Eustace tripped up by Gladewater, end 2018 AT 4-7
The Eustace Bulldogs postseason hopes came to an end at the hands of the Gladewater Bears Nov. 23 at Van Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs would have to deal with some adversity as Cooper Cates stepped in at quarterback for the injured Alejandro Sanchez who had five touchdowns in Eustace’s Bi-district playoff win over Bonham, but Eustace Head Coach Steve Smith wasn’t worried.
"Cooper Cates is a very good athlete and quarterback, Smith stated. "He is going to be very dynamic and successful for us next year and I can’t wait to see him in action."
The Bears opened the scoring early in the first quarter on a 24-yard rushing touchdown just under four minutes in to take a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs would face some more adversity as Cates went down with an injury on the very first play after the Bears’ touchdown. Freshman Christian Case replaced Cates with 8:10 remaining in the first quarter.
After regaining possession, the Bears added another touchdown on another rush touchdown to make it a 13-0 lead for Gladewater.
The Bears drove in one final score from 15 yards before the end of the first quarter to take a 19-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Cates did return for the Bulldogs on their last offensive drive of the first quarter.
The Bears added to their lead just two minutes into the second quarter on a short three-yard rushing touchdown to push their lead to 27-0 after a successful two-point conversion.
The two teams then traded turnovers just about halfway through the second quarter as the Bears intercepted a pass by Cates on Eustace’s 41-yard line with 7:49 remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs returned the favor just 11 seconds later as sophomore defensive back Paxton Schwartz recovered a Gladewater fumble on Eustace’s own 42-yard line.
The Bears did eventually add another 59-yard rushing touchdown with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter and Eustace senior defensive back Ethan Austin added an interception at the buzzer as the Bears took a 34-0 lead into halftime.
The Bears opened the scoring in the second half as they took the ball 47 yards down the field just 1:07 into the third quarter to push their lead to 41-0.
Gladewater ended the third quarter with one final short touchdown run to take a 48-0 lead heading into the final 12 minutes of regulation.
Smith’s main goal for his team entering the fourth quarter was to show resiliency and improve on the areas the Bulldogs had struggled with in the game.
"Our mindset was to play hard for the fourth quarter and limit mistakes and take advantage of opportunities to show we have improved greatly over the course of the year," Smith said.
Austin had the lone touchdown for the Bulldogs as he and Cates connected on a 10-yard pass with 9:50 remaining in the game, but it wasn’t enough as Eustace fell to Gladewater 55-7 in the Area round.
The Bulldogs wrap up the 2018 season at 4-7 overall and finish as the Bi-district champions.
Smith was impressed with his team’s efforts this season and how they came together with the talent they had in their locker room and he expects more next season in his second year.
"I have taken over a program that had not won more than two games in the previous four years and won eight the first year. I have taken a team and went 1-9 in year one and went 9-1 the next year. I expect to be successful. I expect to win. I coach hard and give ownership to the team and I like to think we maximize our talent and overachieve. It was great to do something that has only been done five times in the history of the school, but then again I have higher expectations."
Smith also like the way the seniors took over the leadership of the team and buying into the game plan Smith set out for the team.
"They had to learn to lead the team. With a great senior class having left last year, this group had to learn to lead, all the while buying into a new system and I think they did a super job. It is a great bunch and I loved coaching them."