Thursday’s ballgame for the Freshman Tigers had plenty of drama, big plays and momentum changes.
Unfortunately, a touchdown with 57 seconds remaining vaulted visiting Fort Worth Castleberry past the Tigers, 24-22. The game ended after Glen Rose (2-7) turned the ball over on downs at the Castleberry 21.
“There were a lot of late touchdowns in this one and I give the kids credit because we never gave up,” said coach Kiel Miller.
After Castleberry dropped a potential deep touchdown pass on the game’s first offensive play, each team saw its opening drive stall. Castleberry went ahead with a three-play drive capped off by a 30-yard touchdown run. Braxton Barrios and Drayton Williams combined on a conversion tackle (0-6).
Glen Rose’s second possession also stalled, but it wasn’t long before Gage Costello picked off a deep pass.
“Gage played well,” Miller said. “He came through with some plays when we needed him.”
On the third play of the ensuing Tiger possession, Williams completed a short pass to Gage Costello and he blazed a trail 67 yards to the end zone on the final play of the first (8-6, Williams conversion run).
“It’s exciting to see Drayton throw that touchdown,” Miller said. “Everybody did their job, and Gage did well to take it to the house.”
Castleberry managed to complete a 12-play drive in the second quarter, as it converted two fourth downs to score. The touchdown came on a 12-yard pass, but the conversion run failed thanks to a Garrett Vaughn tackle (8-12). Castleberry actually converted all four of its fourth-down attempts.
“It was hard to stop those guys on fourth down,” Miller said. “It wasn’t for lack of effort; we missed a few tackles, but give (Castleberry) credit.”
Late in the half, the Tigers got a Calen Ballesteros tackle for loss, a Monk tackle for loss and a Monk sack on back-to-back-to-back plays.
“Monk was all over the place,” Miller said. “He stepped in for an injured teammate at linebacker and did a pretty good job. I thought Ballesteros played pretty well defensively. He’s a good ballplayer for us.”
After the Tigers turned the ball over on downs to open the third, a Braxton Barrios tackle for loss helped force a Castleberry punt. Williams fielded the punt at the Castleberry 41 and returned it wide all the way for a 16-12 lead (Stone Costello conversion run).
“We did pretty well on special teams for sure,” Miller said. “We did a great job of setting up the punt return. Drayton did what he’s supposed to do and took it to the end zone.”
The following Castleberry drive died near midfield when Monk recovered a fumble. The teams took turns punting until the closing minutes of the fourth, and then touchdowns began to come frequently. Castleberry concluded a six-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run (16-18, conversion pass failed). The Tigers stopped all four of the opposition’s conversion tries.
“We did a good job defensively on their conversions all game,” Miller said.
Williams snagged the ball on the ensuing kick return at the Tiger 42 and burst up the middle, as he made it all the way to the end zone (22-18, Monk conversion run failed) with 1:21 left.
“Their kicker had been (nearly) missing the ball and when it happened again it went right to Drayton,” Miller said. “I don’t think they expected him to try to take it all the way up the middle, but he split two guys and went all the way.”
Gage Costello forced a fumble on the kick return that followed, but Castleberry managed to recover the ball. On first down, Castleberry caught everyone by surprise with a deep receiver reverse pass for a 47-yard touchdown (22-24, conversion run failed) with 57 seconds to go. Gage Costello made the tackle on the conversion.
“That was a great play call, plus it was a great deep throw by the kid,” Miller said. “All we could hope is that he would drop it.”
Though the Tigers converted a couple of first downs on their final drive, Castleberry broke up a fourth-down pass to seal the win. Glen Rose will now conclude its season in Hubbard on Thursday at 5 p.m.
“I thought our effort was good after a slow start, so hopefully next week we can get that effort for four full quarters,” Miller said. “We’re going to try to end the season strong, and I’m seeing improvement.”