Saturday night from Buda at Bob Shelton Stadium, Texas saw the ending of a season with a celebration of a winner. The defending CRAFL champion Houston Ducks duked it out with the upstart North Texas Stampede. The Ducks were winners a year ago at CRAFL Bowl VIII, while North Texas won it all in the MPFL a year ago. This night, we are going to see who has extended their championship aspirations.
The Stampede won the toss but deferred to the second half. Houston received the kickoff and they took little time in getting on to the scoreboard. On a 6 play, 73-yard drive, starting quarterback Chris Byrd tossed a 37-yard pass to Demartie Allen using 5 minutes and 2 seconds of the clock. The extra point by Josue Beltran was good. After one quarter, the score was 7-0 Ducks.
Houston added three points thanks to Beltran’s foot and powerful leg. He kicked a 32-yard field goal after a 17-play drive that saw 5 penalties. The Stampede and Ducks flip-flopped between who was getting those penalties during that drive. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put the Ducks into position to score from their own 15-yard line but Byrd’s pass fell incomplete bringing on the three-pointer. At that point with 13:53 in the second, it was 10-0, Ducks.
Three minutes later, running back Keith Davis put the Stampede on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run. The touchdown came off of a 9-play, 65-yard drive. Starting North Texas quarterback Justin Willis found Dwaine Guyton, Jr. for a 30-yard pass during the drive that setup Davis to score 3-plays later.
Guyton and Willis were not done. The two combined for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 6:38 left in the first half. It took 8-plays, 68-yards and a drive that saw Willis throw the ball with 4 completions from 5 attempts. His longest was a 20-yard pass to Guyton to get the Stampede to the 9-yard line. Two plays later, they scored after a penalty against Houston for pass interference and Willis’ lone incompletion on the drive.
North Texas scored one more time before the end of the first half. Off of a 13-play, 75-yard drive Willis found Ed Young, Jr. for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
What started out as a 10-0 first quarter lead turned into a 21-10 deficit for the defending CRAFL Bowl VIII champions. The Stampede led by 11 points at halftime.
The second half saw an awakening of sorts from Houston. It took giving up two touchdowns in the third quarter plus giving up an interception to Stampede DB James Bailey Jr and fumble that was recovered by DL Julian Wyndon towards the end of the stanza. The Stampede added a field goal from 27-yards out to increase their lead to 14-points 5 minutes into the 3rd. Running back Ed Wesley added the final score for the visitors from the Metroplex with a 10-yard run. Fellow running back Davon Sneed found a crease and raced 54-yards to setup Wesley for his touchdown. From that point, the score was 31-10 and the last time that North Texas would find the end zone.
As stated, the Ducks found an awakening or a second wind in the 4th quarter. Down 21 points and facing the possibility of losing in a route, they put together a quick strike to score to start the last portion of the game. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Byrd found Allen for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Beltran added the extra point. Less than 4 minutes later with 10:55 left in the game, Byrd went back to work and found Byron Milton for a 6-yard touchdown pass that saw the Stampede lead go from 21 at the half to 8 points. The score was 31-23 at this juncture of the contest.
North Texas went into protective mode. Attempting to protect their slim lead, they had two drives that stalled during the quarter. A key 5-yard penalty and Willis went from laser perfect to stumbling out of the gate, as he went 0-for-3 on pass attempts. The last drive of the game, he re-found his groove going 2-for-2 for 16 yards. But Houston wanted to keep it interesting on the drive before that. Byrd found Delfonte Diamond from 12-yards out with 5:49 left. The two-point conversion was no good leaving the final score, 31-29. The North Texas Stampede are your new 2019 CRAFL champions winning CRAFL Bowl IX.
Stats wise, the two quarterbacks put in outstanding performances. Willis went 15-of-24 for 191 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Guyton Jr. led the receivers with 3 catches, 55-yards, and 1 touchdown reception. Keith Davis led the rushing game with 9 rushes, 64-yards, and 1 touchdown run, averaging 7 yards a carry.
For the Ducks, Byrd threw 15 completions from 28 attempts, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception for 281 yards. Allen led the receiving corp with 5 receptions, 151 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Dustin Garrison led the running backs with 7 carries, 38 yards averaging 5.4 yards a carry.
James Bailey Jr was named the defensive MVP with his key 3rd quarter interception. His interception led to the 27-yard field goal that gave North Texas a two-touchdown lead.
The entire offensive line was awarded the offensive MVP. It was a very tough decision but the line held it down. The line was responsible for the 219 yards rushing as a team. After Willis was sacked early in the first quarter, he was not touched the rest of the night having plenty of time to throw the ball.
Congratulations to the owners Cornelius Hudson, Mark Holder, and Patrick Porter along with their coaches. Head coach Jackie Bridges heads out as a winner in winning it all twice in a row and congratulations to the players from North Texas.
The game itself was truly a game of champions, pitting the best of the best. The CRAFL has one more game, the North versus South All-Star game on July 27th at Buda’s Bob Shelton Stadium.
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