Cedar Park needed a big win away from home to kick off its demanding district schedule. Junior quarterback Ryder Hernandez certainly rose to the occasion.
The second-year starter threw for 338 yards and five touchdowns on 15-of-20 passing to lead the Timberwolves to a blowout, 55-9 victory against Rouse at Bible Stadium on Friday night.
Hernandez found four different Cedar Park receivers for touchdown passes, while also rushing five times for eight yards and a touchdown.
"Our O-line did a great job all night forming a pocket for me, and then our receivers were just making plays all night long," Hernandez said. "I felt like I was doing a good job rolling out of the pocket and making something happen tonight."
The Timberwolves' rushing effort was paced by Kevin Adams, who ran for 67 yards on eight carries. Cedar Park's revered "Black Rain" defense showed out in the game between Leander ISD rivals, not allowing an offensive touchdown and holding Rouse to just 170 total yards in the win.
"They played up to expectation," Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. "I thought our defense played really well from our first unit to our second and third units. They work hard every day to put this together, and they played just how I wanted tonight."
Rouse's offense was led by junior quarterback Sam Giebelhaus, who threw for 38 yards on 5-for-19 passing. Raiders running back E.J. Moore ran for 40 yards on 20 carries.
A third-quarter kickoff return by Isaiah Cash and a safety on a botched snap were the only scores of the game for Rouse, who have scored just 31 points through their first five games of the season.
Cedar Park improved to 4-1 on the season and begin the District 11-5A, Division I schedule at 1-0. Rouse dropped to 0-5, 0-1 on the 2019 campaign.
"Every district game is important, and it's a good job from our kids to get started with a win," Abseck said. "I'm proud of them for grinding and staying focused on the win."
After trading scoreless first possessions, Cedar Park's excellence on defense turned to offensive prowess in the middle of the first quarter. Defensive back Caden Combs picked off Giebelhaus to set up the Timberwolves offense near midfield, and just two plays later, Hernandez struck wideout Will Udoye with a 55-yard touchdown pass to put Cedar Park on top.
In the second quarter, Hernandez would double his team's lead with his second passing touchdown of the evening. Under pressure from a Rouse blitz, Hernandez underhand tossed a wobbling ball to Gunnar Abseck, who went untouched through the middle of the field for the 13-yard touchdown.
Once again, Cedar Park would capitalize on a Rouse turnover later in the second quarter. After two consecutive fourth-down conversions by the Raiders offense, Timberwolves defensive end Ben Bell recovered a fumbled snap to set his offense up with under three minutes left in the first half.
Two plays later, Hernandez fired a pass along the left sideline to junior wide receiver Preston Scott, who broke a tackle and sprinted 47 yards to the house, giving Cedar Park a 21-0 lead at halftime. The Timberwolves outgained their opposition 229-77 in a dominant first half.
"The whole game, Ryder was on target," Abseck said. "He was giving our receivers a chance on every throw and making good decisions. Something he has done every week this season is build on his performance from the week before, and I feel like he did just that tonight."
Cedar Park would put the game well out of reach in the third quarter, starting with their first possession. Wideout Josh Cameron caught his first of two touchdown passes on a 24-yard catch-and-run strike, followed by Cash's 99-yard kickoff return touchdown for Rouse. Cameron and Hernandez would again connect for a 65-yard touchdown, minutes after Hernandez ran the ball in himself on a 15-yard scamper.
The Timberwolves defense cashed in on a couple of Rouse turnovers later in the third quarter. Shelby Battles tallied a touchdown on a 40-yard scoop-and-score sprint, succeeded by a fumble recovery touchdown in the endzone by defensive lineman Murray Robinson.
Rouse scored on a long-snap sailing over the head of the Cedar Park punter in the fourth quarter, the only scoring play in the final 12 minutes of the game.
"It was awesome coming out here tonight and setting the tone for the rest of the district schedule," Hernandez said. "We really made a statement and I feel like we're gonna make a run with this for the rest of the year."
Rouse continues the District 11-5A DI schedule when the Raiders travel to The Pfield to face Pflugerville next Thursday night, while Cedar Park hosts Connally at Gupton Stadium on Friday.
Follow @HCNSports on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news on all local and regional sports.