Red Devils survive Hardin, get first win of the season
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
The DCHS Red Devils went to Hardin Friday night and ruined their host’s homecoming, holding out for a hard fought 33-20 victory over a scrappy Bulldogs squad.
“I’m just excited for the kids. They’re pretty jacked, and they deserved it,” said DCHS Head Coach Ryan Buckley of his team’s first win in 2014. “It all just came together for us a little bit.”
The Red Devils looked like they might cruise early, but Hardin scored a couple of defensive touchdowns to make it interesting. Unlike at times in the past, however, the DCHS squad did not give in when faced with adversity.
“We were sweating a little bit, but the kids rallied and finished things out and got the win like they deserved,” Buckley said. “It’s huge for them, and it just shows these kids are starting to grow a little bit.”
It was all DCHS in the early going, as the Red Devils jumped out to a 19-0 lead..
Running back Tai Sokoloski found the endzone — his first of four on the game — on the Red Devils’ very first possession, taking it in from 17 yards out.
Two possessions later, Sokoloski rumbled in again for a five yard score, putting DCHS up 13-0 after the extra point failed.
Late in the second quarter, Sokoloski scored his third rushing touchdown on a fourth and 15 play. The Red Devils had recovered a Hardin fumble at the Bulldogs’ 1, then proceeded to go backwards via poor plays and two penalties. Sokoloski weaved his way to the endzone on the fourth and long play to salvage the drive.
Hardin, meanwhile, struggled to get much of anything going in the first half, fumbling twice and going three and out three times in their first five possessions.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board right before the half, answering with a drive following the Red Devils’ third score. Running back Connor Murdock plowed in from six yards out with less than a minute to go in the half to make it 19-7.
The Bulldogs successfully executed an onside kick following the score, but DCHS defender Carson Oakland picked off Hardin quarterback Codi Small to prevent any further damage.
Things got a little adventurous for the Red Devils in the second half, and at times, it seemed like they might lose control of the game.
DCHS started to struggle offensively. Things got worse when Oakland was intercepted by Hardin defender Oliver Wallace, who ran it back for a 26-yard pick six. Hardin missed the extra point, but they had drawn within a mere six points of the visitors.
The Red Devils finally got something going again late in the third quarter on a drive that started in Hardin territory. Oakland took it in for the score on a 12-yard QB keeper to give DCHS back its two score cushion a couple of minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Hardin defense refused to give up the fight, however.
Oakland intercepted Small again to give the Red Devils the ball at their own 9, but on the very next play, the Bulldogs stripped the ball from Sokoloski. Free safety Carlos Salazar scooped it up and ran it back 15 yards for the touchdown. The extra point sailed through and once again, Hardin was back within six with plenty of time to go.
But they wouldn’t get any closer.
The Hardin defense held the Red Devils to a couple of quick three and outs on their next two possessions, but the Bulldog offense couldn’t move the ball either.
Then, with just over two and half minutes left in the game, the turnover bug bit the Bulldogs one time too many when Small was picked off by DCHS linebacker Gunner Garpestad. The pick was the third Small had thrown and Hardin’s sixth turnover overall.
The Red Devils made the Bulldogs pay for the mistake when Sokoloski plowed in from two yards out for his fourth rushing touchdown with just under two minutes to play.
Hardin made a last gasp drive, quickly moving the ball through the air all the way down to the DCHS 2 yard line, but the Red Devils defense stuffed Murdock on the fourth and goal play to stave off any last second theatrics and seal their team’s first win of the season.
Offensively, Sokoloski did most of the Red Devils’ heavy lifting, rushing for 139 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries.
Defensively, the Red Devils largely stymied Hardin, forcing six turnovers — three fumbles and three interceptions — and only allowing the Bulldogs offense one score. Buckley praised his defense for preparing well for the game, executing the play calls and good tackling.
Reach Jason Stuart at email@example.com.
DCHS 13 6 0 14 - 33
Hardin 0 7 6 7 - 20
DCHS team stats: Passing - 88; Rushing - 165; Total - 253
DCHS Individual stats: QB Carson Oakland, 13-19-88, INT, 1 rushing TD; RB Tai Sokoloski, 28-139, 4 TD
Hardin team stats: Passing - 114; Rushing -109; Total - 223
Hardin Individual stats: QB Codi Small, 11-26-114, 3 INT; RB Connor Murdock, 10-52, 1 TD