Cinco Ranch Loses 14-13 Homecoming Heartbreaker

By George Slaughter

In tight games, little things can make a big difference. Just ask the Cinco Ranch Cougars, who dropped a 14-13 homecoming game to Cedar Park Friday night at Legacy Stadium.

The win improves the Timberwolves, of District 11-5A, to 2-2. The Cougars, meanwhile, fall to 0-4 as they prepare for District 19-6A play against Mayde Creek next week.

Some of those little things turned out to big things that favored Cinco Ranch. It began with a botched Cedar Park field goal attempt in the second quarter. On that play, a poor snap from center, a muffled attempt to recover the ball, and a Cinco Ranch recovery put the Cougars in business at their 31.

The Cougars struggled offensively until this point in the game. But on this particular drive, they made their first first down of the game when senior Justin Hull made an 11-yard run. On the next play, senior quarterback Cam Harper hit Hull for a 58-yard touchdown pass at the 5:53 mark. Senior kicker Zach Gonzales made the extra point.

The Timberwolves scored on the ensuing drive, which went for 73 yards. Cedar Park sophomore quarterback Ryder Hernandez hit senior wide receiver Brandon Breed for a 32-yard touchdown with 2:55 left in the first half. Sophomore kicker Justin Bohrer’s extra point tied the game and ended the first-half scoring.

The Cougars offensive struggles continued at the start of the second half. After forcing a punt, Cedar Park took its first lead on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Hernandez to Reed. Gonzales made the extra point with 10:20 left in the third quarter.

“I was really proud of our defense tonight,” Cinco Ranch coach Don Clayton said, adding that in the first half Cedar Park had the ball for 50 plays and Cinco Ranch had it for only 24. “We’ve got to do a better job of moving the ball offensively.”

Cinco Ranch came back in the fourth quarter with an impressive 85-yard scoring drive. Senior David Gbenda scored on a two-yard run to bring the game within one point. But Gonzales’s extra point attempt went wide left, however.

The Cougars failed to recover their onside kick attempt, but their defense held and forced a Cedar Park punt. Cinco Ranch began what it hoped would be a game-winning drive from its 20 with 2:03 left in the game.

Things started with promise on this drive, as senior running back Sanders Crawford IV made an exciting 37-yard run. But two plays later, Cedar Park’s junior defensive back Caden Combs intercepted a Harper pass to kill the drive and any hopes of a comeback.

“I’m supposed to read the cornerback and made the wrong read,” Harper said.

Despite the loss, Harper and his teammates understand district play presents an opportunity to do greta things.

“It’s 0-0, as we see it, going into district,” Harper said.

Said Clayton: “They’re a good football team and they’ve got the trophies on the mantle to prove it. We did what we needed to do competitively. We competed hard. There’s no problem in that. The only concerns I had were our composure and poise. We had some penalties we shouldn’t be having. Poise is performing under pressure. A couple of times we had pressure and we didn’t perform the way we’re capable of performing.”

Clayton described the process of developing poise as similar to creating a diamond in that you must apply pressure.

“You put them in as many pressure situations as possible and try to get your desired result,” Clayton said.

The pressure of district play begins next week. The Mayde Creek-Cinco Ranch game is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rhodes Stadium.