JOSHUA — A first-half Joshua surge was too much for University to overcome, as the Owls defeated the Trojans, 45-27, in their District 5-5A opener on Friday night.
The loss keeps University out of the win column, as the Trojans fell to 0-4 overall and 0-1 in district play.
The Owls led 31-7 at halftime and despite University scoring the final 21 points of the game, the outcome was never in doubt after the first 24 minutes.
University had remained competitive in two non-district losses to Granbury and Terrell by leading at halftime, with first-year head coach Kent Laster imploring his team to find a way to finish.
But against the Owls on Joshua’s homecoming, it was the start that got the Trojans in trouble. After going three-and-out on their first possession they punted and Joshua scored on its first play from scrimmage. Owls backup quarterback Drew DeArman broke down the left sideline for a 64-yard run, virtually untouched by the University defense. Ashton Tison ran in for a two-point conversion and it was 8-0, Joshua, with still 10 minutes left in the first quarter.
On the next play, Joshua converted an onside kick and took over the ball at the University 45. It took the Owls just four plays to score again as Kolby Smith plowed in from four yards off for a 14-0 lead.
University scored its only points of the first half as the Trojans drove the ball 73 yards on nine plays, aided by some hard runs by junior running back Mekhi Sandolph, a couple of short passes by quarterback Damarion Chambers, and a late hit penalty.
Sandolph got the Trojans’ first TD on a 19-yard run off right tackle, down the sideline and over the goal line. Matthew Marquez kicked the extra point to cut the deficit to 14-8 with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
For the first half, Sandolph finished with 59 yards on 10 carries. He finished the game with 167 yards on 17 carries, including the final score of the game from 39 yards out with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
He finished with an explosive 9.8 yards a carry, which will certainly increase his seasonal average of 6.9, and give him 504 yards rushing in four games.
The University defense rose up to stop Joshua on the next series and the Trojans began moving the ball toward a hopeful tie. Once again, Sandolph was the workhorse, moving the offense forward. But on first down from the 23-yard-line, Chambers’ pass was intercepted by the Owls’ Jose Ramirez at the 2-yard line with just 40 seconds left in the first half.
The Owls took advantage of the turnover with a long touchdown capped by a 21-yard run Bryce Ballew and a two-point run by Aidan Haskins to make the score 22-7. From there the floodgates were open, as Ayden Groce scored on a 5-yard run after a Chambers sack and a fumble set up a short field.
The Owls got in one more drive in the final 1:22 of the first half which got the ball down to the 5-yard-line of University, but time ran short and they kicked a 20-yard field by Nick McCue.
Joshua controlled the third quarter as well, with DeArman and Groce both tacking on TD runs for a 45-7 lead.
Sandolph broke off a 25-yard run to jump-start a late Trojans’ third quarter offensive try. He capped it with a four-yard blast up the middle for his second TD to make the score 45-13 at the end of the third quarter.
University opened the fourth quarter with some electric defense, as safety Danny Botello stepped in front of a Joshua pass and ran untouched 45 yards down the right sideline for a Trojans touchdown. Sandolph got the two-point conversion to make the score 45-21 at the start of the fourth quarter.