NOCONA — Struggling with turnovers right out of the gate, the Ponder Lions couldn’t hang on to the ball enough to combat Nocona’s stiff rushing prowess as they fell to the Indians 33-7 in their last nondistrict matchup at Jack Crain Stadium on Friday night.
“I thought we battled extremely hard in the first half, even though we put it on the ground two times … and two more in the second half,” Ponder head coach Russ Phillips said. “It’s hard to overcome that. That cost us. We battled and we fought through the adversity we had. We’ll bounce back. That’s not a worry of mine.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Ponder senior quarterback Reid Sanders’ pass to senior Tanner Yeager was fumbled on their own 31-yard line, yielding good field position to the Lions just seconds into the game.
The Indians (4-0) looked to strike with the field position in their favor, but Ponder’s defense was up to the task after being quickly thrust onto the field. The Lions were able to hold and force Nocona to turn the ball over on downs.
On their second possession, the Lions put the memories of the early fumble behind them and marched down the field with an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive propelled with an even mix of runs and passes before finally finishing it off with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Christian Worthington. Sanders found Worthington alone in the right side of the end zone as the Nocona defense bit on the play-action.
That would be the only score of the night for the Lions.
After the ensuing kickoff, senior Tate Fenoglio blasted through the Ponder defense with a 64-yard touchdown dash to bring the Indians to within 7-6 after the failed 2-point conversion.
Fenoglio led the Indians’ rushing attack with 231 yards on 22 carries as Nocona racked up 336 total rushing yards for the game.
“They’ve got three guys back there that are pretty darn good,” Phillips said. “They do a lot of things where you have to be fundamentally sound and you have to be in the right spots, and we just weren’t doing that. We’ll go back to the tape and get better and prepare for our district opener.”
Ponder (2-2) continued to struggle to hold on to the ball as a bad snap led to a fumble at the Nocona 45-yard line on the Lions’ next possession.
The Indians instantly turned Ponder’s second turnover of the game into points. Senior Bryce Dingler rushed for a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to finish a 55-yard drive.
A successful 2-point conversion pass from Fenoglio to Edward Cardoza had the Indians up 14-7.
“We turned it over two times in the first half and we were only down 14-7,” Phillips said. “On the first play of the game, we put it on the ground and it didn’t cost us. We ended up getting it back, but the second one hurt big time because any time they turn it into points, it’s not a good situation. You have to credit them for that. They are a good football team.”
Both offenses struggled to put any more points on the board in the second quarter as the Indians took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
After a solid kick return to their own 48-yard line to start the second half, the Indians used a 10-play, run-heavy drive capped by a 7-yard run by Dingler to give them a 20-7 lead.
The Lions’ fumble issues mounted as the Indians recovered a botched kick return on the Lions’ 30-yard line, but Ponder’s defense was again able to hold. Unfortunately, for the Lions, their offense sputtered and was forced to punt.
Nocona added another touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter as senior quarterback Hayden Hill found senior Shelby Womack for a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Indians a 26-7 lead.
The Lions’ struggles continued as a Sanders interception ended Ponder’s third drive of the second half.
After the interception, the Indians went 87 yards, with Fenoglio breaking off a 29-yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 33-7 lead.
Nocona 33, Ponder 7
P — Christian Worthington 23 pass from Reid Sanders (Coleman James kick) 5:09
N — Tate Fenoglio 64 rush (conversion failed) 4:51
N — Bryce Dingler 10 rush (Edward Cardoza pass from Tate Fengolio) 11:54
N — Dingler 7 rush (conversion failed) 7:36
N — Shelby Womack 7 pass from Hayden Hill (conversion failed) 1:03
N — Fenoglio 29 rush (Raul Anaya kick) 5:51
Rushing — N: Hayden Hill 16-39, Tate Fenoglio 22-231, Dillon Lyons 1-4, John Jennings 5-31, Bryce Dingler 5-35, Shelby Womack 1-(-4).P: Brennan Sooter 18-89, Reid Sanders 5-5, Tanner Yeager 1-4.
Passing — N: Hayden Hill 6-11-56 P: Reid Sanders 13-24-130-3.
Receiving — N: Bryce Dingler 1-5, Edward Cardoza 2-39, Tate Fenoglio 2-5, Shelby Womack 1-7. P: Tanner Yeager 5-62, Austin Leveridge 2-8, Christian Worthington 1-23, Dylan Nichelson 1-14, Trey Dunlap 1-0, Nick King 1-12, Brennan Sooter 2-6.