In a rare Saturday night outing, the Pepperell Dragons (1-2) got the night started with a bang and never looked back. The Lindale crowd was treated to a 30-8 senior night victory over the Bremen Blue Devils (2-1).
“I’ve been a part of many Saturday nights, but I can say this is the best Saturday night in Lindale I’ve had in a long time,” Dragons head coach Rick Hurst said. “Super proud of our kids. Our coaches did a great job and I can’t say enough about the execution in the gameplan.”
The cannon and fire-breathing dragon head were active early. On the opening kickoff, Bremen muffed the return and Pepperell senior Drake Miller fell on it at the 12-yard line. One play later, Dragons quarterback Matthew Waddell rolled left and located senior Will Helton on the left side of the end zone for a quick 12-yard strike for six.
Seventeen seconds into the game, it was 7-0.
“We’d worked on that first play all week,” Hurst said. “We knew it was probably going to be there based on what (Bremen) was doing. Waddell read it well and Will Helton gets his first catch and touchdown, so it was something special right there.”
The Dragons brought the lightning-quick offense back in the second half. On the first play of scrimmage up 10-0, sophomore running back DJ Rogers found some green grass and took off 65 yards to the house. Nineteen second into the third quarter, it was 17-0 Dragons.
This may or may not go down as a Pepperell football trivia question, but both opening plays of the first and second halves resulted in Dragon touchdowns.
“That’s hard to do,” Hurst said. “We actually ran the same play we scored on ( the first snap of the game); we just ran it out of a different formation. DJ hit it like a missile and, man, what a player he is.”
On the next offensive series, Rogers again found himself blazing by the Bremen secondary on a 71-yard scamper that put Pepperell up 24-0. Rogers would finish the day with a 1-yard TD rush late in the fourth quarter.
On the evening, Rogers recorded 23 carries for 236 yards and the three trips beyond the goal line.
“Such a great threat to have back there to open up our passing game,” Hurst said. “He runs hard. He’s not easy to bring down. He’s got a great low-center of gravity and he explodes through the hole. When he sees it, he goes. The vision is something you don’t teach.”
Hurst had high praise for his offensive line, opening up holes for Rogers and Pepperell’s other backs to work.
“Those guys came out (in the second half) and opened up some huge holes,” Hurst said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and figured out what they were trying to do to us and I thought we did a great job.”
Defensively, the Dragons forced four fumbles and senior Marsyan Griffin hauled in an impressive one-handed grab, managing to stay inbounds on the Pepperell sideline.
“Our defensive line made huge strides this week (and) our linebackers are playing extremely well,” Hurst said. “Kolby Davis, Will Helton, Trey Forcier and Drake Miller. Drake’s all over the place.”
"I thought Marsyan’s interception on the sideline was great,” Hurst added. “He read it perfectly. A lot of the film we watched was helpful and I think we’ve got to continue to do more of that.”
One issue Hurst highlighted entering Saturday’s contest was tackling. Following the 22-point home win, Hurst said tackling improved.
“I had a great feeling all day, I don’t know why, I just felt like we were gonna come out and perform,” Hurst said. “This team deserved to beat a quality opponent and they did. (Bremen) was the No. 6-ranked team in the state in Double A.”
Pepperell honored their seniors prior to kickoff at Dragon Stadium, and Hurst said this senior night is certainly one for the memory books.
“When you beat a ranked opponent at home like we did, that’s something they’ll never forget and it’s just an awesome way to send those guys,” Hurst said. “We got a lot of football left, but this is senior night for them and they get to celebrate and they’re well-deserving of it. “
Pepperell is on bye next week. The Dragons’ next game is Friday, Oct. 2, at Temple.