The No. 14 Alvarado Indians probably expected a challenge when they came over to Glen Rose on Friday, but the No. 17 Tigers gave the purple squad a flat-out whipping.
Glen Rose (7-1, 1-1) was sensational on offense and the defense challenged Alvarado (6-3, 1-2) at every turn in a 41-28 victory. The game wasn’t that close, as the Tigers took the lead for good in the second quarter and Alvarado’s last touchdown came with seven seconds left.
“I thought we played outstanding on both sides of the ball and special teams,” said coach Tommy Dunn. “We knew we’d have to be at our best offensively, and I think we were. Outside of our one turnover, we scored every time we had the ball. This is one of the biggest regular-season wins for Glen Rose that I’m aware of.
“That team lost in the state championship game last year by one point; they know how to win. To be able to not only beat a team like that, but to do it fairly convincingly, it says a lot about our kids.”
The Tigers’ balanced offense showed some explosiveness with five plays of 20-plus yards, while Alvarado had no such plays. Glen Rose was much more efficient running the ball at 6.4 yards per carry (27-175) compared to 4.2 (47-202), and the gap was nearly as wide in pass completion percentage in favor of the Tigers (78 to 56).
Alvarado won the turnover battle 1-0, but Glen Rose did get a fourth-down stop. Glen Rose was sensational on third down, converting all nine attempts.
“We were on fire, what can I say?” Dunn said. “Colton (Bretton) was putting (passes) on the money. The play calling is a group effort when it goes good or bad. I thought we worked well together to get our kids in the best spots to be successful.”
Tiger rusher Cody Burtscher was far better than the vaunted Indian ground attack, as Burtscher erupted for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. He also caught four passes for 57 yards and another score.
“We just played well in all phases of the game,” Burtscher said. “We had trouble stopping them at first on defense, but we really played strong in the second half and dominated the game. This is good for us because now we most likely get the first (7-3A) seed (in Div. II) if we take care of business the next two weeks; that’s going to make our road a lot easier.”
Dunn was proud of his workhorse.
“Cody had a lot of success on the edge and broke through up the middle late,” the coach said, considering 114 of Burtscher’s rushing yards came after halftime. “Once he gets in the open field, his combo of shiftiness and strength makes him tough to bring down.”
Colton Bretton had another very strong performance, as he completed 15 of 19 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran three times for 16 yards and a touchdown.
“The blocking was great; it left me a wide-open hole for the touchdown,” Bretton said of his five-yard rushing score. “Our offense did a great job of protecting the ball and producing overall. Everything seems to be clicking right.”
The third major offensive Tiger was Justin Weatherley, who snagged seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“Justin really did a great job getting open for me; our communication really helped out,” Bretton said.
Dunn wasn’t surprised to see Weatherley beat the Indian defense.
“Justin is a big target who runs great routes and has great hands,” the coach said. “(He and Colton) trust each other.”
The third option in the passing game was Jared Thames (2-29), who spent most of his time on the D-line.
“Jared is faster than most people think when you get him the ball; then he bulldozes over people,” Bretton said.
The top defensive play for the Tigers came in the third quarter, when Thames and Carter Brandt combined on a fourth-down tackle for loss at the Indian 44.
“That was outstanding,” Dunn said. “Carter is getting better every game, just like our team.”
Ryan Lamb forced a fumble, while Logan Douglas, Burtscher and Jed Bridges each made a tackle for loss.
“(The Indians) like to play the cutback a lot and their O-line is big and fast, but everybody did a good job of playing their spots and staying home, which kept them with that short run game,” Bridges said, considering the Indians’ lack of big plays. “This was a lot easier for our defense compared to the Stephenville game because Alvarado didn’t have a strong passing game, while Stephenville was great both ways.”
Dunn was impressed with the Glen Rose run defense.
“(Alvarado’s) offensive line is one of the very best we’ll face,” he said. “They had some (quality) drives, but our guys kept battling and stepped up against a scheme that is tough to defend. It was an outstanding job.”
The Tigers had a bit of trouble in the kicking game, as Martin De Los Santos had an extra point blocked and later missed another one wide.
“I think Martin was trying to kick away from their blocker (on the wide attempt),” Dunn said. “He just needs to get the ball up high and it won’t be a problem.”
Hayden Holder and Ryan Lamb were both injured in the game, but Dunn said he expects both Tigers to be able to play next week.
As for the Indians, workhorse rusher Lee Hardy went for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Quarterback Kenny West completed 14 of 25 passes for 117 yards, and he also ran nine times for 41 yards and two scores. Marcus McNeil ran for 50 yards on eight carries, and the top pass catcher was Jared McCarver (8-67).
Douglas managed to make a tackle for loss on the game’s first offensive play, but Alvarado put together a seven-play, 55-yard drive after it recovered a Tiger onside kick. The touchdown came on a six-yard West keeper (0-7, Gabriel Favela kick).
