HOUSTON — From the very first play from scrimmage, it wasn’t how John Cooper hoped things would go in the Southwest Preparatory Conference Class 3A championship Saturday afternoon.
A key senior on the Dragons went down with a leg injury. And things spiraled from there.
The Dragons were stymied on offense all afternoon long as the Fort Worth Country Day Falcons built a big lead by halftime.
The Falcons cruised from there for a 41-0 victory at Butler Stadium for their second straight championship.
Country Day (6-5) beat the Dragons (8-3) in last year’s title game and have won three out of the last four titles. The Falcons started the season 0-3 off of last year’s title run.
“It’s tremendous,” Country Day coach Brian Farda said afterwards. “Last year, we came out and surprised some people on how fast we were able to turn things around and compete for this game. This year, we didn’t sneak up on anybody. You don’t get away with (winning) two seasons in a row.”
On the first running game of the day, a big piece to the Dragons’ puzzle was clutching his leg on the turf after the whistle was blown.
“Right off when we lose our senior captain Cameron Reed — he’s everything for us as far as a leader, a fullback and he takes care of the front and is just a phenomenal player,” Cooper coach Erik DeHaven said. “That’s why he’s going to be playing college football. That hurt us right off that bat. At the same time, we have to respond. We didn’t do that today.”
It was a slow build for Country Day. But it just kept building and building the lead until it was out of reach of Cooper in the third quarter.
The Falcons led 7-0 after the first quarter.
Senior quarterback Stephen Murrin scored on a 3-yard run at the 8:24 mark.
Murrin was a part of both Country Day touchdowns in the second quarter. He rushed in a 2-yard score and found Samuel Woodson on a 10-yard connection later.
Sophomore kicker Kurt Kimmel opened scoring in the quarter with a 28-yard field goal. He later hit a 40-yarder in the third quarter.
Already up 24-0 to start the third quarter with the ball, Country Day got the dagger it needed.
On the first play from scrimmage, Connor Brown sprinted home a 48-yard touchdown.
Brown later added a 44-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter on broken play. Murrin lost the snap as the ball bounced on the turf. He picked it up, used his legs to clear some room and round him and hit Brown on the left sideline, who did the rest of the work.
Country Day had 412 yards of offense. Murrin threw for 191 yards while Brown rushed for 112. Chris Edwards had 70 yards receiving.
The Falcons defense limited the Dragons to 115 yards offense. Jake Peterson rushed for 54. Thomas Elkhoury had 37 receiving yards and 145 punt return yards.
“For us, it starts up front,” DeHaven said. “Our guys gave tremendous effort. But you have to win it in the weight room. (Country Day) is doing a phenomenal job. My hat’s off to them and the great success they’ve had. They deserve it and we’ll be ready to hit the weights get ready for next year.”
The Dragons won four straight conference games to earn the opportunity to play against the Falcons. Country Day won the first meeting between the schools, 27-7, back in September.
From Farda’s perspective, a lot about the Dragons has changed since that game.
“They were really coming on strong,” Farda said. “They had a huge second half of their season. A part of it was all the things that they changed. They changed their brand of football really. They went from kind of a finesse style that was wide open to kind of a ground and pound, pound the rock type ground game that was devastating people. They went tremendously physical and it saved their season and turned it around for them.”
DeHaven, who came over from St. Pius X to become the new Dragons head coach this season was proud of his team.
“I haven’t been around such a special group before,” he said. “They’re very tight and have been welcoming to our new staff. They’re going to be missed. I just thank them for everything they’ve done for this program.”
Cooper has seen some building blocks last past two seasons. The hope to continue building and win one of the SPC titles some day.
“It’s great for our program and our fans to get here,” DeHaven said. “Now we just have to win the big one.”