Jamie Cortez showed why he was the defensive player of the year in District 8-5A-II last season with a sack on fourth down to help Royse City hold off the Greenville Lions 17-14 on Friday night.
Cortez made the big play on fourth and seven from the Bulldog 34 as he tackled Greenville quarterback Brandon Stephens for a 6-yard loss with 2:34 remaining.
The Bulldogs ran off all but the final 25 seconds before punting to Greenville, which was out of timeouts. The game ended with the Lions at midfield as Royse City improved to 6-1 for the season and 4-1 in district play. Greenville dropped to 4-3 and 3-2 with a loss on its homecoming.
“It’s a good rivalry between us,” said Lions coach Darren Duke. “We had our chances and that’s what we wanted. We had a couple of bad breaks and things like that really changed the game for us.”
Royse City got a break on a fourth and 15 play from the Greenville 30 late in the third quarter when a Lion defensive back was called for interference on an incomplete pass. Instead of Greenville getting the ball at its 30, the Bulldogs got a first down at the Greenville 15. Payton Petroff scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later on a 4-yard run with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Petroff also scored on a 2-yard run with 4:59 left in the first quarter to cap a 92-yard, 10-play drive. The big gainer on the drive was a 38-yard completion from quarterback Tyson Oliver to wide receiver Ketron Jackson.
Greenville answered with a seven-play, 50-yard drive that followed an 18-yard kickoff return by Miles Denson and a 15-yard face mask penalty against the Bulldogs. Running back Lester Turner pounded out gains of 6, 4, 1 and 4 yards and quarterback Brandon Stephens fired a 6-yard pass to Turner and then ran 20 yards. Turner finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run and Zach Allen tied the game at 7-7 with 1:00 left in the first quarter with his extra point kick.
Greenville capitalized on an errant snap that was recovered by Jeremiah Abrego at the Greenville 43. The Lions then drove the 57 yards in 12 plays, taking 5:04 off the clock. The Lions ran the ball for the first 11 plays before Stephens fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to No. 11 Shawn Brown with 1:56 left in the second quarter. Allen’s kick gave the Lions a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Zamien Anderson set Royse City up at the Greenville 14 for its next score with an interception on Greenville’s first possession of the second half, plus a face mask penalty. Tyrecus Davis prevented a Royse City touchdown as he broke up a pass to Jackson in the end zone on third down. The Bulldogs had to settle for Anthony Ortiz’s 33-yard field goal that cut the Lions’ lead to 14-10 with 9:36 left in the third quarter.
Royse City’s defense forced a punt from the Bulldog 36 and the Bulldogs drove 94 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, helped by the interference penalty, plus a 5-yard run for a first down by John Klump on a fake punt on fourth down.
Royse City missed a chance to extend its lead after recovering an onside kick at the Greenville 49. The Bulldogs reached the Lion 6 before Greenville’s defense buckled down. Ortiz then missed a 24-yard field goal.
Greenville wasn’t able to score any points on its final three possessions.
“I was proud of the effort,” said Duke. “We knew it was going to be a battle. I thought we would have moved the ball better in the second half.”
Royse City limited the Lions to only 93 total yards in the second half. Royse City finished with a 360-205 advantage in total offense as two Bulldogs went over the 100-yard rushing mark: Ahmon Petty-Dozier (26-173) and Petroff (20-119). Oliver was 6-of-12 passing for 87 yards.
Stephens led the Lions with 75 yards on 19 carries and was 4-of-16 passing for 46 yards. Turner ran for 69 yards on 20 carries.