By KEVIN THOMPSON
MONTEZUMA — 'Dogs bite Rebels, or Rebels tame 'Dogs?
The headline was in doubt for most of the game Friday night, until Ingalls took care of South Gray 34-30 in a league 8-man matchup to kick off the season.
For the Bulldogs, the win avenged last season's 36-16 loss to the Rebels in the opening game.
It was the standard definition of a see-saw battle, capped by an Ingalls final drive resulting in a 30-yard touchdown play from Zeke Cox to LaMontae Heady for what proved to be the winning play.
Rebels quarterback Carson Skidmore scrambled to keep their final drive alive, but a tough Ingalls defense put a stop to any South Gray hope for a final miracle with time running out before the Rebels could get off a final play.
Cox took advantage of late cramping from South Gray. With Skidmore out, Ingalls coach Ted Brown took a shot on a play deep to Heady that played out as designed.
"It was beautiful, just like we do in practice," Brown said. "If we had done that in the first quarter, it wouldn't have been so close."
Scoring was up for grabs early.
After the Rebels stopped Ingalls on its opening drive, they marched down the field for the first score of the game.
Skidmore capped a 63-yard drive with a plunge from inches out, then scrambled to score the conversion as South Gray took an 8-0 lead.
Ingalls came back with its own long drive. Two runs of 27 yards each by Josh Irsik set up a 17-yard touchdown pass play from Cox to Dawson Sandoval.
The tandem hooked up again on the next series, a 34-yard pass play over the middle, and Ingalls was up 12-8.
But the Rebels came back with a vengeance late in the half.
Skidmore scored his second touchdown on a two-yard run.
On the ensuing series, Cox under-threw his intended receiver and Ryan Griebel picked him off, zig-zagging 50 yards on his way to the end zone and another Rebel score as South Gray took a 22-12 halftime lead.
Edgar Flores got the Bulldogs back in it with a 24-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter.
Then Lance Edmondson, after a 45-yard Irsik punt return to the 15, ran it in to give the Bulldogs a 26-22 lead.
But Skidmore scampered 11 yards to put the Rebels back on top 30-26 with 7:39 to play.
The win showed coach Brown how much improved his Ingalls squad is over last season.
"This tells me that my guys are mentally tougher than they were last year," Brown said. "They're older and more experienced, so this year in situations like this, they don't panic. They look to the sideline and they run the plays."
But Brown won't let his team rest on this one win. It's only a start.
"We made so many mistakes, even though we won," he said. "It's going to give us a boost of confidence knowing that we can still make some mistakes and win."
Irsik, who ran for 183 yards on 24 carries, is a weapon, Brown said.
"He's an animal. He's a sophomore now, but I think the sky's the limit for him," he said.
Going forward, Brown said, if his Bulldogs can limit their mistakes, there's no telling what they'll do.
"We can be a dangerous team," he said.
For the Rebels' first-year coach, Aaron Law, losing in this fashion was tough, but he saw many positives.
Unfortunately, cramping up late in the game caused a lot of issues the Rebels weren't prepared for.
"Conditioning-wise, we were cramping up pretty severe, and that cost us in a big, big way," he said. "That's what this game comes down to."
Skidmore was supposed to be the defender on Heady on the final Ingalls strike, but he wasn't ready to go back in, and South Gray got burned on it, Law noted.
Starting on their own 15 with 1:41 to play, South Gray got down to the Ingalls' 25 as time ran out, but it was a testament to the Rebels that they were able to get that final chance, Law added.
"We did really well for how our backs were against the wall. These kids put a lot of time in this summer. We were just short," Law said. "Conditioning is going to be key."
Ingalls 34, South Gray 30
Ingalls 0 12 14 8 -- 34
South Gray 8 14 0 8 -- 30
SG--Skidmore 1 run (Skidmore run) 4:55
I--Cox 17 to D. Sandoval (run failed) 8:57
I--Cox 34 to D. Sandoval (run failed) 4:55
SG--Skidmore 2 run (run failed) 2:30
SG--Griebel 50 interception return (Friesen run) 1:23
I--Flores 24 run (Irsik run) 9:31
I--Edmondson 15 (run failed) 6:49
SG--Skidmore 11 run (Skidmore to Loya) 7:39
I--Cox 30 pass to Heady (Irsik run) 1:31
RUSHING--Ingalls: Irsik 24-183; South Gray: Skidmore 29-120.
PASSING--Ingalls: Cox 5-17-114; South Gray: Skidmore 5-14-38
RECEIVING--Ingalls: D. Sandoval 3-65,Heady 2-49; South Gray: Friesen 1-13.