ROYSE CITY -- Nope, the Tigers didn't get hit in the head with a kitchen sink Friday night, but you couldn't blame them if they left Royse City, ducking and wondering what would hit them next.
How about a decent break?
They could use one, and after losing 41-28 to RC in the district opener, one can't come soon enough. There's plenty of season left but time and opportunities flee fast in District 8-5A DII -- arguably the toughest 5A district in Texas.
Ennis is the No. 1 5A DII team in the state, and Royse City, which took second behind the Lions a year ago and has been state-ranked since the first preseason poll came out in July, will no doubt make a run in the playoffs.
North Forney is state-ranked ahead of RC, and Greenville, which beat RC a year ago, is making noise this season. That's why the Tigers circled Friday's opener on Interstate 30 as a crucial game.
Now they're 0-1 in a brutal district and wondering how they can turn it around in a 1-3 season that has seen them lose three in row after leading in two of those games.
They're also wondering when they will be healthy. They entered the biggest game of the year to date without starting quarterback, Solomon James, who is injured, and they have played all year with their top two running backs still seeing limited time because of nagging injuries.
The threesome of James, Anthony Young and Da Da Daniels were sensational at times last season as sophomores producing more than 3,000 yards of offense between them. They brought so much promise to the new season. Now they have great seats with plenty of social distancing while they are on the mend. Young carried the ball four times Friday. Daniels carried it once.
No one is complaining. They're too busy adjusting.
Hal Wasson was in the workshop all week, tinkering and rebuilding (Pass me that duct tape, and where's the Phillips screwdriver?) to get his team ready for 8-5A.
And he almost pulled it off.
The Silver Fox took sophomore Jayvon Thomas, who has looked good in the backfield and brilliant in the secondary, and slipped him behind center, and then he gave the football to Bishop Harris.
Yup, that Bishop Harris.
You know Harris, right? He was the 2019 Golden Circle Offensive Player of the Year, leading Mildred's potent running game and gaining 2,134 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns in 10 games. He left Mildred three weeks ago and played his first game with the Tigers Friday.
Part of the new look included a secondary that resembled a Rubiks Cube in progress (that's how valuable Thomas was back there) and a game plan that read like run, run, run -- and run some more.
So what happened?
The Tigers, who had trailed by double digits at halftime in their first three games, bolted out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on a pair of Thomas TD runs of 13 and 3 yards.
Then Harris stepped in and stepped up, looking like a kid who belonged in 5A football (everyone wondered if he would).
But RC (2-1) came back in front of a big and vocal hometown crowd, and both teams put on dramatic runs. The Bulldogs scored 34 points in a row, and broke up a 14-14 deadlock and took a 28-14 lead with an impressive third quarter that all but decided the game.
The Tigers fumbled the ball on the first play of the second half, and RC topped off a 10-yard drive (yes 10 yards) with a 2-yard TD run from Ahmon Petty-Dozier, who hurt the Tigers last year and destroyed them Friday night, rushing for 171 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns (and that doesn't include his 70-yard TD that was called back).
Joe Veracruz, who completed 12 of 16 passes for 166 yards, gave the Bulldogs a 28-14 lead when he connected with Tyson Neighbors, who caught a pass over the middle and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown on a third-and-eight play with 7:34 left in the third.
Veracruz's favorite target, Arkansas commit Ketron Jackson, caught a 10-yard TD pass to start the fourth quarter that lifted RC to a 34-14 lead. But after fumbling and staggering their way through the third quarter and early minutes of the fourth, the Tigers came alive.
Harris broke free for a 41-yard TD run to close the gap to 34-21 with 8:34 left in the game, and moments later freshman Dontay Thomas recovered an RC fumble and returned it 16 yards for his first career TD with the Tigers in a rare stretch in which two Tigers scored for the first time in less than three minutes.
Harris did more than score the touchdown that ignited a possible comeback. He made a brilliant, one-handed catch on Thomas' only completion of the night (he attempted only two passes) for a 25-yard gain, and finished the night with 160 yards on 29 carries. Thomas ran for 110 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Run, run, run ...
The Tigers had a chance to win, trailing 34-28 with 5:41 left in the game, but they couldn't come up with an onside kick following Dontay Thomas' TD, and RC drove 55 yards and put the game away on Sam Michum's second touchdown run of the night - a 6-yarder. Petty-Dozier gained 49 of the 55 yards.
The Tigers finally return home after playing three games on the road and face Forney at 7:30 Friday night.