In a nerve-wracking and teeth grinding game last Friday afternoon, the West Rusk Raiders had their final game of the season on the Hallsville stadium field. The Raiders were set to play their third game of the playoffs, in the Regional bracket of the 2020 State Football Championships 3A D2. Their opponent that afternoon were the Waskom Wildcats, whose overall record for the season had been 10-1 while their district record had risen to 5-1 before the playoffs.
The West Raiders fell to the Waskom Wildcats, 14-56, in a tension-filled game full of spastic changes in the energy on the field. The preparation before the game began was filled with the stands cheers and the shouting of the coaches, cheering on the boys who were doing warm-ups on the field. The Raiders were preparing for this game because they were so close to the quarterfinals but remained aware that this could be their last fight.
The coin flip determined the Raiders to receive, and as soon as that ball left the toes of the kicker from Waskom the game officially began in earnest. The Raiders took up their offense from inside their own territory, with the Waskom Wildcats attempting to lock down the field. With only a few yards gained the Raiders decided to forgo their possession of the ball in favor of moving the stalemate to a more favorable area on the field with a punt.
With the ball on the 21-yard line deep in the territory of the Wildcats, the Raiders set up to defend their deep incursion. Unfortunately, the offensive line of the Wildcats was hardy and the Raiders had a tough time containing their push back towards the Raiders end zone.
With an amazing fumble recovery off of the Wildcats, the Raiders take possession in their own territory, starting at the 44-yard line. However, after a quick scuffle, the ball gets tossed from the Raiders’ hands and the Wildcats jump at the chance to take back possession. With the ball back in the Wildcats’ possession, it wasn’t long before a Wildcat pushed past the defenses of the Raiders for a 43-yard run, quickly followed by a 1-yard rush touchdown.
This was the first touchdown of the night, which would then be followed by many more. The first quarter had less than 4 minutes left when the scuffles on the field led the Raiders up into the Wildcat territory on the 16-yard line, which then spelled trouble as the first quarter ended with the Raiders able to make a move for the endzone.
With the start of the second quarter, the Wildcats take over and score another touchdown off the position. Another push down the field into the Raider territory, the Wildcats racked up two more touchdowns, with the score coming to a distressing 0-28. West Rusk’s quarterback #13 Andon Mata had a long field pass down deep into the Wildcat territory, with the Raiders set up on their 2-yard line.
With under a minute left on the clock, the Raiders turned over possession on downs, with Waskom having the ball on their own 5-yard line as the first half came to an end. A halftime score of 0-28 had the Raiders’ side of the stadium quiet, everyone waiting on bated breath for the start of the second half.
West Rusk kicked off at the start of the third, the ball in possession of the Wildcats. With 5 minutes on the clock, the Wildcats ran the ball deep into the Raiders’ territory, the ball on the 1-yard line. Another touchdown later for the Wildcats, the Raiders changed tactics. Raider James Greenalch, #3, goes for a long rush after the kickoff, landing on the Waskom’s 25-yard line.
With Mata throwing an 8-yard pass, the Raiders followed through with a touchdown. The PAT (points after touchdown, extra point) was good and the score was bumped to 7-35. Unfortunately, the Raiders were unable to find a moment of celebration, with less than a minute in the third, Waskom turned around and pulled the ball back down the field for a rush touchdown.
The score for the third was 7-42, and the Raiders’ stands were muted, only disrupted by the sounds of the cheerleaders and the band. As the sun slowly crept down the sky, and the chilly field grew colder, the Raiders set up for the final quarter. With a 20 yard pass, the Raiders managed to secure another touchdown, with the PAT good the Raiders moved up to 14-42.
With about a minute left, the Waskom Wildcats had a 70-yard return. As the clock ticked down, the game was called at 14-56.
Unfortunately, this ends the season of football completely for the West Rusk Raiders, as well as Rusk County. The Raiders had one heck of a season, almost making it to the quarterfinals despite the COVID-19 epidemic and tough opponents.
Though West Rusk lost the game, their spirit only rests, waiting for next season to come.