NEW LONDON – Gladewater saved its best football for last and Robert Hodges led the charge.
Hodges put Gladewater ahead for the first time early in the fourth quarter and guided the Bears to its final lead inside the final minutes in a 22-19 win over West Rusk in District 8-3A, Division I action on Friday night at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium.
With the win, Gladewater moves to 4-2 on the season and 2-0 in district action. West Rusk drops its first game of the season to 5-1 and 1-1 in 8-3A, DI.
Hodges raced 70 yards to the endzone with 9:46 left in the fourth quarter to give Gladewater its first lead of the night. West Rusk, led by a standout night from quarterback Jaylon Shelton, grabbed the lead right back with 5:35 left.
Then the Bears went on the prowl.
Hodges converted Gladewater’s first two third downs on the night and the trio of Bear backs — Marcos Roacha, Malachi Gordon and Devin Walker — grinded their way to the endzone with Walker punching in the go-ahead touchdown with three seconds left for the walk-off win.
Big plays from both defenses highlighted the first half, where West Rusk led, 7-0.
Eligia Carter got Gladewater on the board with a 70-yard run midway through the third quarter but a failed two-point conversion gave West Rusk a 7-6 lead with 12 minutes to play.
Shelton’s second of three touchdowns extended West Rusk’s lead to 13-6 after the Bears blocked the point-after attempt.
The lead didn’t last long after Hodges, who had a fourth-down pass break up in the first half, raced 70 yards to the house. Carter punched in the two-point run for a 14-13 Gladewater lead with 9:46.
Shelton, who finished with 174 yards on 16 carries, had a 30-yard run to set up his third rushing touchdown of the night and a 19-14 Raider lead with 5:35 left.
Hodges hit Carter for 20 on the sideline on third down after the Bears started 0-for-5 on conversion attempts. He then connected with D.J. Allen for 16 on third and seven. With 3.2 seconds left and the ball inside in the one on fourth down, Walker punched it in for the walk-off win.
West Rusk, who finished with 354 rushing yards and 54 through the air, visits White Oak next. Gladewater, who had 181 rushing yards and 71 through the air, hosts Mineola.