CELINA –The Frisco Memorial football team entered Friday night’s season opener looking to prove it wasn’t the same first-year ballclub from a year ago.
It also wanted to play the role of spoiler on Celina’s special night.
In the first-ever game played at the newly constructed Bobcat Field, the Warriors pulled off the upset and tamed the Bobcats in their new house, 16-14.
Memorial has already matched its win total from the 2018 campaign and at the same time avenged last season’s embarrassing 54-0 Week One loss to Celina.
“We’re here now, and we aren’t going anywhere,” said Derrick Roberson, Memorial head coach. “I can’t even put this into words. This is a great victory for the program, the community and these kids. They worked their tails off, and this is an awesome victory.”
As for Celina, the Bobcats kicked things off at their new stadium on a sour note, but head coach Bill Elliott knows his squad will use this as a vital learning experience to carry on through the rest of the season.
“We’re going to be OK, and we’re going to learn from this,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not about who wins the first game, it’s about who wins game No. 16.”
Celina held a 14-13 advantage for much of the second half and had multiple chances to put things away down the stretch.
In fact, on Memorial’s first three possessions of the third quarter, the Bobcats held the Warriors to a pair of punts and forced a fumble that eventually led to a missed field goal by Celina junior Isaiah Martinez.
The miss marked the second failed attempt for Celina in the quarter, as Martinez failed to connect from 36 and 28 yards out.
“When you get those opportunities you have to score,” Elliott said. “Those are things we have to learn from and have to be able to strike there. I feel so bad for [Martinez] because he usually just chips those in all the time, which is why I didn’t hesitate for him to kick the second one.”
The Martinez miscues weren’t the reason why Celina could not put any points on the board in the second half, however, as the Memorial defense flocked to the football all night long.
Not only did it produce a key interception by sophomore cornerback Ronald Demadet on Celina’s second drive of the game, but the Warriors also held the Bobcats to just 80 yards of total offense in the second half.
That same unit also stifled Celina senior running back and Navy commit Logan Point to just 79 yards on the ground and kept him out of the end zone.
“Our defensive coordinator put a great plan together,” Roberson said. “They had been busting their butts and watched so much film on Celina. The whole thing is that the kids believe. We have a blue-collar mentality, and we’re going to get nine people to the ball within 5 yards 90% of the time. And we’re going to sting their tails when they get there.”
The bulk of the scoring came in the first half, which had the makings early on of a possible shootout when Celina scored just six plays in on a 27-yard touchdown strike from senior quarterback Hunter Watson to junior wide receiver DJ Dell’Anno.
That went on to be the lone catch of the night for the 6-foot-6 Dell’Anno, and Watson’s season debut ended with 116 yards on eight completions, a touchdown and an interception.
Memorial answered right back with a six-play drive of its own, highlighted by a 59-yard run by sophomore running back Garren Huey, which set up a one-yard score moments later from senior running back Chris Lagrone.
Huey, who spent the majority of his freshman season out with an injury, made a massive impact in the win over the Bobcats and led all rushers on the night with 110 yards on the ground.Senior running back ChiefMurgerson also got into the mix with 12 carries for 43 yards.
“[Murgerson] was a backup last year and won the job in the offseason, and [Huey] came back healthy after last year,” Roberson said. “So, now we have three good running backs and depth at that position.”
The rushing attack carried the load on a night in which Memorial junior quarterback Charlie Flowers threw for just 33 yards on three completions, one of which came on a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Joel Shea at the 4:28 mark of the opening quarter to give the Warriors their first lead at 13-7.
Martinez, who was also used extensively on offense as a complementary running back to Point, punched one in from 2 yards out early in the second stanza following a pass interference call to regain the lead for Celina.
But that would be the final time the Bobcats crossed the pylon, as they started off the fresh season with a rare defeat. And although many of the Celina faithful didn’t anticipate a loss, Elliott was fully aware of how much better Memorial would be in year No. 2.
“They understand now what their coaches want,” he said. “Coach [Roberson] is a great coach and he has coached for a long time. They understand his system now, and they are a more mature team. They will do well in the Frisco district.”
Celina will look to regroup next week when it hosts Argyle Liberty Christian, while Memorial takes on a fellow Frisco foe in Independence.