By REID TUCKER
Friday, Nov. 2 was a big night for the Freeport Bulldogs for several reasons, not least of which was a crushing 46-7 win against the Jay Royals.
The senior-night victory tied up the runner-up spot in District 1-A football for Freeport (4-5 overall, 2-1 in the district), earning the team a playoff berth for the fourth time in as many years. This also has the effect of making the graduating class of 2012 the first in school history to earn that distinction.
“I’m really proud of our seniors,” Anderson said. “They’re the first senior class here at Freeport to go on to the playoffs all four years of their high school careers. They did a great job from ninth grade on and I’m glad to get the win tonight.”
Freeport more than got the win – the Bulldogs steamrolled the Royals from the outset all the way to the final buzzer. The Dogs racked up 19 first downs to Jay’s seven and toted the ball 124 yards further, with Owen Cole running for 119 yards on 14 carries. They also outpassed the Royals 242 yards to 52 for a difference of 503 yards of total offense versus Jay’s 189.
As the stats show, the passing game led Freeport’s offense, with five of the team’s seven touchdowns coming by way of quarterback Gabe Moore (7-for-13 with one interception) and his receivers, Zach Fordem, Morgan Hardee and Nick Russell. The other two Freeport touchdowns were scored on a run from Russell and a 30-yard interception return from defenseman Tristan Locke. Jay’s lone score on the night came a few minutes into the third quarter when quarterback Tate Upton hit Colton Williams in stride for a 10-yard end zone strike.
Freeport head coach Jim Anderson said the pass-intensive offense wasn’t a particular plan just for the game against Jay, but rather that Moore’s arm and the receivers’ hands have always been a strength of the Bulldogs. The trouble this season has been keeping the rock secure and setting up good blocks, and both of those things went off without a hitch against the Royals, whose defense could not stop the ‘Dogs all night.
“We were just trying to move the football,” Anderson said. “We felt all year long like if we could protect a little bit we could throw the football.”
The Bulldogs forced a turnover on downs to set up their first possession, which ended eight plays later with a 34-yard TD pass between to Fordem at the 5:23 mark, though Moore’s kick failed. Next, Freeport recovered the onside kick on the 27-yard line and proceeded to score in three plays to make it a 12-0 game, with Hardee coming up with a 41-yard pass. Jay and Freeport took turns intercepting the ball on their ensuing possessions, though neither team made anything of it before the end of the quarter.
Touchdowns rained down in the second quarter. Freeport stopped Jay with a turnover on downs with 8:30 left in the half and Moore then hooked up with Hardee on a 95-yard pass for another score less than two minutes later to make it an 18-0 game. Locke got his moment in the spotlight shortly thereafter, when he picked off a pass from Jay’s Ricky Cofield on the 30-yard line to run it back for a another TD. The Bulldogs scored twice more before the intermission, with Owen Cole breaking loose on a massive run from the Freeport 29 to the Royals’ 15-yard line, setting up a touchdown pass to Russell, who also completed another 15-yard pass for a 39-zip lead at the break.
Jay scored its lone touchdown of the night after Hunter Dillashaw intercepted a Freeport pass on the 31-yard line. The Royals were in the end zone four plays later on a nice pass from Upton to Williams, but that was it for Jay’s offense for the remainder of the contest.
Russell punched in a 10-yard run up the middle for the last Freeport touchdown at the 5:28 mark of the third quarter to make the score 46-7, where it stayed until the end of the game. The clock ran the rest of the game, with the Bulldogs putting in mostly younger players who nevertheless forced Jay to turn the ball over on downs one more time before the end of play.
Though Freeport dominated Jay in most respects, one area they definitely slipped was in the accrual of penalties, Anderson said. The Bulldogs gave up 121 yards and four touchdowns due thanks to 14 penalties, something which Anderson said can’t continue if the Bulldogs hope to progress in the postseason. However, Freeport has to travel to face Rocky Bayou in the final game of the regular season Friday, before going on to challenge District 2 winner Graceville in a rematch game the following week.
“I was disappointed that we got so many penalties,” Anderson said. “We got a little sloppy in the second half, and obviously we can’t keep doing that.
“I’m glad that a lot of our younger players got to put in some time tonight. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the regular season next week at Rocky Bayou and then moving on to the playoffs after that.”