JEWETT -- Bishop Harris rushed for six touchdowns and ran for 314 yards, and also recovered a fumble to lead the Mildred Eagles to a 47- 43 victory over the Leon Cougars in a back and forth affair Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
It was a thrilling, outstanding game with the two teams trading touchdown for touchdown deep into the fourth quarter. The Eagles scored the final touchdown with 4four minutes left in the game.
The Eagles were able to back the Cougars up to their own 16-yard line before the Cougars came roaring back to the Eagles 25-yard line. But just when it appeared Leon was gaining momentum for one last winning drive, Mildred's defense the vaunted Leon air attack into four straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs and seal the victory.
It was a career night for Harris and for Jacob Robinson of Leon, who passed for 363 yards and four touchdowns, but both teams fought hard, to the point of exhaustion, and capitalized on errors with Leon scoring two touchdowns after Mildred miscues extended Cougar drives. The Eagles were able to score after intercepting a Robinson pass in the fourth quarter.
Mildred opened the game with a long, 11-play drive that culminated with a 7-yard Harris TD run. On the first Cougar drive, the Eagles forced the Cougars to punt, but a muffed catch gave the Cougars a second chance and Harris Sherrod found the end zone on 19-yard touchdown a few plays later.
The Cougars then recovered an onside kick and drove to the Eagle 12-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. The Eagles then turned the ball over on downs on their subsequent drive after only getting the ball out to their 17-yard line.
At this point, the scoring took off! Curtis Stanford of the Cougars scored on the next play on a 17-yard touchdown run. Harris then took the ball on the kickoff and raced 55 yards for a touchdown. Leon came roaring back, scoring on their second play when Robinson found Tyson Cornett for a 52-yard touchdown reception.
The Eagles were forced to punt on their next drive and the Cougars were able to Leon a 25-13 lead.
Harris cut the lead on the second play of the next drive on a 68-yard run. The Cougars answered with a 9 play drive finished with a 17-yard pass from Robinson to Ruben Gonzales.
Harris responded again with a 65-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage, ending the scoring for the first half with the Cougars nursing a 31-26 lead.
The third quarter saw no points scored as the team traded punts then turnovers with Harris wrestling the ball away from Cougar rusher, then Gonzales intercepted a Creed Baker pass in the end zone.
Mildred's Cody Hayes then picked off a Robinson pass on the subsequent drive in the beginning seconds of the fourth quarter. Harris took advantage on the next play, scoring on a 41-yard touchdown run giving the Eagles the lead.
Leon answered with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Cornett. The Eagles came back with a quick seven-play drive capped by a 27-yard rushing touchdown by Baker.
Leon regained the lead on the following kickoff when Sherrod scampered 77 yards for a touchdown on the return.
The next drive saw Baker find Daniel Ayers for a 52-yard reception to the 9-yard line, setting up a Harris seven-touchdown run a couple plays later to give the lead back to the Eagles with four minutes left in the ballgame.
The Cougars started what would be their final drive on the 37-yard line. Penalties would push the Cougars back to their own 15-yard line, where Robinson would find Sherrod for a 47-yard pass deep into Eagle territory. The Cougars would run the ball twice setting up a first-and-10 from the Eagle 25 yard line with about a 1:30 left in the game. The Eagles would then force incompletions on the next four pass attempts giving the Eagles the ball back with 45 seconds left sealing the victory for the Eagles.
The game was outstanding with both teams fighting hard until the end. Mildred came into the game as 18-point underdogs and played with a chip on its shoulder. The Eagles fought for themselves and for coach Duke Dalton in his first game leading the Eagles.
There were questions surrounding this team who were young and wore down last year but showed tonight how athletic they are and how much fight they have tonight.
The stats show how even the game was despite the teams having success in different ways. The Eagles racked up 411 yards rushing on 37 attempts holding Leon to 94 yards rushing. The Eagles passed for 103 yards while Leon threw for 363 yards on 18 completions. After sacks, the Eagles gained 496 yards while the Cougars gained 437 yards. It was a game that truly came down to inches. A mistake here or there, a pass caught or not and the game could have ended differently.
The offensive line played outstanding all game giving Harris and Baker open lanes to exploit.
The Eagle defense, despite giving up big play,s also played well coming up with big stops when it counted and forced a fumble and an interception. Preston Kindle and Trey Atkeisson were always around the ball. Austin Carrigan came up with a huge sack and pressured Robinson all night.
Leon has a quality football team. The Cougars played hard and are expected to make the playoffs. They showed their explosive ability that should give teams fits as they move forward in their season. Robinson led the Cougars with 363 yards passing, 128 of which went to Tyson Cornett who scored two touchdowns.
Overall it was a great showing for the Eagles to open the season. They fought hard and showed grit and explosiveness that should give teams pause.
According to Coach Dalton, the difference in the ballgame came down to several things. He said, “Our O-Line did a great job! We have some guys that haven’t played in quite a while. Our O-Line made the difference. We were able to control the ball. We didn’t make many mistakes and Bishop Harris had a career night running it, throwing it, catching it and when that happens, Creed Baker is good enough to beat them to the back door and I think it proved it tonight.”
Next week, the Eagles host Italy while Leon hosts Anderson-Shiro.