By Kent Smith
Special to the Herald Democrat
MELISSA — A back-and-forth battle between Bonham quarterback Dra Smith and Melissa running back Marcus Ellis kept the contest close for almost three quarters before the Cardinals pulled away for a 57-20 victory in District 12-3A action on Friday night.
The two combined for 582 yards and eight touchdowns but it was Ellis and Melissa (7-1, 2-0), which clinched a playoff spot, that came out ahead. Bonham (3-6, 1-2) needs to beat Community this week to earn its postseason berth.
"I wish it would have been a battle between those two," Bonham head coach Cody Bounds said. "No disrespect to their kid because he’s a good player, but I’ll take our No. 4 over their No. 4 one-on-one any day. Unfortunately, it’s a team game and not about just two players."
Ellis had 265 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries while Smith totaled 231 yards and three scores on 22 carries
The end result may not have been about two players, but when the game was a slugfest for the first three quarters, it was Ellis and Smith who were dishing out the heavy blows.
Twice the two teams combined for 21 points in spurts of less than two minutes.
Smith answered an Ellis touchdown seconds later with a 61-yard touchdown of his own to make it 7-7 four minutes into the first quarter. Ellis answered back with a 41-yard touchdown on the game’s next offensive play to regain the lead for Melissa.
Ellis extended a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter with a rugged 17-yard run that covered nearly every inch of the field. Smith again answered with a long run, going 61 yards two plays later. However, Ellis responded with a 61-yard run of his own on the game’s next play to start a long Cardinal run that put the game away.
Cade Cruce’s TD run late in the first quarter was the only scoring by a player other than Smith and Ellis in the first three quarters. Tyler West and Taylor McGehee each had touchdown runs in the fourth for the Cardinals.
For Bonham, the win would have given a team that has struggled on defense as of late a tremendous boost, but has little impact on the team’s overall goal. Coaches immediately began to drill into the players’ heads that the upcoming game with Community was the game that mattered because that game determined whether the team makes playoffs regardless of how things turned out in Melissa.
"What do we have to do?" Bounds said. "Beat Community. Anna beat Princeton tonight, which shows you anything can happen, but what does that matter? It means nothing.
"Losing this game tonight hurts, but it means nothing," he continued. "What matters is if you beat Community. You beat Community and you’re in the playoffs for the second year in a row, and that hasn’t been done in a long time."