MARION — What a sweet way to celebrate a district title and senior night all together. Staying perfect in district 5-0 and 8-1 overall with one game left, ending the Cotulla Cowboys season because of its week 10 bye on the schedule.
The Bulldogs raced quickly to a 21-point lead before the Cowboys smelled the end zone. Cotulla ultimately fell to the home team, 49-20 in front of a packed house at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium Friday night.
The Bulldogs elected to put its offense on the field first and senior quarterback Tayler Mills connected with fellow classmate Jackson Allen for a short pass that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown, taking only eight seconds.
Marion took over on the Cowboys side of the 50 at the 48-yard line after the defense forced a punt. Hoping to add to the lead, Mills looked for an open receiver only to have the ball end up in enemy hands.
The Cowboys were not able to take advantage of the turnover and had to punt away.
Mills was able to right the ship quickly, and methodically march his troops 59 yards in just eight plays, culminating with an excellent designed and orchestrated screen pass to running back Ray Rayos — who took it 28 yards to the house. Sophomore kicker Juan Ortiz made both PAT’s, putting Marion up 14-0.
After another stellar Bulldog defensive stand, Cotulla had to punt again. The kick only netted 24 yards and the Bulldogs took over at the 46-yard line of Cotulla. The Cowboys defense also put up a good fight to keep Marion off the board.
With the ball resting on the 12 yard line and fourth and one, the Bulldogs were flagged for a delay of game penalty, making it fourth and six. The next play the defense jumped off-sides. Mills took the snap and pretended to make a quick throw, only to reel it back in and take matters into his own hands in for the score.
The Cowboys needed a few positive plays to stay competitive in this game. They caught a break on the next series. The Bulldog defense had a few penalties. First a pass interference resulted in a first down at midfield and then a huge unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Marion gave Cotulla a first down inside the ten at the seven. Three plays later, they were able to erase the goose egg on the board. The PAT failed and the Cowboys trailed 21-6.
The ensuing Bulldog possession was marred by penalties that luckily did not cost them points. Again, Mills found Allen — who caught a 17-yard TD pass to take a 22 point lead with 2:10 left before intermission.
The Bulldog defense was able to stop the Cowboys’ next possession and wisely using timeouts to have 1:40 left to add to its score. Needing a mere 58 yards to do just that. A 29-yard strike from Mills to Zach Goodwin helped build the 35-6 halftime margin.
The second half saw Marion turn it up a notch. With the visitors facing a third and 12 on its own 33-yard line, senior defensive lineman Tucker Walters interception gave Marion’s offense the pigskin at the Cowboys’ 25.
Marion was facing a fourth and nine at the 24. A second delay of game call, backed them up to the 29. Mills connected with senior Jacob Wallace for the score. After penalties on the PAT, the fourth try was successful.
With the third quarter coming to an end, a roughing the passer against the Cowboys set the Bulldogs on the Cowboys’ 37. A pin-point pass from Mills to a covered Goodwin took a possible interception out of the defenders’ mitts as both players fell. Goodwin was granted the touchdown. Bringing the score to 49-6 with a whole quarter to play.
The final stanza had the Cowboys adding 14 points to make the contest less one-sided.
The totals for the game had the Bulldogs out-gaining the Cowboys by over 200 yards (489-279). Mills completed 17 of his 24 attempts for 354 yards and six touchdowns and one interception. Rayos led the way in rushing, 10 touches for 74 yards. His one catch resulted in a 28-yard touchdown. Others making contributions were, Allen with seven catches for 160 yards and two TD’s, Wallace with seven catches for 97 yards and one score, Goodwin with three catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns and Jayden Williams had one catch for four yards.
After the game, Marion football head coach Ryne Miller said his seniors were prepared for this match, especially with it being their last home game of the season.
“It’s a great group of seniors,” he said. “They did a good job staying focused. We didn’t change our routine on the bye week. The senior leadership knew going into this game it would be their last home game. They were excited and they came out ready to play. Hat’s off to all the seniors.”
The Bulldogs will hit the road to take on District 15 3A-1 foe, the Lytle Pirates (4-5, 2-3). Start time is set for 7:30 on Friday, Nov. 9 at Lytle High School.