High School Football

Cougars snap 14-game skid, upend Rams to award Dudley 1st win

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/17/20

Second-year Cinco Ranch head coach Chris Dudley had a feeling something good was coming.

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High School Football

Cougars snap 14-game skid, upend Rams to award Dudley 1st win

Posted

Second-year Cinco Ranch head coach Chris Dudley had a feeling something good was coming.

Sitting in his office early Friday afternoon, Dudley felt optimistic about his Cougars going into that evening’s district game against Mayde Creek.

We’re ready, Dudley thought to himself.

The Cougars had had three “great days” of practices. The scout team gave a crisp look, a significant indicator every Monday and Tuesday of where the team’s game plan stood.

“If you’re doing (scout team) the right way, there should be a handful of plays where, in a defensive practice, the offense has big gains or scores, because then you can watch video and see where the weakness in your plan is,” Dudley said.

The scout team was right. Energy was high. Focus was strong. An awakening of sorts in midst of a 14-game losing skid, including an 0-3 start to this season.

And then Friday came.

Cinco Ranch upended Mayde Creek, 21-17, at Rhodes Stadium, knocking off the previously-undefeated Rams in surprising fashion. The Cougars (1-3, 1-1 District 19-6A) won for the first time since Nov. 3, 2018, against Tompkins and awarded Dudley, a longtime assistant coach at Cinco Ranch and Taylor before succeeding Don Clayton prior to last season, his first head coaching win.

“That first win is so great, so sweet,” said sophomore quarterback Gavin Rutherford, who completed 13 of 38 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. “It means everything to us. And now that we’ve got this, we’re going to keep it going and we’re going to start winning some games. Best believe that.”

The most impressive thing, Dudley said, was the way his team bounced back from last week’s 55-0 thumping dealt by Tompkins.

“It’s incredible to me,” Dudley said. “Think about how many teams would have just folded right there and could have divided instead of coming together. It’s such a testament to those kids and the coaching staff for the hard work and preparation. That’s what they can take from this—if you train well and do well during the week, you can carry it over into game night and put yourself in position to win.”

Mayde Creek (3-1, 0-1 19-6A) outgained Cinco Ranch in total yards, 299-181. But Cinco Ranch won the turnover battle (3-1) and committed just three penalties for 30 yards to the Rams’ six penalties for 51 yards.

Mayde Creek struggled finishing drives despite averaging 4.6 yards per play. That, and a relentless Cougars defense, kept Cinco Ranch in the game.

Two of Mayde Creek’s turnovers came in the second half, and senior running back Julius Loughridge, the area’s top running back, never got going against Cinco Ranch.

Loughridge had 65 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. His longest run was a 15-yarder early in the first quarter. That was the only time the bruising back had a run for 10 yards or more.

Loughridge entered the game averaging 7.9 yards per carry. He averaged 3.1 against the Cougars.

“We had to be up and be very physical in the gap,” junior linebacker Nathan Rothwell said. “The D-line did a great job making sure they didn’t get washed down or moved out of their gaps. Safeties and linebackers, we did a great job of going in, hitting hard, keeping contain and keeping them from those long runs that kill teams.”

Cinco Ranch shutout Mayde Creek in the second half and took its only lead of the game, 21-17, when Rutherford found sophomore receiver Noah Abboud on a brilliantly placed 10-yard ball deep in the back right corner of the end zone with 4:11 left in the third quarter.

If you take away the Tompkins game when Rutherford threw one pass before being removed from the game due to injury, he has thrown for 258 yards per game, seven touchdowns to three interceptions and assumed a heavy load of offensive responsibility due to an ineffective running game.

Cinco Ranch is averaging 17.5 rushing yards per game, but ranks first among all Katy ISD teams in passing yards per game.

“For being a sophomore, he’s pretty cool, calm and collected back there,” Dudley said. “He’s got a good pocket presence and can feel the rush and still make plays on the run. There’s some growing things involved in being a sophomore, but to do what he’s done these first four games is pretty incredible for a sophomore.”

That’s all the Cougars’ defense needed. On their three fourth-quarter drives, the Rams punted, turned the ball over on downs in Cougars territory, and fumbled a hand-off that was caused by Cougars senior defensive end Increase Oputa and recovered by junior defensive back Zach Amaya with 1:46 left in the game.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Amaya said. “I was reading the tackle, quarterback and running back. Increase got the ball out and I was right there. We had it.”

The Cougars went 0-10 in Dudley’s first season in 2019, losing by an average of 40 points per game.

“We know last year was tough at a lot of levels, and we’re proud of their fight,” Dudley said. “We have a core group of kids back from that team, and for a while they were wearing the burden of trying to make up for last year as well. It’s tough. You lose that many games in a row like we did, you hear it from everybody, not just from outside our community. It weighs on them.”

But in spite of the 0-3 start this year, Cinco Ranch was different. The Cougars’ first two games against College Park and Channelview each came down to the final play as they lost by a combined 10 points.

“We could easily be 2-0,” Dudley said. “Winning a high school football game is tough to do, and you can’t take those wins for granted.”

Dudley said his team learned how to win against Mayde Creek.

“Three great practices lead to a win,” Rutherford said. “Bad practices won’t get you anywhere. We had three great practices. We were flying around on both sides of the ball and look how it came out. We won.”

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