Hocker run

Abilene running back Keaton Hocker (27) looks for room to run behind his offensive line during the Cowboys’ 29-0 loss to Clay Center.

Abilene head coach Steve Simpson went into the 2019 looking for improvement from his inexperienced football team. What he saw in Friday night’s season opener was a much improved, much bigger opponent in the Clay Center Tigers.

The Tigers came to Abilene with revenge on their mind and were successful in running over the Abilene Cowboys 29-0 on Paul Dennis Field at Cowboy Stadium.

Clay Center under second year head coach Ted Brown remembered their season opening loss to the Cowboys a year ago, 30-6, on their home field. Brown said after Friday’s opening win that his team was determined from last year to not let that happen again. He commented that his seniors stepped up and had a great summer workout in the weight room.

The Cowboys offense struggled all night against the Tiger defense. In fact, Abilene didn’t register its first first-down until late in the second quarter when senior quarterback Jackson Randles found senior receiver Chrisxavier Cease on an 11-yard pass play with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Randles ran for Abilene’s only other first half first down three plays later

“Clay Center just executed their offense really well,” Simpson said. “To stop it we would have to play perfection and that’s hard to do when you have eight new guys on defense. It’s hard man. They have a lot of big kids. They are a good-looking team. We were out of position too much on defense. Their offensive line is big and so are their backs. They executed well as they have nine starters back on offense.”

Clay Center took a 15-0 lead into the locker room at half time after junior Blake Frederick ran 20-yards for a late first quarter score and senior quarterback Cooper Galvan tossed a nine-yard scoring strike sophomore Logan Mullin in the early stages of the second quarter.

Galvan went six of 10 in the first half for 98 yards to go along with the Tiger’s 140 yards rushing attack against Abilene’s defense.

Abilene’s lone offensive surge late in the first half was set up by an interception of Galvan by junior defensive back Caleb Burt. Burt collected the errant throw and galloped seven yards on the return to set the Cowboys up at their own 30-yard line.

Not to be outdone by one Cowboy defensive back, Abilene’s Cease, paying at the opposite corner position, picked off Galvan’s pass deep in Cowboy territory to end the first half.

Abilene’s offensive struggles continued in the second half while Clay Center added two third quarter touchdowns to improve their lead to 29-0.

“Our offense just has to get some things going,” Simpson said. “We’ve got some kids right now with not a lot of experience. Our O-line didn’t get out of their stance a few times tonight. We’ve got some guys that haven’t played in a while, they made some mistakes and we have young guys that were making mistakes. We knew we would probably make a lot of mistakes because of our inexperience. Our O-line got whipped tonight.”

Galvan ran in from three yards out at the 4:48 mark and then sophomore running back Keegan McDonald blasted through the Cowboy defense for a six-yard score with 2:36 left in the third quarter. Galvan tossed a two-point conversion pass to Tanner Demmars to complete the scoring.

In the Cowboy fourth, Abilene senior running back Keaton Hocker carried the ball six times in an Abilene drive and he bounced off tackles working to gain extra yardage. Fellow senior running back Zach Juhl also had a couple of big plays on a drive that saw the Cowboys run 12 consecutive snaps but penalties eventually stopped the offensive drive.

The last hope for a Cowboy score in the opener was set up late in the fourth quarter when Burt fell on a McDonald fumble to set the Cowboys up for a final drive. Beginning at the Tiger 43, Abilene’s Randles found junior tight end Grant Heintz on a seven-yard toss and then Randles ran for seven yards before a couple incomplete passes and a questionable person foul call stalled the offense as time ran out.

Abilene falls to 0-1 and will travel to Concordia also 0-1 after falling 41-12 against Wamego.

“I hope we are a lot better at Concordia than we were this week,” a frustrated Simpson said.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

Scoring Summary:

Clay Center 29, Abilene 0

Clay Center 7 8 15 0 – 29

Abilene 0 0 0 0 – 0

First Quarter:

CC – Frederick 20 run. Demmars kick.

Second Quarter:

CC – Mullin 9 pass from Galvan. Ferguson pass from Galvan.

Third Quarter:

CC – Galva 3 run. Run failed.

CC – McDonald 6 run. Demmars pass from Galvan.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

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