With a script worthy of a Hollywood nail-biter movie, the Bandera vs. Navarro game on Friday, Nov. 8, delivered end-to-end drama.
The outcome went down to the wire, with Bandera’s Bulldogs falling 41-38 in an epic battle.
With the 8-1 Bulldogs hosting the undefeated Panthers in the last regular game of the season, the game more than lived up to big expectations.
Navarro jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in less than four minutes with a touchdown on the opening kickoff and field goal shortly thereafter.
The bounce-back Bulldogs responded, however, when quarterback Gunnar Brown hit running back Tommy Cardenas on a 26-yard TD pass with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
A successful point after touchdown made the score 10-7 early.
The Panthers kicked another field goal to go up 13-7 with less than nine minutes in the second quarter, but the Bandera defense pulled a rabbit out of its hat by disrupting a pass by the Navarro quarterback that ended up in the hands of Brown, a linebacker on defense.
That led to a Bandera field goal by Blaise Salazar with six minutes left in the first half and a 13-10 lead for the Panthers.
Navarro scored again before the first half ended, but so did Bandera following a 31-yard, play action pass from Bulldog QB Solomon MacNeil Brown that ignited the offense.
Moments later, Cardenas punched it in from the 8-yard line, with great blocks from Colton Perkins and Brock Johnson, leaving Bandera behind 20-17 at halftime.
The second half continued with the ping pong scoring that kept the Bulldogs within three points time and again.
In the third quarter, both Navarro and Bandera scored twice to take the game into the last quarter with a 34-31 tally in favor of the Panthers.
Early in the last quarter, it looked like momentum was stronger on the Bandera side as the Bulldog defense denied the Panthers any points on a long drive to the Bulldog 8.
Bandera marched 92 yards and took the lead 38-34, on a Solomon MacNeil 12-yard TD run with 1:44 left in the game.
But Navarro came back with a 63-yard rushing touchdown with a minute left in the game for a 41-38 lead that the Bulldogs could not overcome.
Bandera’s offensive line paved the way for 398 yards of total offense for the Bulldogs - 155 through the air and 243 on the ground.
The Offensive Linemen of the Week was Mason Musick.
MacNeil had 95 yards passing and a passing TD, along with 137 yards rushing and two rushing scores.
Cardenas gained 141 all-purpose yards and had two touchdowns. Brown had 76 all-purpose yards.
Salazar was the Special Teams Player of the Week, converting successfully on all five of his extra points and kicking a 20-yard field goal.
Bandera’s head Football Coach Joel Fontenot Amedee said while the team was disappointed with the outcome, he and the coaches were proud of the tenacious Bulldog comeback effort.
“The team is excited about going to playoffs and is very ready for the next game,” he said.
The Bulldogs end the regular season at 8-2 and take on the Hondo Owls in a road game on Friday, Nov. 15.
It will be Bandera’s first playoff game in 10 years.
Bandera officials said the game has been named the Hill Country Nation Game of the Week and will be aired on 103.7 FM the Buck and live streamed on 1037thebuck.com.