By Grant Lengefeld


The Hamilton Bulldogs balanced their season record at four wins and four losses last Friday evening in Valley Mills with a dominant 55-14 shellacking of the Eagles.

The Bulldogs fast-tracked a 21-7 first quarter lead and kept the pedal to the metal in cruising to their first district win. Hamilton amassed 628 total yards of offense including 536 yards and six touchdowns on 47 rushing attempts, and 92 yards and two touchdowns through the air on five of nine passing.

Excluding two possessions cut short by the clock expiring at halftime and at the end of regulation, eight of Hamilton’s nine offensive series resulted in touchdowns.

In contrast, the Bulldog defense stymied the Valley Mills offense to just 263 total yards including 187 through the air on 10 of 30 passing and 76 yards on the ground in 20 rushing attempts. Hamilton’s wrecking crew too forced four turnovers in a game that brought a nightmarishly long 0-10 season to an end for Valley Mills. Blake Pettit intercepted a Valley Mills pass at the goal line to thwart the Eagle’s opening drive scoring petition.

On offense, he then systematically carved through the Eagle defense like an electric knife through a Butterball turkey. Pettit zig-zagged for 158 yards rushing on just 10 carries in the game, and his long of 41 set up a two-yard touchdown plunge by Martin Najera with 9:03 remaining in the first quarter to give Hamilton an early 7-0 lead, after the Jace Slone extra point.

Najera too averaged just under 16 yards per rushing attempt Friday night, churning for 127 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

In addition to scoring the opening touchdown of the ballgame, Najera carried a Grayson Moore quick pitch around the right side on just the third play from scrimmage in the second half and careened 53 yards to pay dirt behind the lead blocking of Astin Carr.

That score catapulted the Bulldogs to a 34-7 lead. Austin Sherman marched 70 yards on seven touches and ruptured the Eagle defense on a 48-yard, fourth quarter burst to the goal line to affix the final points on the scoreboard with 7:33 remaining in the ballgame.

Moore accounted for 49 yards rushing on seven carries, and scampered four yards across the goal line for Hamilton’s lone second quarter touchdown. Daniel Bottlinger tracked 41 yards on three touches including a long of 19 and a 12-yard third quarter score, and Kain Kunkel steamrolled for 36 yards on four carries to include a 28-yard barrel roll into the end zone for Hamilton’s first of two fourth quarter touchdowns.

Kunkel’s strike came on the heels of an interception by Bottlinger who returned the ball 44 yards down to the Valley Mills 28. In the final minutes, Hamilton rewarded four of their senior gatekeepers responsible for opening running lanes all night and all season with an opportunity to carry the rock. Diesel Ceresini earned two of Hamilton’s 23 first downs with three thunderous rushes of 15, 14 and seven yards for an average of 12 yards per tote.

Wyatt Catoe erupted for a six-yard gain, and Jacob Guerrero barged for nine and another Bulldog first down for a hall of fame worthy, career rushing average of nine yards per carry. After mishandling the initial handoff, center Branson Armstrong was awarded a second chance and plowed for four yards as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Overall, the four brutes bullied for a combined 52 rushing yards. In addition to Moore’s 49 yards rushing and one touchdown, he also threw for 92 and two touchdowns. Moore relied heavily on the sure hands of fellow sophomore tight end Ty Bates who grabbed three receptions for 66 yards and a first quarter touchdown.

Before snagging the 10-yard six-pointer to regain a 14-7 advantage for the Dogs, Bates hauled in a 40-yard pass from Moore on third and 30 from Hamilton’s own 23 to extend the drive.

A little under three and a half minutes later, Moore again threw to the end zone with no time on the first quarter clock. The ball caromed off the pads of an Eagle defender, and into the waiting arms of Rodger “open seven days a…” Weeks for a 19-yard touchdown reception.

Slone split the uprights, connecting on a perfect three for three in extra points. Najera relieved Slone in the final three quarters and ended the night successfully kicking four of five point-after attempts.

Jett Cortez also seized a Moore pass for seven to add to his one rush for three yards. Valley Mills benefited from two 15-yard penalties on their way to scoring their first touchdown of the evening to knot the score at sevens early in the first on a 12-yard screen pass from Kolton Kendrick to Spencer Eccelston.

Their second and final touchdown of the evening came at the 5:20 mark in the third on a three-yard plunge by Eccelston to temporarily cut Hamilton’s lead to 34-14.

The Bulldogs were led defensively by Bottlinger who bottled eight tackles on top of his 44-yard interception return to set the stage for Kunkel’s fourth quarter score.

James Young wrestled six stops including gunning down three Eagle ball carriers for loss. Ian Nath, Sherman and Najera registered five tackles apiece. Nath forced one incompletion by getting pressure on Kendrick, and Sherman defended two pass attempts.

Cortez and Luis Najera roamed the secondary and teamed for five pass defenses apiece while chalking four tackles each.  L. Najera also recovered a fumbled kick return by Valley Mills in the second quarter, and Cortez sealed the game with a fourth quarter interception in the end zone for a touchback to set in motion the final brute force running attack. 

Armstrong and Stuart Cortez also registered four stops apiece with each recording a sack, and Jacob King dropped four Eagle ball carriers including one tackle for loss in the Bulldog’s 55-14 upending of the Eagles.

In other action around the district, Hico earned an upset 16-3 road victory over Goldthwaite, and DeLeon continued their district romp with a 51-7 road win over San Saba.

Crawford sat idle and will travel to Hico this Friday as four-point favorites. DeLeon will host Goldthwaite as 26-point favorites, and Harris Ratings have picked the Hamilton Bulldogs as five-point home favorites over the San Saba Armadillos.

DeLeon is currently 5-0 and leads the district trailed by Crawford and Hico with 4-1 records. Goldthwaite holds the coveted fourth spot with a 3-2 district record, and Hamilton and San Saba sit tied for fifth at 1-4. Valley Mills secured their place among the bottom of the seven teams in District 7-2A with an 0-6 district record.

Hamilton and San Saba will kick-off at Kooken Field this Friday night at 7:30 pm. Currently at 4-4 on the season, the Hamilton Bulldogs are vying for their first winning record dating back to 2012. San Saba is currently 3-5 on the season touting a 42-7 win over Winters, a 33-32 victory over Cross Plains and a week-one 48-6 district win over Valley Mills.

Ten Bulldog seniors will don the red and black Friday night for the last time including Jacob Guerrero, Martin Najera, Reese Haile, Wyatt Catoe, Luis Hernandez, Branson Armstrong, Kye Underwood, Will Bridgwater, Diesel Ceresini and Brody Rogers.        

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