Joaquin stuns No. 8 Alto 25-21
The Joaquin Rams remain in playoff contention after a hard-fought battle with Alto. The Yellowjackets
have had a banner year, their regular season ending at an undefeated 10-0. Alto’s excellent play earned
them the No. 8 rank in Texas 2A Division I Football. Joaquin stepped up big against the powerhouse
Yellowjackets, taking a 25-21 victory late in the fourth quarter.
“Our coaches came with a great game plan. Coach Jones always has a great game plan for us. We came
in here knowing we were the underdogs. Talked to the D-line before the game and told them to just get
after it and just go,” said Logan Harper, who showed up big on defense with seven tackles and one
tackle for a loss.
To say the Rams got off to a rough start is an understatement. Early in the first quarter, Joaquin lost a
key rusher in Gunner Nelson. Nelson went down with an injury that turned out to be a broken
collarbone. Nelson carried the ball three times for 21 yards before his departure. Connor Bragg and
Lorenzo “Boogie” Lane were ready and willing to fill the gap left by their teammate. Bragg was shifted
from quarterback to running back, and Chandler Pritchett handled snaps at quarterback.
Joaquin struck first with on a one-yard touchdown by Connor Bragg following a long-sustained drive
from the Rams. Bragg followed up the touchdown with a two-point conversion that put them out front
8-0 with 7:24 left to play in the first quarter. The Yellowjackets then proceeded to score on a big play
after ticking only 12 second off the clock at 7:12. They failed to convert the two-point attempt and had
cut Joaquin’s lead to two.
Defense was key to the Ram’s success. Alto has been a nightmare for opposing defenses with their high-
powered offense, but Joaquin’s defense was well coached and held the Yellowjackets well. Alto did
score once more to gain the lead just before halftime, making the score 14-8 in their favor.
Jesus Bravo has been as good as gold for the Rams this season in the kicking game, and tonight was no
different. Bravo was called upon late in the third quarter to knock down three points from 33 yards out.
He did not disappoint. His three points made the score 14-11.
With 10:45 left to play in the final quarter, Alto extended their lead with another touchdown. Now
trailing 21-11, it was make-or-break time for the Rams. The turning point came on a pass from Pritchett
to Bragg. Bragg was draped with an Alto defender but still managed to catch the pass. Bragg, who
recently signed with Stephen F. Austin State University’s track team, used his speed to take his team 60
yards to the endzone. Alto could no longer coast to a victory, they needed to be on their game.
However, the Rams defense had their number. Alto was forced to turn the ball over to Joaquin, giving
them a shot a victory.
It was then that tragedy struck. Lane received a handoff, and Alto forced him to fumble. The
Yellowjackets had struck a huge blow with time running short. Joaquin’s defense once again came to the
rescue, when Alto fumbled the very next play. With the ball back in their hands the Rams marched the
field and Lane pounded the ball in for a 25-21 lead. Lane had a big night in Nelson’s absence. He carried
the ball 25 times for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Alto had 5:24 to take back the lead, but Logan Harper and Blake Cummings rallied the defense for one
last stand. Harper along with the other Ram defenders stood tall and filled the gap to prevent the Alto
running backs from turning the tide. Then on fourth down, Alto’s quarterback stepped back to throw a
pass. Cummings used his reach to deflect a pass to give Joaquin the ball back and ultimately, the victory.
“Great game plan. We knew they were a great team. [Vidarious High of Alto] is a great running back,
fast, strong. We just came out here and did what we’re coached to do and dominated,” Bravo said.
“Our kids, you know, it’s a credit to them. We told them before we came out, we said ‘Guys, I promise
you this will be a 48-minute ballgame, and you have to play all 48 minutes,’ and it literally came down to
the last second,” Head Football Coach Wade Lawson said. “We had to overcome some injuries tonight.
We lost our leading rusher right off the bat and had some other guys get dinged up, and we just kept
fighting and trying to find a way to win. We had a chance, when they went up 21-11, to lay down, and I
just told our kids to play for 48. I just kept telling them 48, 48, and they just kept playing. I couldn’t be
more proud of them.”
The Rams will be riding high following this upset victory, but it will be business as usual this week
despite the Thanksgiving holiday. Joaquin will used the break to prepare for a Black Friday clash with the
Groveton Indians on November 29 at 7:00 PM at Nacogdoches High School.