The final score was 27-6 in favor of the Bulldogs, but oddly enough the score was not indicative of how well the Bulldogs played Friday night.
Defensively, they seemed to have all the answers and only gave up a few big plays, forcing the Eagles to punt on their first five possessions.
Offensively, it was an off night for Noah Villarreal who had 16 carries for a season-low 38 yards and one reception for five yards.
But the Bulldogs have several playmakers and without Villarreal performing at his usual level, they stepped in to pick up the slack.
Quarterback Jake Vargas carried the ball 15 times for 80 yards and snuck into the end zone three times. Even when it appeared at times that the Eagles might corral him, Vargas had other plans.
Vargas found ways to make the Eagles defense pay numerous times, slipping would-be tacklers and accelerating out of the reach of several defenders at just the right moment. He even lobbed a rare pass to Sha’Quan French for a 28-yard gain, throwing the Eagles off balance just as they thought they had the Bulldogs figured out.
But no matter how well the Bulldogs played, they committed several penalties at crucial points during the game.
“Effort-wise and coming out knowing it was a district game, we played well, we executed and ran the ball well,” said J. Vargas. “But we made a lot of mental mistakes like the penalties. We need to fix that.”
Some of the penalties were big, coming when the Bulldogs needed to avoid them the most.
In fact, one Bulldog interception in the end zone was called back due to a personal foul that gave the Eagles a new set of downs to work with only a few yards from paydirt.
It looked like the Eagles were destined to score but the Bulldog defense held tough, coming up with four consecutive stops to get the ball back at their own one-yard line just before the half.
Moments like those spoke volumes of this hard-hitting and stingy defense that did a fantastic job of slowing down sixth-ranked Class 5A team.
The only time the Eagles were able to score was partly attributed to a special teams blunder by the Bulldogs.
Late in the third quarter, the Eagles were forced to punt and put the ball into Bulldog territory. But an Altus player had his back to the ball and was running to block for the return when the football bounced off his leg and made the ball live. Del City was able to recover it in great field position.
“It was just one of those nights, we had little things like that. In three years we haven’t had a peter punt, we just haven’t done that,” said Head Coach Todd Vargas. “It’s a learning experience. Coaches have to do a better job… I have to do a better job of preparing kids for those situations so we don’t make those mistakes. I take full responsibility for any mistakes we made tonight and we’ll get it fixed.”
The punt breathed new life into the Eagles squad and several plays later, Del City quarterback Jarrod Wood found wide receiver Issac Beverly in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass that was just out of reach of a Bulldog defender.
The only positive outcome of that score was that the Bulldogs were able to get past the Eagles offensive line and block the Eagles extra point attempt.
But it was only one of several big plays made by the Bulldogs defense Friday night.
Following a one-yard touchdown run by Tito Jones, the Altus kicked off to Del City, but when the Eagles were driving with 10:18 left to play in the game, Bulldog noseguard Jazzerick Pitts intercepted a Del City pass for a big return.
Although the Bulldogs drive stalled and they turned the ball over on downs, the defense once again stuffed the Eagles and gave the ball back to the offense.
From that point on, the Bulldogs gained enough yards to keep the clock moving and the ball in their possession. Altus got as close one yard from the end zone and let the clock run out to give them their first district win of the season and fourth win overall.
Even with a 4-0 record, Vargas said they have to do much better.
“It was a little sloppy. There were a lot of flags and little mistakes here and there — momentum killers and things like that. Little things that were really reminiscent of last week against Elk City. It has become common for us,” Vargas said. “But those are things we need to fix. We’re not going to blame anybody or anything. We’re going to take responsibility, but the best thing is the kids persevered. They overcame and they played hard and I’m very proud of them.”
Now the Bulldogs travel to Duncan and face the Demons in their second district game of the season.
Team records aside, Duncan is always a challenge.
“Duncan is always a big game for us. We play on the road, but we will not have to try and excite our kids for this game because it is always big and always tough,” Vargas said. “But right now we’re 4-0 and we’re 1-0 in district and that’s exactly where we want to be.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.