The game just started and the Bulldogs had the ball after receiving the kick from the Elk City Big Elks. They lined up and on the snap, quarterback Jake Vargas handed the ball off to Noah Villareal who tried to make something happen but a flag flew and the Bulldogs were called for a false start, setting them back and presenting a problem for the prolific offense before 30 seconds had ticked off the clock.
On the third play of the game, however, Sha’Quan French took over.
He took the ball on a toss from Vargas and broke around the left side of the line searching for paydirt. The Elks could do nothing to stop him. French is fast and it was something Elk City found out before they could even get warmed up as French took the ball 60 yards and crossed the plane to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead with 11:06 still left in the first quarter.
It seemed — considering the Bulldogs’ first offensive possession — that French’s run set the tone for the game and in a way, it did.
In other ways, the Bulldogs had a fight on their hands before the night was over.
Elk City is a talented team on the wrong end of the final outcome in each game they have played in this young season. The quarterback Gage Porter found ways to make something happen almost every time the football stayed in his hands. It was not just his ability to throw the football, but also his ability to tuck the ball and run with it that made him such a threat.
But for the most part, the Bulldogs hurt themselves.
On Elk City’s first offensive possession, the Bulldogs stopped the Elks multiple times only to have a flag thrown their way on two third-down stops. It extended the Elks possession and led to their first touchdown of the game with an 11-yard Gage Porter pass.
It tied the game at seven, but the Bulldogs moved down the field once more with ease, relying on the bruising and ultra-reliable Villareal to punish the Elks’ defense before finishing it off with a 30-yard touchdown run by Nehemiah McCaskill — his first of three on the night.
Altus had Elk City’s number, allowing the Elks to show flashes brilliance at times as Gage Porter moved around the field and found open receivers and open lanes to run, but made stops when it counted and kept the Elks from putting another touchdown on the board for the remainder of the first half.
Altus leaned heavily on Villareal during the second quarter, handing the ball off to him seven consecutive times towards the end of the quarter. Villareal’s only mistake came with less than a minute left on the clock in the first half as the Bulldogs were driving for their fourth touchdown of the game.
Villareal took the handoff and fought his way through the line to move the ball to his free hand when an Elk defender hit him, jarred the ball loose and ended the Bulldogs’ final opportunity to score in the half.
Even so, the Bulldogs took a 21-7 lead into halftime and it turned out it was a much-needed advantage.
In the second half, Elk City started with a bang as Porter moved the Elks down the field and connected with his receiver for a 29-yard touchdown pass that pulled the Elks to within seven of the Bulldogs.
But Altus answered back, using its group of running backs to push the ball down the field before Kory Beach made good on one of his many opportunities and punched one in for a 10-yard touchdown to extend the Bulldogs lead to two touchdowns.
Elk City moved the ball down the field in only two minutes to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to seven once again and the Bulldogs and Elks moved into the final quarter of play with the Bulldogs leading 28-21.
Then Nehemiah McCaskill stepped into the game once more, scoring 9-yard and 28-yard touchdowns within a four-minute window to put the Bulldogs up by three touchdowns.
Still, Elk City battled back and took the kickoff back 75 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Elks, there were four minutes left on the clock when they attempted an onside kick. The kick bounced off the field and off the hands of a waiting Bulldog but was quickly covered by the Bulldogs just as Elk City’s players arrived at the ball.
Altus now only needed to run time off the clock and reached the first down marker on nearly every snap before another touchdown run by Kory Beach from six yards out with 1:01 left in the game.
But it was more than enough as the Bulldogs went on to defeat the Elk City Big Elks by a final score of 49-28.
Vargas completed one pass for nine yards on the night but ran the ball for 80 yards on 11 carries, while Sha’Quan French ran the ball three times for 98 yards and Kory Beach helped out with five carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs ran their way to victory compiling 538 yards on the ground.
Bulldog Head Coach Todd Vargas was ecstatic about his team’s performance in general and Villareal’s success in particular. He ran the ball 30 times for 226 yards and one touchdown.
“Basically, the way their defense was aligned it was kinda foolish for us not to run the same play because we were getting eight yards a pop off it,” Vargas said. “So the night he had doesn’t surprise me. We were giving it to him and the line did a great job of running our zone dive and it was very successful play for us tonight.”
“Three-and-O is where we wanted to be and now we’re looking forward to district,” Vargas said. “We have not at this point faced a quarterback this mobile, but we knew from the beginning that these guys were a different animal for us on defense. They average 36 points a game and we knew the guy could throw it and knew he could run and we just didn’t do a good job containing him. The great thing is the offense played extremely well tonight and we’re happy. We got the win.”
“On to district now, the preseason is over,” Villareal said. “I’m still waiting for my best game.”
McCaskill had five carries for 69 yards and three touchdowns, but he kept it simple.
“It feels great,” said McCaskill. “I just like to run.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.