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CONVERSE – Friday night’s inaugural Freedom Bowl between Wagner and Veterans Memorial was supposed to be a closer game than what the teams faced during district play against SAISD teams. The only drama was when would the T-Birds stop committing penalties. Once they did, the game was over and so was 5 years of frustration.
Wagner committed 8 penalties in the first quarter, one in the second, and overpowered new rival Veterans Memorial 56-7 to win the Freedom Bowl and a district title for the first time ever in football.
With the game tied at 7 early in the second, Dejoun Price recovered a Patriot fumble. Three plays later, L.J. Butler was in the end zone with his 2nd touchdown run of the half. Then the avalanche of points began.
Quarterback Tobias Weaver found Joerell Brown on a pair of touchdown passes of 33 and 3 yards, with an Andre Booker touchdown run sandwiched in-between. In one quarter, a game that was 7-7 with Wagner (9-1, 8-0) unable to stop committing penalties to a 35-7 halftime lead, thanks to outgaining the Patriots (6-3, 6-1) 210-9.
Another fumble recovery in the third quarter led to a 19-yard touchdown run off a reverse by Karlton Black, and a 42-7 lead, and the party was on. A school more known for basketball success, including two NBA Lottery picks, had secured its first ever football district title.
It was over when: The game changed when Dejoun Price recovered a fumble early in the 2nd quarter that led to the go-ahead touchdown. Once the Thunderbirds stopped committing penalties, the game and the district race ended.
Game ball goes to: Charles Bruce. The Wagner head coach preached patience year after year, when Wagner lost to the top 5 teams in its 6A district. Once Wagner moved to 5A, thanks in part to Veterans Memorial opening, the T-Birds took out years of frustration on 13-5A-I.
Stat of the game: 210-9. Wagner outscored the Patriots 28-0 in the deciding 2nd quarter, and outgained them 210-9.
Bonus Stat of the game: 8-7. Wagner won all 8 district games in 2018. It won a total of 7 the previous 5 years combined.
Up Next: Wagner – 1st round playoff game; Veterans Memorial @ Sam Houston