McGREGOR — Behind a strong defensive effort, the Groesbeck Goats picked up a big road win and spoiled the debut of new McGregor coach Judd Thrash on Friday, downing the Bulldogs, 23-10, to open the 2017 campaign.

“We embraced the challenge of walking into an emotional opener,” Groesbeck coach Steve Hale said. “I’m real proud of our kids. We beat a good football team.”

For most of the night, McGregor (0-1) could not getting anything going offensively, as the Goats defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and registered five sacks. The pocket around Bulldog quarterback Jared Lorenz collapsed often, forcing him to frequently scramble out of trouble or throw the ball away.

The key play in the game came early in the fourth quarter. Although the Goats were seemingly had the upper hand throughout the contest, a 35-yard field goal by McGregor kicker Joanly Martinez made it a one-score game at 9-3, and shifted the momentum slightly. However, on the ensuing kickoff, Groesbeck returner Brandon Canady caught the ball over his head in his own end zone. He chose to come out, broke several tackles, found a hole, then raced up the sideline in front of the Groesbeck bench for a 102-yard dramatic touchdown run.

“We played disciplined in all three phases,” Hale said, “But that special teams score was huge.”

Groesbeck running back Tyrique Carter added a 4-yard run to up the lead to 23-3. Lorenz scored McGregor’s first touchdown of 2017 on a 3-yard run with 2:18 left in the game.

The Goats opened the scoring in the first half when Martinez, also the McGregor punter, touched his knee to the ground while fielding a snap in his end zone, leading to a safety.

Two minutes later, Groesbeck’s first half touchdown came on a fourth-and-one, razzle dazzle play. Wide receiver Tayvon Thompson took a reverse pitch and looked to pass, but his initial read was covered. Instead he found his fellow receiver Dylan Rand, who made the leaping catch in a crowded middle of the field. The drive that led to that score was kept alive by a long run on a fake punt.

The Goats might have had a larger lead at the intermission, but the Bulldogs came up with two stops in the red zone. They had a goal line stand on Groesbeck’s second possession, and late in the second quarter, McGregor defensive back Aaron Osborne had a big sack on fourth down to stop a scoring threat.

The Goats have their home opener next Friday against Bullard, while Thrash and the Bulldogs will look for their first win on the road at Sunnyvale.

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