Before the season started Houston running back Chris Colebank wondered if he would get in the game. A groin injury made him miss all of spring practice.
“I was really discouraged because I didn’t think I was going to be able to play. I was out lots of conditioning,” said Colebank, a junior. “They were starting other players over me.”
But in the long run, Houston’s 34-0 season opening win over Brighton changed things for Colebank.
“The O-line did their job the first game and I read the holes. I did really well and everything just took off,” said Colebank, who entered the Mustangs’ Region 7-6A contest with Bartlett on Friday as one of Shelby-Metro’s top rushers. Through four games he had rushed for 507 yards on 63 carries, an 8-yard average per carry and 126.75-yard per game average and had scored six touchdowns.
With Houston trailing Bartlett 20-19 in the fourth quarter, Colebank got the ball nine straight times topping a 69-yard drive with the game-winning touchdown with 3:21 left, giving Houston a 26-20 victory and adding to Colebank’s memory bank.
“I am going to remember this for my whole life, getting the ball, grinding it in to get a touchdown,” said Colebank, who was the game’s leading rusher with 204 yards, all but 20 yards of the Mustangs’ 224 total, on 31 carries.
Bartlett free safety J.J. Vaden called Colebank a “very gifted player.”
“You can’t bring him down by arm tackling,” he added. “You have to bring it or he’ll run right through you.”
Colebank’s performance was also praised by teammates.
“At the end of the fourth quarter Chris was just tearing it up,” linebacker Shane Ptacek said.
Quarterback Ethan Burns said Colebank’s play “secured the game.”
“Chris is doing awesome,” he added. “He is killing it every game.”
Houston Head Coach Will Hudgens said that Colebank’s opportunity is now.
“He is a tough kid. At any point we can go to him and he proved it tonight,” he said. “He has been doing that the last two years on scout team and he has gotten his opportunity and he has proved who he is.”
Colebank credited his offensive line.
“We are a running team and we capitalized,” he noted. “The offensive line did an amazing job.”
Hudgens also commended offensive linemen left tackle Nathan Havrda, left guard Ryan Bullock, center Jaren Alnutt, right guard Matt Needham and right tackle Gaines Williams.
The Mustangs relied on their defense to stifle a Bartlett team inspired by revenge after a 14-13 loss to the Mustangs last season left tears in their eyes and circling the rematch date.
Bartlett quarterback Preston Raines had the Panthers on their 49-yard line before Ptacek sacked him for an 8-yard loss with less than two minutes left.
“It took us out of range for the fourth down conversion attempt. He was a big player who made a big play in a big game,” said Raines, one of Shelby-Metro’s best quarterbacks who entered the game completing 41 of 73 passes for 704 yards, a 176-yard per-game average (10th best in Shelby-Metro) and eight touchdowns.
His total offense was at 190 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
Against Houston, Raines completed 8 of 17 passes for 167 yards including an 18-yard touchdown pass to Philip Thompson that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead. Raines also scored on a 2-yard run that put the Panthers on top 20-19.
The game’s leading tackler with 12, Ptacek said of the stop on Raines, “I was just trusting my teammates. They were going to hold up their gaps and I was fortunate enough to get the sack.”
Hudgens said, “Shane did a great job of blitzing off the edge. The corners played really well.”
One of the most exciting plays for Bartlett did not count, nullified by a penalty.
After Tamarious Brown ran for 12 yards and a first down at the Bartlett 37-yard line, Raines completed a 34-yard pass to Vaden who grabbed it at the Houston 29-yard line and ran to the 25 seconds before halftime.
Vaden caught it after it was deflected by Houston defenders. An illegal man downfield penalty cost the Panthers and they trailed 13-7 at halftime.
“It felt great to make a big play in a big moment,” said Vaden. “When I saw it was called back I just took a deep breath and relaxed. I didn’t want that play to stay in my head.”
Said Raines of the penalty, “That was very tough to see.”
Despite the loss that left the Panthers 3-2 overall and 0-2 in region, Bartlett Head Coach Tim Haney, a former Houston coach, said, “I am proud of these guys. The defense played well. We got a lot of stops. We got turnovers. This is a team effort.”
The Panthers play at White Station this Friday, while Houston (3-2, 1-1 region) plays at Melrose.
Bartlett linebacker Nathan Johnson said, “I am expecting a lot of big games from now on especially with Arlington (Sept. 30). I was proud of the defense against Houston. I hope we bring the same intensity to our upcoming games.”
One of the players in tears after Houston’s win last season, Vaden said that he was “beyond proud of my brothers and how we kept battling all the way to the end.”
Bartlett defensive end Ethan Reeves told his team not to hang their heads after the loss.
“We put up one heck of a fight and I mean we left everything we had on the field,” he said. “We can’t let one game destroy us. We have five left. We are too good. I love this team. I love the coaches and the players and I’m excited to be a Bartlett Panther.”
Reeves, Vaden, Demitrius Brown each had seven tackles with Vaden’s all solo tackles. Johnson had five tackles.
