The return of senior Jesse Wells was a welcome sight for a Calvary squad that was missing starting running back Matt Hood, but the Lions couldn’t keep up with Austin Veritas’ rushing machine in a 52-32 loss Saturday in their home opener at Bronco Field.
Veritas’ run game produced 325 yards — including 154 yards on 17 carries by junior Trevor Shaw — and two touchdowns by junior Preston Snow.
The Defenders quickly took a 16-0 lead. After a Clarke Nolley touchdown 2:28 into the game, Veritas recovered an onside kick and scored four plays later on a 6-yard touchdown by Snow.
The Lions then squandered their first possession with a fumble that led to a 30-yard touchdown run by Snow to put the Defenders ahead 24-0.
The Lions (0-2) struggled to get out of their own way in the first half, with turnovers, drive-killing penalties and defensive mistakes.
“We had a lot of selfish penalties on defense,” Calvary co-head coach Bernard Daniel said. “We had three or four personal fouls, and what it will come down to is controlling your body. When guys play hard, those things tend to happen. As long as they continue to go out there and play the way they are supposed to technique-wise and playing with heart, I think we are going to be fine.”
Calvary quarterback Justin Rush was able to settle his team down and toss a 27-yard touchdown to Wells as the first quarter came to an end.
With Hood serving a one-game suspension, Wells returned after suffering a broken jaw during summer practice.
“We would love to have the same personnel on the field at the same time,” Daniel said. “That gives us a power running game and a spread offense. A lot of teams usually only have one set powerful offensive attack. Having Justin, Matt Hood and Jesse in the backfield that can play every position is huge. Most teams don’t have that.”
After Calvary forced the Defenders to turn the ball over on downs, Rush again found Wells for a 12-yard touchdown to get the Lions within 24-14 with 8:10 remaining in the first half.
Wells, who accounted for 216 of the Lions’ 293 total yards, caught several screen passes that he turned into large chunks of yards, and he was the most consistent running threat for an offense that struggled in a 45-0 loss to Lucas Christian.
“We want him [Wells] to open up our spread game,” Daniel said. “We need to get him out in the open more and let him and Justin have that connection that they should have, like Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Jessie adds a different element to our offense, both run and pass. We’re glad he’s back.”
The Defenders pulled away with consecutive touchdowns to take a 40-16 halftime lead. In the fourth quarter, Veritas stopped Calvary on downs and got a 45-yard touchdown run by Shaw to go up 46-16.
The Lions then began to move the ball, adding two touchdowns, but fell short of a comeback.
“We made some key adjustments in the locker room at halftime,” Daniel said. “Our defense kept fighting. They continue to fight. Even when [Veritas] scored, they continued to hold their head up high and never got down. Our corners really zeroed in on their guy, watching their man no matter what.”
After it scored 32 points, Daniel thinks his offense is finding a rhythm.
“Our offense obviously executed much better than last week,” Daniel said. “They practiced better offensively and we put some new plays in there for them. They came out and executed it very well. We definitely improved on running to the football. We focused on tackling this entire week and they made that improvement in one game. Where we need to get better is assignment football. That’s what we need to focus on this coming week.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Austin Veritas 52, Calvary 32
Austin Veritas 24 16 0 12 — 52
Calvary 8 8 0 16 — 32
A — Clarke Nolley 4 run (Wes Neely kick) 7:32
A — Preston Snow 6 run (Neely kick) 6:25
A — Snow 30 rush (Neely kick) 1:28
C — Jesse Wells 27 pass from Justin Rush (Drew White kick) :00
C — Wells 12 pass from rush (White kick) 8:10
A — Seth Jones 34 pass from Ryker Heller (Neely kick) 6:42
A — Ryker Heller 3 run (Neely kick) 3:54
A — Trevor Shaw 45 run (missed kick) 7:37
C — Christian Raney 1 pass from Rush (White kick) 4:41
A — Caleb Lansing 2 run (missed kick) 3:09
C — Rush 6 run (White kick) 2:48
First Downs 8 9
Rushes-yds 33-325 22-134
Passing yards 45 159
Total yards 370 293
Passes 3-10-2 14-30-2
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-yds. 8-61 11-115
Rushing: A—Trevor Shaw 17-154, Clarke Nolley 3-18, Preston Snow 2-36, Caleb Lansing 2-2, Ryker Heller 9-35. C—Zack Elder 1-27, Justin Rush 2-5, Jesse Wells 13-95, Christian Raney 3-7, Brayden Humphrey 2-0, Joe Autwell 1-0.
Passing: A—Ryker Heller 3-10-45-2 C—Justin Rush 14-30-134-2.
Receiving: A—Seth Jones 1-27, Nate Ligon 1-20, Connor Silkett 2-(-3). C—Jesse Wells 10-121, Brandon Eaton 1-20, Christian Raney 2-22, Zack Elder 1-12.