By Greg Riddle
The Dallas Morning News
FERRIS — With 2:39 remaining in the game, Fort Worth Benbrook decided to punt, trailing by three.
It had no choice. It was facing fourth-and-38 from its 6-yard line.
That’s how dominant the Ferris defense was Friday night. From there, senior quarterback Nate Aguinaga made sure Benbrook never got the ball back, helping Ferris run out the clock in a 20-17 victory – its first win of the year.
Ferris coach Brandon Layne is trying to turn around a football program that has had two winning seasons in the last seven years. He might have the quarterback and defense to make that possible.
Ferris’ defense allowed 3 yards or less on 14 of Benbrook’s 19 second-half offensive plays. Six of those plays resulted in negative yardage, including four sacks.
"I couldn’t be more proud of how our defense is playing right now," Layne said. "They played an excellent game last week, and we let them down offensively. We showed up tonight. That’s how we’re going to win in Ferris."
It was quite a turnaround from 2018, when Benbrook ran for 368 yards in a 33-14 win over Ferris. Ferris allowed 38.4 points per game in 2019, but the Yellowjackets showed flashes of promise in last year’s matchup with Benbrook, allowing 88 total yards — 33 rushing — in a 33-0 victory.
Aguinaga threw only two passes Friday, but he accounted for three touchdowns. His only completion of the game came with 18.5 seconds left in the first half and was an 11-yard touchdown pass to Trey Johnston that gave Ferris a 20-14 lead.
Earlier in the first half, Aguinaga scored on runs of 1 and 11 yards. He finished the game with 157 yards on 29 carries, producing more rushing yards by himself than Benbrook had as a team (150).
"He’s a warrior," Layne said. "He’s the leader of this team, he’s the leader of this community. He said, ‘Coach I want it.’ He took it."
Last week, Ferris threw only nine passes in a season-opening 20-6 loss to Maypearl. After being held to 112 rushing yards in that game, Ferris dominated on the ground Friday, amassing 248 yards on 53 carries.
"That’s our identity. That’s how we have to win … be physical and win every rep on the line of scrimmage," Layne said.
Earlier this week, Layne said this is the best defense Ferris has had in several years, with seven starters back on that side of the ball. Coming off a 2-9 season, Ferris held Benbrook to three points and 78 yards of offense in the second half.
On its second drive of the second half, Benbrook (0-2) started at the Ferris 20-yard line and needed just two plays to reach the 2. But a second-down sack helped Ferris (1-1) limit the damage to a field goal and maintain the lead, at 20-17.
On its final possession, Benbrook faced first-and-20 at its 25-yard line when Ferris’ defense delivered the knockout blow. Back-to-back sacks – the second of which resulted in a loss of 15 yards after a fumble and a Benbrook recovery – were followed by an incomplete pass. That set up fourth-and-38 from the 6, and the decision to punt.
It took an offensive lineman to score one of Benbrook’s two touchdowns. James Earnest recovered his team’s fumble in the end zone to tie the score 14-14 with 3:12 remaining in the second quarter.
Friday’s matchup was in jeopardy of not happening at one point. Ferris had three different opponents lined up for its Week 2 game during a two-day stretch back when Benbrook’s start date was up in the air because of Tarrant County health orders.
Sanger was picked up as a replacement for Benbrook, then Fort Worth Castleberry became Ferris’ opponent. But in the end, Ferris went back to its original plan to play Benbrook when it became clear that the Fort Worth ISD school could start its season on time.