“The number one thing we found out from this game was the fight everyone on the team has,” said Raines. “It is a different team than years before. It feels special.”
Along with Ptacek, Houston’s defense was led by Bruce Brown with six tackles, Trey Davis four, Landon Schmidt four, Jacob Christoffersen four, Cade Young four, Jackson Little four. Houston held Bartlett to eight yards rushing in the first half and 26 yards passing.
The Panthers finished with 51 yards rushing and total offense of 218 yards while Houston had 99 yards passing among its 323 yards total.
Houston fumbled eight times losing four while Bartlett fumbled four times losing two. The Mustangs had 15 penalties for 114 yards while Bartlett had seven penalties for 55 yards.
“It was an ugly win but we’ll take it,” said Hudgens. “You learn a lot more from mistakes than you do from doing everything right.”
Burns, who completed 9 of 17 passes and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Grayson Hitt to open the Mustangs’ scoring, said that the Mustangs overcame a “sloppy start.”
“Our defense was coming up big in the first half,” he noted. “They were keeping us in the game.”
Hudgens was pleased with his defense.
“We put (the defense) in a lot of tough situations and we tried to get cute with our onside kick to start the second half,” he said. “We gave them a short field and credit to Bartlett, they drove down and scored and put our defense in a tough spot.”
Senior linebacker Jake Christoffersen said the Mustangs executed better in the second half.
“I think we were focused on gap integrity and playing our roles on defense,” he said. “You put 11 pieces doing your job together and it all comes out to one defense.”
Bartlett was impressive in its first score. Thompson recovered a fumble by Houston’s Walker Dukes on the Houston 30 with 8:27 left in the first quarter.
Vaden then ran 12 yards for a first down. A 3-yard gain by Melvin Turnage got to the 15. A pass interference penalty on Houston got the Panthers to the 8-yard line but Bartlett was penalized for holding. Raines then threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Thompson for a touchdown with 7:25 left in the first quarter. The Panthers led 7-0 after Noah Buckingham’s PAT.
In the second quarter, Burns set up the Mustangs’ first touchdown with a 17-yard pass to Lincoln Pare that went from the Bartlett 28-yard line to the 11. After a penalty, Burns’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Hitt with 9:23 left in the second got the Mustangs to within 7-6. Emmanuel Chi tied it at 7.
Later Houston took a 3-point lead.
Houston safety Will Gusmas blocked a punt by Jackson McGrady and defensive back Drew DeSanctis recovered at the Bartlett 11.
Chi kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 10-7 Houston lead.
Ptacek then recovered a fumble by Raines with 3:11 left in the second at the Bartlett 27 setting up another Houston score.
Burns threw an 11-yard pass to Hitt who was tackled by Vaden. Colebank then ran 12 yards but a tackle by Vaden kept him out of the end zone. On the next play Johnson tackled Colebank after his 6-yard run. Chi then kicked another 24-yard field goal for a 13-7 halftime lead.
Bartlett took a 14-13 lead on a 8-yard run by Turnage. A 29-yard pass from Raines to Thompson then a 7-yarder from Raines to Thompson set up the score with 9:28 left in the third quarter. Buckingham kicked his second PAT.
Houston regained the lead after Ptacek recovered a Turnage fumble at the Bartlett 41. A 10-yard run by Colebank got the Mustangs to the Bartlett 43 after a holding penalty. A 16-yard run by Pierce Farlow and a 20-yard pass from Burns to Pare led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Colebank.
Houston led 19-14 with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
It took Bartlett less than two minutes to score.
Raines threw a 65-yard pass to Brown who ran to the Houston 2-yard line. Raines scored from there and Bartlett led 20-19 with 11:34 left in the game.
A big defensive stop by Randolph with seven minutes left forced a McGrady punt. Houston started its winning drive at its 31 as
Colebank, who has 4.8 speed but plans to be at 4.5 by his senior season, took over.
“We had a lot of momentum but they got a stop and turned the ball back over to them with six minutes let and they drove it down on us to score,” Haney said.
Said Burns, “It doesn’t change that much whether you are down 20 or up by 20. You have got to stay in it and do your job and not put your head down or get too cocky.”
Said Christoffersen, “Offense didn’t move the ball very much through the first three quarters but the last drive we decided to try inside zone runs and it worked. It gashed them for big plays after big play.”
Turnage led Bartlett rushers with 46 yards while Raines had 42, Brown 19 and Vaden 12. Brown led Bartlett receivers with 65 yards while Thompson had 54. LaKeece Kimble had 31 yards on two catches including a 23-yard reception.
Pare’s 47 yards led Houston receivers while Hitt had 29 yards, Dukes 23.
“I am proud of our guys for staying locked in the whole game and being able to overcome all those turnovers,” said Hudgens.
Senior linebacker Stewart Kerby said the Panthers proved a point.
“I think the most important thing about the game for me was proving to people Bartlett is capable of competing with anyone,” he said.
Raines said, “It will be an uphill climb but it is doable.”
BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.