Sep. 9—BURLESON — A week after freshman quarterback C.J. Thornton went down with an AC joint injury in his shoulder, freshman quarterback Cutter Kennedy stepped in and stepped up for the Weatherford Kangaroos as they faced off against the Burleson Elks in search of their first win of the season.
The Roos and Elks battled it out in an entertaining contest at Burleson ISD Stadium and, in the end, Weatherford was able to hold off the young Burleson squad by a final score of 35-21.
The Weatherford defense forced Burleson to turn the ball over on downs on its opening drive after the Elks were able to drive into Weatherford territory, and the Kennedy-led offense capitalized. Kennedy marched the Roos down the field, converted a fourth-and-four play in the red zone and then took it in himself from a yard out to put the visitors ahead 7-0 with 4:39 left in the opening quarter.
"I thought Cutter did a good job. He was very poised, but I think the guys around him also did a really good job and stepped it up," Roos head coach Aubrey Sims said. "In those big moments, I felt like everyone kind of made a play. I'm really proud of the job Cutter did, but of everyone on the offensive side."
The lead did not last long, though, as Elk running back Nate Jackson knifed through the Weatherford defense for a 51-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with only one minute and six seconds off the clock from the previous drive. However, the Roos were able to drive the length of the field and scored on the first play of the second quarter to regain the lead at 14-7 after junior Colton McClure found paydirt on a 6-yard jet sweep.
After the Weatherford defense forced a Burleson fumble, the Roos extended their lead to 21-7 after senior running back Joseph Polk capped off the scoring drive with a 1-yard rushing score. The Roo defense got another stop and seemed poised to score again after senior tight end Will Jordan put the Roos at the Elk eight yard line following his 41-yard catch-and-run play in the second quarter's waning moments, but the Burleson defense came up with a big play. Kennedy was looking to throw a fade to the corner of the end zone, but the pass was underthrown and intercepted by Burleson defensive back Tre Cushionberry. Then, the sophomore dazzled Burleson ISD Stadium with a 104-yard pick-six that cut the halftime deficit to 21-14.
Each team failed to score on their respective opening drives to open the third, but Polk broke through for the visitors with a 15-yard rushing touchdown with 5:47 to go in the quarter to increase Weatherford's lead to 28-14.
The home team showed no quit as quarterback Kaden Ward led his team to the end zone by sneaking across the goal line from a yard out with 7:11 left in regulation to trim the deficit to 28-21.
The Roos then milked the clock on a long scoring drive. McClure converted two big third downs on the march down the field and Kennedy found Jordan in the end zone from 13 yards out to put the game on ice with 2:12 left and a 35-21 lead.
A few moments later, inclement weather put a stop to the action as the teams mutually agreed to end the contest, but both teams benefitted from the entertaining contest.
"We started to do some things right tonight, and we've shown some flashes of that to the start of our season, but we did a lot more right in this game tonight," Elks head coach Chad Worrell said. "We just continue to make some mistakes that cost us on both sides of the ball. Offensively, there were a lot of penalties that put us behind the chains in the first half, which we were able to overcome in the second half. Defensively, we are facing some alignment issues or making the wrong calls. When we did things right, though, we were able to stop them."
Kennedy completed 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception while carrying the ball eight times for 27 yards and a score. Polk contributed 99 yards and two scores on 18 carries while McClure amassed 95 total yards of offense (34 rushing 51 receiving) and found the end zone once. Jordan hauled in three passes for 36 yards and a score and carried the ball two times for 35 yards. Weatherford registered 362 total yards of offense in the contest.
Now, the teams will start district play, and Weatherford looks to fine tune its overall operation on the field with a solid Crowley team coming to town.
"At times, we did some really good things," Sims said. "They busted one run on us and had that pick six. They also did a good job of driving down and scoring on us on that last drive. I wish we had finished the game a little bit better, but I like the way we started it. We just can't turn the ball over and put ourselves in those situations. We want to make a playoff run and we can't do that by turning the ball over. I hope to see us continue to grow each week because this is when the games really count. We will see what happens."
Meanwhile, the Elks put forth their best effort of the season and hope to see that catapult them to more success throughout the season.
"I feel like we got a lot closer to where we want to be after tonight," Worrell said. "We battled through adversity and put some things together in our best effort of the year. This was the best we've played as a team and we took a step forward even though we lost. ... We are young, there's no doubt about that, we have a lot of inexperienced players that haven't played varsity football, but I saw the kids get more settled in. We are going to continue to play, coach and practice better with the goal of getting better each week."
The Roos (2-1) will play at home against Crowley at 7:30 p.m. Friday on homecoming night while the Elks (0-3) search for their first win at 7 p.m. Thursday at home against Midlothian Heritage to open up district play.