San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 14th, 2008
Rebels open playoffs tonight against Magnolia wishbone

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – Watching the game films of the Magnolia Bulldogs this week must have brought a tear to Bob Shelton’s eye.

The Bulldogs are among the last of what has become a dying breed in Texas high school football. They run the wishbone, which Shelton ran with great delight, and results, for most of his 41 years at Hays.

As much as Shelton loved the wishbone and pledged his allegiance to the Darrell Royal way, competitive pressures forced the Rebels to modernize and diversify when they went to Class 5A in 2000. By the middle of this decade, they were the most productive offensive team in Central Texas, averaging 486 yards per game in 2005.

So, the wishbone served Shelton well, and leaving the wishbone behind served him well, and now Shelton will have to defeat the wishbone if the Rebels are to advance in the Class 4A playoffs.

The Rebels open the playoffs tonight (7:30 p.m.) against Magnolia at Bob Shelton Stadium riding a five-game winning streak after winning their first district title in ten years. In their last three games, the Rebels have cut down their turnovers, solidified their defense and put together their most consistent run of offense. At the end of the regular season, they were 7-3 overall and 5-0 in District 17-4A.

The name of this game is going to be defense as the Rebels try to stop the Magnolia wishbone. In their last three games, the Rebels have picked up defensively, allowing a total of 632 yards, an average of 210.7 per game. But they haven’t faced the like of an option attack, which punishes defense for over-pursuing.

“Our defense has played pretty well for the last few weeks, I think,” Shelton said. “We’re going to have to stop the run and play assignment football on the defensive side.”

The Bulldogs finished 6-3 overall and tied with Brenham for second place in District 18-4A at 5-2. They come and go with the rushing prowess of 5-foot-8 junior quarterback Dennis Dunbar, who, like the average Hays quarterback, is always a threat to break off a big run.

In a 24-21 loss to Montgomery on Oct. 10, Dunbar didn’t play. In a 34-14 win against Caney Creek on Oct. 17, Dunbar went for 208 yards in 17 carries, including touchdowns of 55 and 65 yards. In a 24-21 overtime loss to Huntsville on Oct. 24, Dunbar rushed for 189 yards in the first half while the Bulldogs built a 21-7 lead, then was held to minus-19 yards in the second half while Huntsville came from behind.

Uncharacteristically, the Rebels finished the season without a 1,000-yard rusher, but they’ve worked up such a variety of weapons throughout the season that it hasn’t hurt them a bit. Two different passers topped 550 yards, three different rushers topped 600 yards and four receivers topped 200 yards. In total, the Rebels gained 3,624 yards, averaging 362.4 yards per game.

It remains that quarterback-wide receiver Trey Berry is the top gainer who is, in fact, on all those lists with 928 rushing yards, 552 passing yards and 207 receiving yards.

Of equal importance, the Rebels have dramatically cut down on turnovers in the last four weeks. Through their first six games, the Rebels threw seven interceptions and lost six fumbles, making more than two turnovers per game. In their last four games, they have lost two interceptions and two fumbles, making one turnover in each outing.

The Rebels took their measure on Sept. 26 in a 35-24 loss to defending state champion Rosenberg Lamar at Bob Shelton Stadium. In that game, the Rebels gave up three turnovers and three touchdowns of 30 or more yards from scrimmage. It became clear that if the Rebels were to advance far in Region III, which could involve a third-round rematch against Lamar, they would have to eliminate turnovers and big plays by the opposition.

Since then, the Rebels have obviously cut down on turnovers. They’ve also, since then, allowed only three touchdowns longer than 12 yards, and two longer than 30 yards.

Another good development for Hays came with a series of coin flips to determine where tonight’s game would be played. The first flip was to decide if the game would be played at a home site or a neutral site. Shelton picked neutral site and lost the flip. The next flip was to decide which home site the game would be played at, and Shelton won that flip.

To this point, then, the Rebels have a lot working in their favor. But another call comes tonight.

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