Defending Bear Territory

Bridgeland defeats College Park 35-28 at Woodforest Bank Stadium.


Alex VanderLaan

Graham Gillespie catches his second interception of the night.

Bridgeland defeated College Park 35-28 on Friday night, November 19, to send them into round three of the UIL 6A football playoffs with the help of multiple defensive takeaways.

The Bears defense was dominant in this game. Just three minutes into the first quarter, senior Charles McKnight recovered a fumble from the Cavaliers offense. On the following drive, Mason Culton scored a rushing touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead. Defense for both teams played a huge role in the opening quarter, each keeping the opponent’s offense quiet. At the end of the first quarter, Bridgelands’ field goal attempt was blocked by College Park to keep the lead at seven.

Andrew Maleski elevates for the catch. (Alex VanderLaan)

The Cavaliers started the second quarter strong with a 79-yard touchdown pass to level the score. Later in the quarter, Caleb Fattig recovered a fumble and ran the ball for a touchdown. Bridgeland missed the extra point attempt, keeping the score at 13-7. The Bears defense continued to dominate as defensive back Graham Gillespie intercepted the ball with just under two minutes remaining in the second quarter. Bridgeland tried to drive the length of the field and score to gain momentum going into halftime. Bears quarterback Conner Weigman threw an interception with 54 seconds remaining, but the Cavaliers offense failed to capitalize on the pick. Bridgeland headed into halftime leading 13-7.

After making offensive and defensive adjustments, both teams emerged from the locker rooms ready for action. The offenses wanted to play faster so they could have more opportunities to score. 25 seconds after the break, Gillespie caught his second interception of the night. The Bears offense drove down the field and scored on the next possession off of a pass from Weigman to receiver Andrew Maleski. Junior Jonathan Nelson scored on the two point conversion to extend Bridgelands lead to 21-7.

To start off the fourth quarter, receiver Baylor Williams caught a touchdown pass from Weigman to push the lead to 21 points. College Park quarterback Ty Buckmon answered with two touchdown passes to cut the lead to 28-21 in the middle of the fourth quarter. Bridgeland needed an offensive spark to keep the Cavaliers far from their lead. The Bears scored for the final time off of an 89 yard rushing touchdown from Weigman. On the next defensive play, Gillespie intercepted Buckmons pass for the third time. College Park had to respond quickly to stay in the game. Buckmon responded on the next drive with a rushing touchdown to cut the lead back to 7 with under a minute remaining. The Cavaliers attempted an onside kick, but Bridgeland recovered it and ended the game, winning 35-28.

Bridgeland’s defense communicating off the field. (Alex VanderLaan)

Defense stood out in this game for the Bears, and Gillespie says everyone who played made an effort and impacted the game.

“The d-line was getting back there, getting the ball out the quarterback’s hands quickly, and backers were covering everybody,” Gillespie said. “Then my other DB’s, on one play Bryce, number 22, the receiver had the ball and he punched it out and it just fell in my hands, so it was all him.”

Bridgeland takes on Cedar Hill on Saturday, November 27 in the third round of playoffs. The game will kick off at 2 p.m. at Waco ISD Stadium. Gillespie says the Bears will be ready to come out and play.

“Coaches have been telling us once the playoffs start you win or you go home,” Gillespie said. “Us seniors, we don’t want this to end. We all have a big brotherhood so we know we have to keep fighting for each other.”