KINGWOOD — The Preston High football team took a step toward growing up Friday.
With a roster of 45 players — 30 of them either freshmen or sophomores — Preston rallied for a 22-13 victory at Knights Stadium against Hampshire.
Preston (1-0) wore down the more experienced Trojans (0-1) by grinding out long drives on offense that led to 22 consecutive points on the scoreboard.
After a scoreless first quarter dominated by both defenses, Hampshire took advantage of great field position after a high snap prevented Preston punter Montgomery Rebelo from getting the kick off and gave the Trojans the ball on the PHS 34.
Two first down runs from quarterback David Mayfield, followed by his 12-yard TD pass to Christian Hicks in the corner of the end zone, completed the quick, 3-play scoring drive for a 7-0 lead.
After several near misses, Knights junior signal caller Colten Rosenberger finally connected with Rebelo on a deep ball, leading to a 24-yard field goal by the strong-legged Rebelo midway through the quarter.
After the Preston defense held with 2:29 left, the Knights ran their two-minute offense to perfection on a 65-yard scoring drive. Rosenberger scrambled on third and long for 28 yards, and a personal foul tacked on 15 more. With just 41 seconds left in the half, Rosenberger lofted a fade route pass to senior Jacob Brady, who pulled in a terrific combat catch in the left corner from 11 yards out. Although the extra point missed wide left, the Knights bounced into the locker room with a 9-7 lead.
“We felt like we could wear them down,” PHS head coach Jonathan Tennant said on changing strategy in the second half. “So we changed our game plan from counters and trying to get to the edge to running between the tackles. The line and the backs executed very well.”
That might be the understatement of the night, as the Knights, behind tailback Jesse Gribble, pounded out a 14-play, 97-yard drive, culminating with Gribble’s bull rush score from the four.
The Knights next drive went for 78 yards on nine plays for another touchdown — Gribble slashing off-tackle from the 36, sprinting free, and twisting into the end zone to put his team up 22-7.
“I have to give the blocking credit,” said the junior, who overcame a hyperextended knee in last week’s scrimmage at UHS as well as a broken knee brace in the first half to amass 148 yards and two TDs on 20 carries, all but two in the second half. “We focused on the running game in the second half, and we just kept doing what was working. This was a tremendous confidence boost for us moving into week two.”
A final long drive of a dozen plays killed the clock and Hampshire’s hopes. Preston hosts North Marion, at 7 p.m. next Friday.