Cougars advance to area round behind blowout win
CROSBY - Reggie Branch may have joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe Friday night: Call him Touchdown Man.
The Crosby quarterback continued his hot run of play in recent weeks with a game to be remembered in Cougar lore in a bi-district round playoff game against Fort Bend Willowridge.
Branch finished with five touchdown runs, three scoring passes and a combined 296 total yards off offense as Crosby advanced to next week’s area round with a 70-42 win over the visiting Eagles that featured 1,168 total yards of offense.
“We are on a roll right now,” Crosby head coach Jerry Prieto said. “The last couple of weeks, these kids have been figuring out things offensively and Reggie is settling in. It’s been fun to watch when we are clicking on all cylinders right now.
“Reggie is a really special player. He is the most humble, hard-working, ‘yes, sir, no, sir,’ hard working kid that does everything we ask. It’s hard enough to get him to say ‘it’ to start the play. He never talks, he doesn’t run his mouth. He’s a great kid.”
Branch finished with 233 yards rushing on 21 carries.
“We have been waiting for this for a long time and we knew we would execute tonight,” Branch said. “I trust and believe in my team. We practice hard every day to get the chemistry right. Coach got a better feel of what was going to work and what wasn’t, started calling better plays and we started rolling from there.”
The District 12-5A II No. 2 seeded Cougars (6-4) will play Huntsville (8-3) in next week’s Region 3 Area round.
Huntsville, the No. 4 seed out of District 10-5A II won 35-12 against Marshall, Texas.
Against Willowridge, the Cougars exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter as the teams combined for four straight scores.
Crosby got on the board when it scored on a 1-yard run by Leondre Smith early on and the senior running back added a two-point PAT run to put the home team up 8-7.
Branch then added a 58-yard touchdown run after the Eagles wrestled the lead back and the Cougars were up 15-14 just six minutes into the game.
Both teams gave the other a chance to break serve with a Crosby interception of a Willowridge pass and then the Cougars fumbled the opportunity away on the very next play.
Crosby ultimately added to its lead when Deniquez Dunn hit a wide open Jelan Herman on a halfback pass with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars led 22-14 after 12 minutes to play and the teams having combined for 418 total yards.
The second quarter was not as prolific offensively until Crosby padded its lead on a Branch 3-yard run with 5:41 left before halftime and a 29-14 lead.
The Eagles rallied with two scores before halftime and Crosby went into the halftime on the better side of a 32-28 barnburner after Cougar Trevor Helburg added a 44-yard field goal in the waning seconds before both teams headed for the lockers.
Crosby finished the half with 329 yards for the half as the teams combined for 679 total.
Branch had 13 carries for 133 yards and Willowridge quarterback Rufus Scott finished 17-for-22 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
Crosby came out blistering after the break and Dunn set the tone with a 58-yard run that got the Cougars to the Eagles goal line and two plays later
Branch scooted into the end zone for a 6-yard score and a 39-28 lead just 80 seconds into the second half.
Branch made it a hat trick plus a little brother when he sauntered to the house for a 7-yard touchdown jaunt to pad Crosby’s edge to 46-28 with 4:12 to go in the third quarter.
After forcing an Eagle turnover, Crosby struck again as Branch’s magical evening continued with a 29-yard pass and catch-and-run combo with Dunn and 78 seconds later Crosby led 53-28.
Branch brought the wash, rinse and repeat to the party once again as he darted to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown score with 15 seconds left in the third quarter and a 60-35 Crosby lead.
Dunn added a 17-yard scoring run and Helburg kicked a 25-yard field goal to wrap the Crosby onslaught that was sparked by an improved defensive effort after halftime.
“We came out in the second half and set the tone and the example and got after it,” Prieto said. “We had to adjust some coverage things and some personnel. Once we did some of those adjustments – they weren’t running much on us – we did pretty good in the second half.”
Dunn finished with 126 yards rushing and 81 receiving while teammate Michael Ray picked off two passes.
Scott ended his season by throwing for 451 yards.
Now it’s Branch and Prieto leading the Cougars on to the next round after an 0-3 start.
“We all believed in coach, so we just started figuring things out,” Branch said. “We can go as far as we want to go, we just need to put in the work for it.”
BARBERS HILL 42, Houston Sterling 0