By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
KERENS — The Malakoff Tigers forced five turnovers and picked up more than 350 yards on the ground in their 44-28 win over Kerens Friday night.
Malakoff (3-0) has won the last four meetings between the traditional rivals. This year marked the 74th edition of the Trinity River Rivalry.
The Tigers, down 28-27 midway through the fourth quarter, broke the game open when they scored two touchdowns and a safety in 1:09 of game time.
Kerens (1-2) had broken on top early in the fourth quarter when Kevin Townsel intercepted Tate Taylor and danced down the sidelines for a touchdown. It was the Bobcats’ first lead since early in the first quarter.
Malakoff answered back quickly, however, driving 56 yards on nine plays, with Taylor ending the drive on a 16-yard scoring run. Taylor also ran in the PAT to give the Tigers a 35-28 lead. That came at 6:21 of the fourth quarter.
Two huge plays during the drive included Marcus Dowell converting a fourth-and-six with an eight-yard run, and Malakoff’s Isreal Chavez jumping on a fumble.
Kerens could only keep the ball two plays on its next possession. From his own 17, Bobcat quarterback Nate Betts dropped back to pass and was swarmed by Tiger defenders. Betts fumbled at the 1 yard line and the ball rolled into the end zone. Betts was able to recover, but the Tigers came away with the safety and a 37-28 lead.
Following the safety, the Bobcats free kicked to Malakoff and the Tigers took over at the Kerens 32. Malakoff needed just one play to take advantage of the field position, with Marcus Dowell racing through the Bobcat defense for the score at the 5:12 mark of the fourth quarter.
When Cesar Garcia’s PAT kick was good, the Tigers had scored 16 points in just over one minute and had the lead, 44-28.
Marcus Dowell had a monster game for the Tigers, rushing for 218 yards on 25 carries, scoring two touchdowns, and forcing a fumble.
Taylor also ran well, getting 113 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns. He also added 63 yards on 5-of-11 passing, connecting with Dariuhn Jackson on an eight-yard touchdown strike.
Perhaps the most important battle of the night was the one for turnovers, which the Tigers won 5-1.
Malakoff recovered three Bobcat fumbles, two recoveries by Keonte Ross, who always seems to be around the football, and one by Stephen Wolfe. The Tigers also got a pair of interceptions, one by Jackson and one by Chavez.
The interception by Chavez brought Malakoff’s crowd to its feet and energized the Tiger sideline. The 240-pound junior lineman read a screen pass, batted the ball in the air to himself and then rumbled 23 yards down the sideline.
Kerens broke out on top on its first drive of the night behind a Betts 13-yard touchdown run.
Betts accounted for all three Bobcat touchdowns, running for one and throwing for two others. He hit Brett Anderson for an 11-yard score in the second quarter, and hooked up with Townsel on a 15-yard touchdown.
Betts also led the Bobcats in rushing with 62 yards on 16 carries.
Malakoff will return home next week and play host to Palestine Westwood. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The ….. lost to Brownsboro Friday night, 40-20.
Kerens will look to improve against Grand Saline next week. The Bobcats will be home to celebrate homecoming. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.