards in five plays with Bernal scoring the touchdown on a four yard run. Jakobe Jessie caught the conversion pass from Carlisle to produce the 33-25 final.
“That one really hurt. We made too many mental errors and had way too many mistakes. Our kids never quit though, after being behind 17-0. We kept grinding and finally got the lead in the third but just couldn’t put it away,” stated Lion head coach Ervin Chandler.