RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
A huge first quarter carried Karnes City to a 38-28 prep football playoff victory over Randolph High last week, ending a Ro-Hawk season marked by drastic improvement.
"This team started out at 1-5 but never gave up," said Pete Wesp, Randolph head coach. "That's the same thing that happened in our playoff game, when we gave up 31 points in the first quarter. The team didn't give up."
A torrid wind swept through Southside Stadium just after the opening kickoff and, by virtue of coin-flip luck prior to gametime, it blew during the first quarter directly into the faces of the Randolph squad.
Karnes City (7-4) scored a touchdown, then capitalized on a Randolph fumble to score a field goal. Things snowballed from there.
"Every kickoff went straight through the endzone and we never had a chance to get a runback," Wesp said. "Our third possession was crucial and in hindsight, I should have elected to go for it on a fourth-and-short play. The wind caused us to have a very short punt and Karnes City scored again."
Down 31-0, Randolph took the wind advantage in the second quarter and outscored the Badgers 14-0 prior to halftime. Time ran out, eventually, and KCHS advanced to meet East Bernard in this week's second round of the 2A postseason.
"It was a typical team for Coach Wesp," said Tom Warlick, Karnes City head coach. "The Randolph team kept battling us and got back into the game."
Karnes City had an open receiver in the end zone at one point, Warlick said, but the wind affected the pass attempt as both teams struggled with the conditions. The Ro-Hawks (5-6) gave up just one touchdown in the second half while carding two more of their own, even in the face of a stiff fourth-quarter gusts.
"It must have been blowing 30 to 40 miles per hour," Wesp said. "We tried for two-points twice on conversions, but missed on both attempts. If we could have made one of those, it would have been a one-possession game. I am super proud of our team and how they carried themselves."
Fullback Jerome Hopkins and tailback Mikey Kenney had big games for Karnes City, which inserted a defensive gameplan to try and stop the outside run capabilities of the Ro-Hawks.
Deron Terrell scored twice for Randolph and gained 139 yards in the final loss. He wound up leading the Randolph team with 19 touchdowns and nearly 1,200 ground yards as a senior.
"Deron had a good year and we'll miss him and several other seniors who are graduating," Wesp said. "Many other players got good experience and will be able to come back and help us next season."
Danny Atalig and Nic Walters scored the other two Randolph touchdowns against Karnes City, while Anthony Ravella capped a 23-for-25 season on extra-point kicks by notching two in the loss.
Kyle McNally caught five passes from Walters against Karnes City and was a dual threat this season along with good defensive play. He gained 462 yards on 67 carries, plus catching 24 balls for an additional 437 yards. Mark Hopkins was another big-play receiver during 2008.
Walters ran with quarterback keepers for 341 ground yards and helped guide the team past its early losing streak. His leadership will be missed and Wesp said many key defenders were also responsible for the playoff berth.
Cesar Ledesma was the team leader in tackles with 120 and Korey Kuhl had 101. Others who recorded more than 50 stops during the season included Atalig, McNally, Josh Dodgen, Mark Hopkins, Quinton Barfield and Walters.
"Our defense kept us in ballgames but we saw a lot of maturation from players on both sides of the ball," Wesp said. "Of all the seasons I've been here, this team is one of my favorites because they showed so much resilience. Being 1-5 at midseason would have caused a lot of teams to fold up the tents, but this team only worked harder."