Pearland drops first game of the 2023 season to C.E. King 40-29

SCORING MACHINE - Pearland junior running back LaDamion McDowell [4] brushes off a C.E. King defender. The speedster would score all four of the Pearland touchdowns in the game but it wasn't enough to keep up with state-ranked C.E. King as the Oilers fell 40-29. Pearland (2-1) will enjoy a bye this week before travelling to face Shadow Creek (3-0) on Thursday, Sep 21 at Freedom Field in the district opener for both teams. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. [Photo by Lloyd Hendricks]

What a difference a year makes. Pearland faced C.E. King in head coach B.J. Gotte’s first year, and the Panthers totally dominated the game 45-7 with the only score for the Oilers coming via a punt return for a touchdown. Last year coach Gotte said, “It takes time for a team to get stronger especially on the offensive and defensive line. You don’t get strong overnight.”

A year has passed, and one could see the tremendous difference in this year’s game between the two teams. While the final result was the same, the competitiveness was not as lopsided as a year ago. C.E. King plays in one of the toughest leagues in the state with North Shore, Atascocita, and Summer Creek. The Panthers entered the Pearland conflict having just returned from kicking state power Allen 45-28 and Crosby 58-22. While King got the non-district win, there was no doubt they had to fight hard against a renewed Pearland Oiler team that won their first two games this season.

The game looked like an immediate runaway when King scored on the second play of the game covering 75-yards for a quick 7-0 lead with only 17 seconds gone off the game clock. But the Oilers answered with a confident 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive capped off by a 1-yard scoring plunge by LaDamion McDowell. Jackson Stagg nailed the PAT, and the game was tied 7-7 with 7:28 left in the first quarter. Both teams traded punts, and then King quickly added a second score when Jerald Fransaw bolted across the goal line on a 2-yard run. The PAT was good, and the Panthers had a 14-7 lead with 2:50 left in the period. Once again, the Oilers quickly answered as McDowell scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run that was set up with a Cole Morkovsky pass to Jordan “The Jet” Hernanez to the King 2. Stagg tacked on the PAT to knot up the game 14-14 with :49 left in the frame.

The second period didn’t go as expected for Pearland as King added two more scores before intermission making the score 28-14. The first came on a 13-yard scoring pass from QB Darius Clark-James to Mekhi Emerenini, and the second one came on a 6-yard run up the middle by Clark-James for the 28-14 cushion before halftime. King scored only two points in the third quarter thanks to a safety making the score 30-14.

Pearland outscored the Panthers 15-10 in the final period as McDowell scored his third and fourth TDs of the game on a 2-yard and a 52-yard pass from WR Patrick Bridges. Hernandez tossed a pass to Morkovsky for a two-point conversion making the final score 40-29. “Special teams…we made some mistakes there, but I was proud of the way we battled,” Gotte said. You can tell how much these guys have grown in a year. We competed for four quarters and had a chance to win it at the end. “C.E. King has one of the most explosive offenses in the area, and our defense battled with them tooth and nail. We have a high ceiling on defense, and I’m eager to see where they can go.

Pearland (2-1) will enjoy a bye this week before traveling to face Shadow Creek (3-0) on Thursday, Sep 21 at Freedom Field in the district opener for both teams. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.