CENTRAL — It seemed like every time Central Private needed a play to fall their way, a fumble or penalty would kill Prairie View Academy’s drive — except when it needed it the most.
The Spartans struggled to produce any offensive rhythm all night until senior quarterback Cole Bryan orchestrated a last-minute drive, ending with Bryan diving across the goal line from 1 yard out with 25 seconds left. Senior Lucas Crockett hit the extra point to give Prairie View a 7-6 win on the road.
“The thing I love about these guys is that they’re resilient,” Prairie View coach Matt Middleton said. “Bottom line is, that’s how you make a good football team. We came from behind in a tough situation, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Central Private coach Joey Sanchez said he thought his defense was going to come up with one last play to save the game at the end, but two fourth-down conversions put the the Spartans in a position to win.
Before the final drive, Bryan was 0-for-3 passing, but went 4-for-4 for 37 yards on the last series, including fourth-down passes to Crockett.
Bryan also led the Spartans with 60 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
“That’s what we’re always thinking; that we’re going to get that last stop,” Sanchez said. “We put ourselves with a chance to win, but they made one more play than we did.”
The Rebels defense came up big plays before the drive final.
On three separate drives the Spartans were halted with a fumble, twice while they were effectively moving the ball down the field.
The second fumble was on a pitch-out to the left side during the second quarter that was broken up by Central Private senior defensive end Landon Bryson and recovered by junior Jude Fontenot near the Spartans 35-yard line.
Less than five minutes later, with the help of a 15-yard pass interference penalty, Fontenot punched in the 1-yard score. His extra-point attempt was blocked.
Fontenot led the Rebels with 17 yards rushing on six attempts.
“It wasn’t just the last drive; it was the whole second half,” Sanchez said. “We couldn’t get out of our own end, shooting ourselves in the foot, penalties and all that.”
Both teams experienced what Sanchez said was hopefully only first-game jitters, committing 23 total penalties for 145 yards.
Bryan and Middleton credited the Central Private defense with its pressure from the ends that forced Prairie View into several of the mistakes.
“They came out and hats off to the (Central Private) defense,” Bryan said. “The D-end was crashing, and they had me and the pitch guy covered. We just figured we had to go up the middle on them because we couldn’t do anything else on them.”