GARLAND, Texas — Garland Naaman Forest was in need of a big win over favored Garland on Thursday - and the Rangers' defense came through.
A loss could have put Naaman Forest a game behind in the District 9-6A playoff race, but coach Jesse Perales’ squad delivered a 17-0 victory over their cross-town rivals.
Despite the win, Perales knows his team still has a lot of growth ahead to remain in the playoff hunt.
“We’ve been getting better every week,” Perales said as he set up his metaphor. “Like we told these guys at the beginning of the year: ‘Nobody likes green bananas. It’s time for you guys to mature and ripen up.’ I think we’re starting to turn a little yellow now, which is good.”
The Rangers' defense was like a freight train in the first half, forcing a three-and-out on three of Garland’s first four drives.
On the first Naaman Forest drive of the game, running back Isaiah Cunning carried the ball nine times and marched the Rangers down to the Garland two-yard line before capping off the drive himself.
Cunning had a huge game, finishing with 32 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown.
The two-yard score ended up being the only points of the first half as Naaman Forest led 7-0. They appeared to be on another scoring drive midway through the second quarter, but two holding penalties halted their progress. The drive ended with a failed fourth down-conversion and the score remained 7-0 going into the break.
The Rangers' offense caught another spark out of the locker room and drove down to the Owls 15-yard line to set up a David Jilote 32-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.
Naaman Forest’s defense looked even better than it did in the first half and forced an interception by Ezra Rocha on the ensuing drive. However, the Rangers fumbled three plays later and gave the ball back to Garland.
The defense still stood tall, and the third quarter ended with Naaman Forest holding a 10-0 lead.
After forcing a punt early in the fourth quarter, the Rangers went on a long drive that took four minutes off of the clock. As they were approaching the end zone, a sack put the offense in a fourth-and-goal situation at the 21-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback DeAngelo Perales escaped the pressure and found Ivan Garcia who made a move and walked in to the end zone.
Perales finished 16-of-22 for 196 yards and a touchdown, while Garcia caught three passes for 45 yards and a score.
Garland made one final push and quickly drove to the Naaman Forest 20-yard line, facing fourth down. They threw up a prayer to the end zone but Dylan Stephens was there for the interception.
The game was not quite over though as the Owls burned all three timeouts and forced the Rangers to punt. Three plays later, Zion Arnold-Ervin recorded the third interception of the game to preserve a 17-0 shutout.
“Our defense has been locked in the last couple of weeks,” Perales said after the game. “They were tired of the criticism and they decided to stop doing it their way and and do it our way. They figured out real quick that our way is the best way …when everyone does their job as one unit, special things happen on defense.”
Naaman Forest (3-3, 3-1) will attempt to continue its roll on Friday, Oct. 14 at Williams Stadium in Garland against the South Garland Titans (1-5, 0-4).
Garland (4-3, 3-2) will try to bounce back and stay in playoff position when they travel across town to Homer B. Johnson Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 13 to face the Sachse Mustangs (1-5, 1-3).
Here are photos from Thursday night's game in Garland:
All photos by Robbie Rakestraw