Release the McCracken

Football wins Homecoming game behind big nights from Travis McCracken, Garrison Eggleston


Davis Kuhn

Travis McCracken sprints for a first down against Madison on Sept. 3. McCracken rushed for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns on Friday against El Paso Eastwood.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

Football beat El Paso Eastwood on Friday night, 42-14, with Travis McCracken (16 carries, 154 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns) and Garrison Eggleston (2 interceptions) playing key roles in the victory.

The game began inauspiciously for the Rangers, as an opening-drive touchdown by quarterback Chase Senelick (filling in for the injured Derek Mata) was called back for an illegal block. Two plays later, Senelick threw an interception, putting the ball in the Troopers’ collective hands for the first time.

Eastwood’s receivers worked their way open deep multiple times, but quarterback Andrew Martinez (28/44 passing, 283 yards, 2 total TDs) missed on all three occasions. The offense did manage to work its way past midfield, but Kolton Scheppler came up with a sack on fourth-and-9.

The Rangers worked their way down the field again, but this time, the receivers were only there to block and enjoy the show. McCracken rushed for 43 yards on the first four plays, and Senelick ran a draw up the middle for 10 yards and a touchdown.

Penalty troubles dragged out the Troopers’ second drive, but it ended as soon as it had started, as the ball slipped out of Martinez’s hand as he tried to evade tacklers. Scheppler, who was nearest to Martinez, scooped it up to again end an Eastwood possession. And it didn’t take long for the Rangers to capitalize; on the first play of the drive, Kyler Clarke took a screen pass 33 yards to the house.

As the first quarter ticked to a close, the Troopers finally began clicking on offense. They schemed up passes of 9, 11, 24, 7, 8 yards – they were rolling, constantly finding soft spots in the defense. Eventually they worked their way to the goal line, and Martinez punched it in for their first points of the game. They tried to recover an onside kick, but Malachi Lane fell on it.

Already up 21-7 early in the second quarter, the Rangers turned back to McCracken to build on their lead. He rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on six carries, extending the lead to 28-7 and giving his team their third touchdown in the past three possessions.

Eastwood tried to battle back, but threw an interception to Garrison Eggleston on the third play of their drive. He returned it 27 yards to the Eastwood 36-yard line, and Doug Lantz powered the offense to their fourth-consecutive touchdown drive.

With time running out on the half, the Troopers mounted a 51-yard drive to reach the edge of field goal range. But Jaxson Maynard burst through the line to sack Martinez for a loss of 14 yards, and Caden Baumgartner tipped away their buzzer-beating desperation heave. 

The Rangers entered halftime up 28-7, and that momentum didn’t slow at all in the second half. On the Troopers’ first drive, the Rangers forced them to punt for the first time all game, then took advantage of the short kick (which bounced out of bounds at Eastwood’s own 25-yard line) by tossing the ball to Brayden Bafidis for a 25-yard touchdown.

(A penalty negated that play, but it only took two handoffs for McCracken to barrel his way downfield and into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night.)

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Eggleston picked off his second pass of the night. The Rangers failed to capitalize, though, due to a failed fourth-down conversion in Trooper territory.

This was apparently the spark that Eastwood needed, as Curtis Murillo (10 catches, 123 yards) caught a 34-yard post route on third-and-23 to plop the Troopers square into Ranger territory. Two plays later, Martinez hit Aaron Rodriguez in the middle of the field for an 8-yard touchdown.

The Rangers, though, took those points right back. Senelick hit a streaking TJ Hunt deep on the right sideline for his first career reception, a 56-yard touchdown. Martinez worked the Troopers into the red zone again, but a dropped pass on fourth-and-9 on the Ranger 15-yard line marked the end of the game. 

With 9:11 remaining in the game, the Rangers sent out their second unit to run out the clock.

The story of the game was one of equilibrium in general, and an imbalance in key situations. Both teams moved the ball efficiently throughout the game, combining for 766 yards of total offense. But when it came to the defining points of drives, one team did what the other couldn’t.

The Troopers lost three turnovers, failed to convert on three fourth downs and failed to recover an onside kick. None of those miscues were singularly devastating, but the combined weight of them was enough to sink Eastwood’s proverbial ship.

That isn’t to say the Rangers played a perfect game – they threw an interception in the red zone and committed 11 penalties for over 100 yards, two of which brought back touchdowns. (Coincidentally, Eastwood also committed 11 penalties, for 90 yards, but several of those came after the game had effectively ended.)

But it was the Rangers’ relative dearth of mistakes, and consistently-effective running game (31 carries, 240 yards, 4 TDs), which won them their Homecoming game. It’s a win which could build momentum for next week’s district opener against Wagner (2-1), a team coming off a two-game streak where they’ve outscored opponents 110-3.