The Duncan Banner
RUSH SPRINGS —
With his team trailing by a touchdown at half Friday, Empire coach Tony Roberts went crazy. Then his Bulldogs went off.
Empire quarterback Dillon Twigg spearheaded a 41-20 comeback victory over Rush Springs, rushing for 306 yards and four touchdowns as a stunned Joe Tunnell Stadium crowd watched the Bulldogs awaken from a sleepy first half performance and reel off 34 consecutive points.
"Coach ringed out our tail ends and told us we needed to pick it up," Empire defensive end Tanner Ford said of his coach's halftime deameanor. "He told us to look into each others eyes and think about what kind of team we wanted to be."
Dominant — that's what kind of team the Bulldogs decided to be in the second half. Empire, which gained less than 100 yards rushing in the first half, ran wild over the final 24 minutes.
The Bulldogs averaged nearly 15 yards per carry in the second half, racking up 293 yards on just 19 carries. Four of those runs ended in the end zone.
The Empire defense, aided by the return of previously injured middle linebacker Stephen Price, allowed 11 first down in the first half. After intermission, Rush Springs managed to move the chains just four more times.
"(The Bulldogs') coach went in and acted like an idiot," Roberts said. referencing his own halftime presentation. "After my temper tantrum at half, I guess they found it within themselves to correct it. That was one of the best second halfs of football I've seen in a long time."
Trailing 14-7, Empire took the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in just seven plays. The Bulldogs went to third down only once in the drive, and when they did, Twigg scored on the third-and-goal play from the 5.
Two plays later, Ford lept from the line of scrimmage and tipped an Aaron Marrow pass. The floundering football found its way into Twigg's hands, and the multi-talented junior raced some 35 yards to the end zone.
It had taken less than five minutes for Empire to go from 14 down to 7 ahead. And that flurry was too much for Rush Springs to overcome.
"We hadn't played a good half yet," Ford said. "We just looked each other in the eye and said, 'We're going to do it.'"
Said Roberts: "A lot of questions were answered. One of them was Dillon Twigg is the best back in the district, I think."