NORTH RICHLAND HILLS – Often times season openers are sloppy affairs filled with penalties and turnovers, and we had all of that and then some Thursday night at the Birdville FAAC. However, in the end two evenly matched teams entertained the crowd in a big way as the Arlington Lamar Vikings (1-0) escaped with a 30-29 win over the homestanding Richland Rebels (0-1).
The difference in the game was Arlington Lamar Linebacker Reilly Townsend’s interception of a two point conversion attempt and subsequent return for two points after Richland had taken their first lead of the game at 29-28 with 4:24 remaining. The big play may not have just been Townsend’s pick, but the pressure applied on Richland QB Jordan Wiley by OLB Bryce Notree, whose blitz off the edge messed the play up from the beginning.
Notree made his first big play of the game forcing the first of three Richland first quarter turnovers with an interception of RHS QB Wiley on the second play of the night, that set up a three yard scoring run by junior RB Rashod Polk and Lamar held a 7-0 lead. Richland answered as they moved all the way to the Lamar twelve, before a bad snap went over Wiley’s head and Oklahoma State commit DB Madre Harper fell on the loose ball near midfield for Lamar.
Richland’s defense was up to the task, but the Vikings defense again made a play as this time LB Jalen McDonald got an INT again setting the Vikes up with good field position. Lamar took a shot at the end zone, on third and long on the ensuing drive but this time it was Richland’s defense with the big play. DB P.J. Hill picked off Lamar QB Shane Buechele in the end zone to end the Vikings threat.
Richland’s offense would again find some success with the running game and they were able to get on the board on the next drive as kicker Collin Zellmer nailed a 41 yard field goal to cut the Lamar lead to 7-3. After an exchange of punts, Lamar was able to find some success as they sped the tempo of the game up and LHS grabbed a 14-3 lead in the second quarter on a Buechele to Trey McCalip five yard touchdown pass. The Rebels would answer right before the half as on the final play of the second quarter, Wiley hooked up with Colton Curtis on a 17 yard scoring pass to make it 14-10 Lamar at the halftime break. The key play on the drive was a fourth and six play from Wiley to WR Aaron Denson for 11 yards to keep the drive alive.
Lamar would take the eleven point lead back in the third quarter as RB Kendall Burt scored on a seven yard touchdown run, breaking several tackles along the way to make it 21-10 Lamar. Richland would quickly answer on their next drive scoring on a 13 yard run from Wiley to cut the lead back to four at 21-17.
Late in the third quarter Lamar QB Buechele would leave the game for one play with a chipped tooth after sustaining a hard hit on a QB designed run, the Vikings signal caller would come in on the first play of the fourth quarter and easily made his best throw of the night, a 38 yard pass to WR Taron Owens to give the Vikings a 28-17 edge. Buechele lofted a perfect pass to Owens, in a tight spot and Owens made a very nice over the shoulder grab.
Richland would answer again in the back and forth affair as on 4th and 18 from the Lamar 34 Wiley hooked up with Kyle Itoka for a touchdown pass and the Rebels cut the Lamar lead to 28-23 as the two point try failed. After forcing a quick Lamar three and out, Richland would finally grab the lead on a 54 yard touchdown pass from Wiley to Denson. Richland elected to go for two setting up Townsend’s big play. There was still 4:24 remaining in the game and despite not having any timeouts, Richland had a chance to get a stop and get the ball back. After allowing one first down, the Rebels defense held and forced a Lamar punt. QB Buechele, who doubles as the pnter averted potential disaster with a heady play to save the day. The punt snap went over Buechele’s head, the QB scrambled back to retrieve the ball and instead of falling on it, saw he had time to pick the ball up and get the kick off. The kick was perfect as well as it pinned Richland on their own six yard line with no timeouts. Richland’s offense as unable to get a first down and Lamar would take over on downs and kneel to win the game.
Despite three first quarter turnovers Richland hung around all night as Wiley led the way with 219 passing yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 127 yards and a score. Richland’s biggest defecit was 14-3 late in the first half, but Richland climbed back in it with a 17 yard strike from Wiley to Colton Curtis on the final play of the first half.
Shane Buechele wasn’t his sharpest as he only threw for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but he showed his toughness and good running ability throughout the night. He was also without his top WR Kofi Boateng who was out with a knee injury.