Homecoming at Buddy Moorhead Stadium was emotional for a variety of reasons for the Conroe Tigers on Friday night.
And they used that emotion to conjure up a huge win.
The Tigers came through for the first time at home — 38-13 — over visiting Klein for the first. It was also Conroe’s second straight win and with losses by Klein Collins and The Woodlands on Friday night, the Tigers enter the bye week in a three-way tie for first place in District 15-6A with Klein Collins and Klein Oak.
Conroe also avenged a 54-21 loss to the same Bearkats a year ago. That was something that was on senior defensive lineman Dominique Ratcliff’s mind.
“It was a really good moment for us,” Ratcliff said of the win. “Last year they beat us really bad. We knew what we had and the tools we had to beat our enemy. We just went out and did it. It was very emotional for us.”
On second year head coach Cedric Hardeman’s mind was playing for a citizen of Conroe who passed away a couple weeks back. Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish owner Buster Bowers, who died suddenly on Sept. 22.
“This is for Buster,” Hardeman said with tears in his eyes afterwards. “I know he’s looking down on us. He’s not here anymore. We miss him. This is for Buster right here.”
The Tigers (4-2, 3-1) got off to a sluggish start on offense and fell behind early.
Their early drives were rough, but by halftime, the Tigers led 14-7.
Senior quarterback Christian Pack was picked off by Omarie Simmons and Markum David respectively in the first quarter and the Tigers’ third drive ended on a failed fourth down attempt at the 6-yard line of Klein.
The Bearkats (2-3, 1-2) got on the scoreboard first with a trick play. Quarterback Bryce Corriston handed the ball off and then received a 6-yard pass from wide receiver Nick Barkley off a double-reverse with 8:41 left in the first quarter.
Michael Phoenix scored both Conroe’s touchdowns in the second quarter. He first caught and ran in a 7-yard score from Pack with 6:22 left in the second quarter to tie the game.
Phoenix then showed great hands on his second touchdown with 20 seconds to go before halftime. The senior caught a 5-yard fade after briefly juggled the ball before securing it for the 14-7 lead.
The first touchdown by Phoenix came off a fumble recovery by cornerback Zayden Kimple.
Hardeman said afterwards that this group is used to the saying ‘In order to get to something, you have to go through something’.
“That’s what our kids do,” Hardeman said. “They are a resilient bunch. We have a great senior class. When they started out, there were no heads down.
In the second half, the Tigers outscored Klein 24-6.
Phoenix scored his third touchdown of the night from 15 yards out in the third quarter. Marcus Thomas then pushed the lead to 28-7 on an end around 2-yard run.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Josue Santos hit a 38-yard field goal. Then with just over six minutes left, Pack scored on a 3-yard run.
Klein’s final touchdown of the night came in the third quarter on a Corriston 15-yard touchdown. Corriston left the game on the last drive of the night after being sacked by Conroe’s Brytavian Dickey.
Hardeman was very pleased with how the defense responded to last week’s performance at Klein Cain. Conroe won, but the Tigers allowed 55 points and over 600 yards to the Hurricanes.
He had heavy praise for defensive coordinator Joaquin Garcia and the rest of the staff.
“I’m very thrilled,” Hardeman said. “We challenged the defense and they stepped up big. Those guys are very prideful and they took it to heart last week. We won. But they weren’t happy. They were champing at the bit to come out. I have a great defensive staff.”
Conroe allowed 279 yards this time and stopped the district’s fourth leading rusher in Kenzo Viteri, who totaled 64 yards on 20 carries.
“Stopping the run,” Ratcliff said of the goal this week. “What we discussed was being physical and more nastier than the other team. Just straight up dominating them on all fronts defensively.”
For Conroe, Pack finished the night with 198 yards passing and a team-best 109 yards rushing. Phoenix had 42 yards receiving. Jalen Williams had a strong game with 80 yards receiving and 54 yards rushing.
Conroe is on its bye next week. The Tigers are back in action Oct. 18 against The Woodlands at Woodforest Bank Stadium. Klein hosts The Woodlands 2 p.m. next Saturday at Klein Memorial Stadium.