Mustangs stampede past La Porte 56-35

FRIENDSWOOD — The strategy of beating Friendswood for any opponent has been the same all season. Have a defensive plan that can stop quarterback Tyler Page.

When La Porte lined up against the Mustangs, the Bulldogs found out what other teams the past two seasons have found, and that is very few teams have been able to contain the elusive signal-caller who is a highlight reel waiting to happen each time he has the ball.

It was the Tyler Page show once again as the Mustangs beat the Bulldogs 56-35 in an offensive show on both sides of the ball in the Class 6A Region III Div. II area round of the playoffs.

Friendswood's defense just happened to stop La Porte more often than the Bulldogs could put the brakes on Page and Co.

While Page was clearly the star of the show, he certainly had some sidekicks who dazzled the crowd as well with outstanding plays.

“I’ve said all along, if there’s a better player in Texas, I don’t know who it is,” Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann said.

The SMU commit, Page rushed for 324 yards on 25 carries and was 8-for-10 passing for 140 yards with four total touchdowns.

"(Page) is really tough, and he's got some good weapons along with him," Bulldog head coach Jeff LaReau said. "But you can't key on him too much and leave those other guys alone.

"In the second half, it was going to come down to who could stop who…and we didn't' do a very good job of stopping Page. He's a pretty impressive player."

La Porte got on the board first when Kevrin Busby scored from 4 yards out, at 9:06 in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for Friendswood to answer, tying the game when Calvin Whitaker bulled his way into the end zone from 1 yard out at 6:06 in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7.

With 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Page scored from 8 yards out to give Friendswood its first lead of the game, 14-7.

La Porte tied the game back up with 4:10 left in the second quarter when Busby set them up at the 2-yard line with a 46-yard gain on a swing pass. La Porte QB Austin Upshaw put the ball in the end zone with a 2-yard run.

Page then had one of his highlight reel moments with a 72-yard cross-country dash on the next drive, setting up the Mustangs at the 4-yard line. Running back Elijah Blackburn scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:52 left in the half for a 21-14 lead.

Friendswood added another score a little more than 2 minutes later when Page found Whitaker for an 11-yard touchdown who had a crowd-pleasing catch and run that showed his power to get the score. The extra point by Cody Williamson hit the mark and the Mustangs took a 28-14 lead into the dressing room.

Coming out after halftime, Page set the stage for the next two quarters. Getting the ball to start the third quarter, it took only two plays as Page fumbled the snap, picked up the ball and ended up taking it 63 yards to the house for a 35-14 lead with 11:17 left in the third quarter.

La Porte wasn't going to go away as Upshaw found Busby on a 55-yard swing pass for a score, closing the lead to 35-21.

That's when the see-saw scoring parade would continue by both teams.

Friendswood receiver Reed Roher silenced the comeback with a big kickoff return, setting up the Mustangs at the Bulldogs 38-yard line. Fullback Calvin Whitaker found the end zone just two plays later scoring on a 24-yard run to push the lead to 42-21 with 4:45 remaining in the third.

Upshaw added another La Porte score later in the quarter, but Page countered with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Roher for a 49-28 lead with 10:15 to play.

Busby added the final La Porte touchdown when he ran it in from 21 yards out, cutting the lead to 49-35 with 7:17 to play.

Mustangs defensive back Tom Hermes came up with a big interception, setting up another Friendswood score when Koleman Bell ran it in from 25 yards out for the final score of 56-35.

While Page had another banner game, he got great support as Whitaker had 80 yards on 11 carries for two scores while also catching catching one pass for another TD.

Bell had 31 yards on eight carries and a TD.

Roher led the receivers with three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

The Friendswood defense did a good job on another outstanding quarterback as Upshaw had 25 carries for 184 yards and two scores while hitting 18-of-29 passing for 218 yards and one TD.

Busby had nine catches for 114 yards and one TD while also rushing for 26 yards and two scores.

La Porte's leading ball carrier Cobra Jones was held to 64 yards on 11 carries and no scores.

"Offensively, we had one bad drive and that was because of a bad snap," Koopmann said. Next Saturday… the smallest 6A (playoff) school in Texas is still alive, and we're still getting after it."

Friendswood moves on to the region semifinals and will face the Cinco Ranch Cougars at NRG Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2:00 p.m.