The Bulldogs were looking to rebound, suffering their first loss in 14 games to the Ardmore Tigers on Oct. 7.
The El Reno Indians are a wild card. Sitting at 1-5 on the season, they had nothing to lose and could afford aggressive play calling against the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs sought to avoid a two-game slump heading into homecoming week.
After receiving the football to start the game, the Bulldogs decided to make a statement.
On the first play of the game, Quarterback Jake Vargas took the snap and found Sha’Quan French, who took the handoff and disappeared, turning up the field and evading El Reno’s defense for a 64-yard touchdown run.
It took 10 seconds off the clock and set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs needed only one play on four separate drives to score a touchdown.
El Reno threatened after the Bulldogs’ first touchdown. They drove the field, took nearly nine minutes off the clock, but had to settle for a field goal for their efforts.
The Bulldogs scored on a 9-yard Gerrell Bluefer run before time expired in the first quarter, and then when they got the ball back after stopping El Reno, they scored again on the first play of the drive with Vargas finding Sha’Quan French for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs scored 21 points on the Indians nn just a little over 12 minutes, but still the Indians hung on.
After punting, Altus’ punt returner Tayon Batiste fumbled. The Indians scooped the ball up and ran it back for the touchdown, making the score 21-10 with a successful point after attempt.
So the Bulldogs answered.
On Tyler Garcia’s first carry of the season, he found pay dirt, running 24 yards for the touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 28-10 lead.
The Bulldogs scored two more times before the half ended. Once on another one-play drive with a 31-yard run by Noah Villarreal and again on a fourth one-play drive with an 85-yard touchdown run by Tito Jones.
The Bulldogs entered halftime with a 41-10 lead, having their way with El Reno’s defense and running the football with authority.
It was second highest scoring game of the season, but unlike their 49-28 win over Elk City, the Bulldogs scored 41 points in half the time.
In the first half, the Bulldogs ran only 15 plays but had gained 324 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Indians managed to gain a little over 70 yards on nearly 40 plays.
Once the third quarter began, the Bulldogs’ defense continued to show why it is one of the fiercest in the state, hustling after El Reno’s ball carriers and making them pay just for touching the ball.
Vargas’ second touchdown pass of the night came with 7:02 left in the third quarter when he found Tito Jones wide open for a 19-yard pass.
With the Bulldogs up 48-10, the Bulldogs’ coaching staff pulled the first string from the game, giving snaps to players the Bulldogs continue to develop for their future teams.
Vargas’ night ended with a perfect two-for-two passing performance for 50 yards and two touchdowns, with another 10 yards on the ground.
But even with the first team resting on the sideline, the Bulldogs were not quite finished. Izaiah Hall, Brendan Phillips and Tim Gloria took over ball carrier duties with Nehemiah McCaskill, while Kobi Gomez took over the quarterback position.
They continued to chip away at El Reno’s defense averaging more than five yards per carry and getting their eighth touchdown of the game on a three-yard run by McCaskill.
Their final touchdown of the game came on a four-yard run by Gomez, a quarterback keeper after a hole opened up on the right side of the line.
The Bulldogs won the game by a final score of 60-17. El Reno’s only offensive touchdown of the game came when the running back found a hole and took the ball 52 yards for the score.
It was the statement game the Bulldogs needed.
Villarreal bounced back with a seven-carry, 89-yard performance, Jones and French both touched the ball twice and ended the game with two touchdowns apiece with Jones compiling 109 yards and French compiling 94 yards, and sophomore Izaiah Hall earned 66 yards on 12 carries in his first significant action of the season.
“It was a relief,” Villarreal said. “I felt like we were back in a groove as an offense. There really wasn’t a way to stop our offense with their defense.”
It was the Bulldogs sixth win of the season and they could not have made a bigger statement with it. Now the Bulldogs return home to take on the Southeast Spartans for homecoming Friday.
But Head Coach Todd Vargas is going to take a little time to savor this win.
“It’s great to get back in the win column for sure. We were very clean on the offensive side of the ball and had a lot of success,” Vargas said. “Defensively we continued to play hard and chase the football. I am very proud of the team’s performance. It is always good when you can get everybody out on the field and better than just getting those guys on the field, they also performed well. All in all, it was a great night and we are very happy with our performance as a family.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.