By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BASTROP – A year ago, the Bastrop Bears played their home opener under new coach Ron Schroeder against Hays, and the whole town was excited before the game.
Friday night, the Bears opened their season at home under new coach Gerald Perry against Hays, and the whole town was excited after the game.
On a night when Hays Head Coach Bob Shelton all but cashed in his 297th career victory, Perry’s team snuck up with 21 unanswered points in the last few minutes for the new coach’s first win.
In their final meeting at Erhard Stadium, Bastrop’s 34-27 overtime victory ended a Hays ten-game winning streak in the series going back to 1995. Last year, Hays beat Bastrop and Schroeder, 28-14, on that same field.
Perry accomplished what Schroeder, David Halbrook and Jay McCarty hadn’t done before him in the previous 12 years, beating Hays from the Bastrop sideline. Now, he hopes to keep it going as the Bears move into a new stadium next year, when the school district will open an additional high school.
“We’re sky high right now,” Perry said right after his players pulled off a rare and improbable victory. The Bears finished last year 1-9 in their only season under Schroeder, who totaled 187-27-3 with two state championships in 16 years at Westlake.
“I knew what I was getting into,” said Perry, who came to Bastrop after serving as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Plano East. “I’m from Central Texas and Bastrop has always had great athletes. This is key for our season, getting a win at the start.”
Shelton certainly would have appreciated the same feeling, but it would figure, in a season opener, that a couple sophomore mistakes would make the Rebels wait another week. An ill-advised kick return attempt by sophomore Anthony Garza set up Bastrop’s tying touchdown with 5:25 left in the game, then sophomore Torrance Smith fumbled on the first Hays play of overtime after Bastrop had taken the lead with a touchdown.
“We had them in good shape,” Shelton said after the Rebels blew a 27-13 lead deep into the fourth quarter. “We did some good things, but we made a lot of youthful mistakes.”
The Rebels hinted at their flashiest offense since they averaged 486 yards per game in 2005. They didn’t muscle their running game through the middle or hit the deep ball, but they showed everything in between, ending their opener with 497 total yards.
Smith hit two cutback runs for touchdowns of 46 and 49 yards, finishing with 140 yards in 13 carries. Quarterback Trey Berry dashed off a 90-yard touchdown run and ended with 150 yards in 15 carries. Berry and Sam Breyfogle combined to pass for 149 yards.
However, the Rebels also made four turnovers, all inside the Bastrop 30 (two were interceptions near the goal line), and took nine penalties for 75 yards. In other words, it was a night of big plays and big mistakes for the Hays offense.
The big plays almost were enough to carry the Rebels, who lost an opener for the first time since falling to Grapevine, 27-13, in a 2001 engagement in the Alamodome.
Late in the fourth quarter Friday night, the Bears found a hole in the Hays defense that they hadn’t exploited to that point, hitting out passes to their right-hand side almost at will. On Bastrop’s next drive after Hays took the 27-13 lead, quarterback Matt Homesly connected with Auston Shipley in that manner for 19 yards, then 13 and, finally, five yards for a touchdown, bringing the Bears to within 27-20 with 5:25 left.
It fell to the Rebels to at least cook the clock and push Bastrop’s next possession into compromised field position, but Garza attempted to field a kickoff apparently headed out of bounds at his own seven, the ball got away and Hays started deep in its own territory. Failing to respond with a first down, the Rebels punted Bastrop no further than 37 yards from the goal line with 3:44 left.
Again, Homesly hit Shipley for 11 and 12 yards to the Hays 19. On fourth down from the 14, Homesly drew Hays offsides. Later, Homesly completed three straight passes, the last for three yards and a touchdown to Daryl McFarlin, tying the game, 27-27, with 1:05 left.
Bastrop took the ball first in overtime and finished the job quickly as Dominic Brown tore off runs of 12 and 13 yards, the second for a touchdown to give his team a 34-27 lead. On Hays’ first play in response, Smith ran for six yards before fumbling. McFarlin recovered, ending the game.
The Hays defense showed signs of solidity Friday night, ending Bastrop’s first four possessions of the second half with two punts, a fumble and an interception. But the Bastrop rally pushed its total offense up to 426 yards, including 237 on the ground. Homesly completed 15 of 24 passes for 189 yards. Shipley made seven catches for 79 yards.
“Our main problem defensively was missing tackles,” Shelton said. “They did a good job making us miss.”
Bastrop took a 6-0 lead off the opening kickoff when Homesly reached Shipley with a four-yard touchdown pass. Hays came right back with Smith’s 46-yard touchdown run, taking a 7-6 lead on the point-after kick by Alex Perez.
For their final series of the second half, the Bears put in Josiah Monroe at quarterback. Monroe responded with runs of 20, 10 and 11 yards. Bubba Johnson added a 37-yard run, setting up Brown’s two-yard touchdown run to give Bastrop a 13-7 halftime lead.
Hays dominated most of the second half, starting with Smith’s 49-yard run for a 13-13 tie at the end of its first possession after intermission. After Hays forced Bastrop to go three-and-out, Berry ran 90 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rebels a 20-13 lead.
An eight-yard punt set up Hays at the Bastrop 30 with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter. Anthony Pesina tore off a 26-yard run to the four, then Smith ran the final two yards for a touchdown, giving Hays the 27-13 lead with 7:14 left.
Before the night ended, though, Bastrop was celebrating. Whether Perry will return Bastrop to the prominence it enjoyed under Les Johnson 15-20 years ago remains to be seen, but for one night, the Bears had the feeling.