Glen Rose had an answer by way of a six-play, 73-yard march. The big plays were a Weatherley 16-yard grab and then a 22-yard Weatherley touchdown catch down the middle where he wasn’t touched until the final yards (7-7, De Los Santos kick).
“Justin was wide open after the safety followed Cody,” Bretton said.
Dunn appreciated the fast offensive start.
“They were worried about where Cody was, so we went over the top off play-action and Justin made the right choice on an option route,” the coach said.
Late in the first, Burtscher made a tackle for loss, Alvarado converted a fourth down on a holding penalty and Bridges made a tackle for loss on Hardy to end the quarter.
“I barely tripped up his feet on a counter (play), but he went down,” Bridges said.
The Indians managed to complete a 15-play, 81-yard drive with a one-yard West keeper (7-14, Favela kick).
Once again, Glen Rose responded via a 12-play, 76-yard possession. The key play was a 15-yard Austin Gibson reception where Alvarado was flagged for roughing the passer, and then a 15-yard Weatherley catch brought Glen Rose into the red zone. On third-and-three, Bretton called his own number up the middle and dove across the goal line from five yards out (13-14, De Los Santos kick blocked).
Although the Tigers couldn’t recover the fumble forced by Lamb to open the next Alvarado drive, a deep ball on third down was dropped and the Indians had to punt.
Setting up shop at the Tiger 49, Glen Rose drove the field in five plays to take the lead for good. On third-and-10, Bretton lofted a ball to the end zone, where Burtscher waited along with two Indians.
In a truly sensational play, Burtscher elevated in traffic and won the 21-yard touchdown reception as the Indians tried to wrestle the pigskin from his grasp.
“I had that ball the whole time and the defender was trying to take it from me,” Burtscher said. “That felt like one of the best plays I’ve made this season. It was a big situation; we needed a score and I was able to make the catch.”
Dunn may have provided a bit of motivation.
“On the play before, Cody dropped a pass that was just a bit behind him,” the coach said. “I told him ‘if you’re the best running back in the district, you make that catch’. So he had something to prove that next play; he went up and got it.”
Bretton had his own take on the standout snag.
“That was a great catch,” the quarterback said. “I was pressured up the middle and I trusted he’d catch it.”
Burtscher came right back to catch a short pass from Bretton and speed wide for a successful conversion (21-14).
Alvarado began its next drive at the Indian 26 with 1:45 left in the half, but the visitors simply couldn’t hit on any sizeable gains.
Seeing an opportunity to take full control of the game, Glen Rose started fast in the third with a seven-play, 71-yard drive. The big play was a 21-yard catch-and-run by Thames, and then Bretton found Burtscher on a bubble screen for a 17-yard touchdown. The ball was caught behind the line of scrimmage, and thus it went down as one of his three rushing scores (28-14, De Los Santos kick).
“Jared was opportunistic with his catches,” Dunn said.
Alvarado tried to respond, but on fourth-and-one from the Indian 45 Brandt and Thames brought Hardy down in the backfield, as Tiger fans roared.
“Carter got mad and he started playing really good – hitting like he can,” Bridges said. “Jared always does great.”
At this point it looked like Alvarado’s goose was cooked, but the Indians recovered a Burtscher fumble on the very next play. They drove 51 yards in nine plays, scoring on a three-yard Hardy run (28-21, Favela kick).
Needing another score to put Alvarado back on the ropes, the Tigers were up to the task. They advanced the ball 69 yards in nine plays with the big gain coming on an 18-yard Weatherley catch. Then Burtscher took the pitch from Bretton on a speed option and exploded down the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown (34-21, De Los Santos kick wide).
“The offensive line was making great holes,” Burtscher said. “(The Indians) really started to overpursue, so the cutbacks started opening up. With Colton throwing the way he was, they had to play pass more and it boosted the run game in the second half.”
Dunn felt good about the plan of attack against the Indian defense.
“We came in wanting to keep them off-balance with a lot of fly sweep stuff and do some play-action off that,” he said. “They’re very tough to run against, but as the game went on we wore them down a little bit.”
Alvarado desperately needed to go score, but a Brandt tackle for no gain and then a quality Kevin Uehlein pass breakup forced a punt.
“I think we’re starting to play the pass a lot better,” Bridges said. “Our safeties are staying where they should be and everyone is being coachable to learn every week.”
Glen Rose put its foot on the Indians’ collective throat, driving 58 yards in five plays. At the Alvarado 42, Burtscher burst up the middle, cut wide and outran anything in purple for the touchdown (41-21, De Los Santos kick) with 3:44 remaining.
“Cody had a huge second half,” Bretton said. “He did everything he could to get open and really took control, doing what he had to do.”
The remainder of the game played host to a 20-play, 79-yard drive where Alvarado converted two fourth downs and Hardy scored from one yard out (41-28, Favela kick) with seven seconds left, but the points were strictly cosmetic at that point.
The Tigers will now prep for their final district road game at Venus on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Venus, which was previously undefeated, is coming off a 56-13 loss to Stephenville where it trailed 43-0 at halftime.