ANNA – Whitesboro quarterback Cade Acker rushed for a game-high 124 yards and tossed two touchdown passes to lead the Bearcats to a season-opening 20-7 win over Anna at Coyote Stadium on Friday. Whitesboro struck for a touchdown on its first drive of the season and again just before halftime for a 13-7 edge. From there, the Bearcats’ defense kept Anna scoreless while Acker and company added a final TD in the fourth quarter.

“It wasn’t pretty by any means,” first-year Bearcats head coach Cody Fagan said. “But our kids came out and fought and that’s what we want. We wanted to be tested early and we’re going to have our hands full with all four of our pre-district games. We went through a couple of dry spells there in the late first quarter and in the second, and had to face a little adversity. It’s fun to see how they responded to that.”

Penalties, dropped passes and interceptions also kept the Coyotes’ offense hemmed in much of the night. Junior quarterback Jaden Adams, in his first start for Anna, was picked off four times with two coming on tipped balls. Adams completed 13-of-26 attempts for 147 yards.

Acker connected on 7-of-19 throws for 132 yards. The Bearcats put up 305 yards of total offense while Anna, slowed by 11 penalties for 100 yards, got to 209.

This was the sixth straight year these teams have met in the season-opener with Class 3A Whitesboro now holding a 4-2 edge over 4A Anna.

“Whitesboro definitely is a good team,” Coyotes head coach Jason Heath said. “Their kids are very disciplined and they get after it. I thought we played good defensively. We got several turnovers, got stops when we needed it. Offensively, we just shot ourselves in the foot several times. It comes down to making plays when we have to and we didn’t do it.”

Tryston Gaines led Whitesboro receivers with three catches for 76 yards, including one for 40 yards on the Bearcats’ first drive. Anna wideout Noah Palshaw led all receivers with nine catches for 109 yards.

Sutton Furhmann’s 2-yard dive up the middle gave the Bearcats a 6-0 lead with 9:25 left in the first quarter.

The Coyotes went up, 7-6, in the second frame on Arthur Nwokorie’s 3-yard run off right tackle after Abner Dubar had picked off a tipped pass near midfield and returned it to the Whitesboro 13-yard-line.

Anna’s advantage held until seven seconds remained in the first half. That’s when the Acker found Major Ledbetter in the right flat for a 7-yard touchdown, capping an eight-play, 65-yard drive. Two plays prior, the Coyotes were flagged for pass interference, moving the ball inside Anna’s 10.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Bearcats went up 20-7 on the first play of the fourth when Acker delivered a 21-yard strike over the middle to a well-defended Jacob Smith. That drive was set up by Smith’s ground-level interception of a ball that had been tipped by three Whitesboro defenders.

Anna had three more scoring chances but would not punch it in. The first opportunity ended when Adams’ pass bounced off a receiver’s hands and was nabbed by Whitesboro’s Gaines at the Bearcat 26.

The Coyotes forced a punt with 7:59 remaining and on an ensuing low snap from center, Anna’s Josh Packard pounced on the ball at the Whitesboro 11. But after a holding call and false start penalty, Adams was sacked for a 7-yard loss. Then on fourth-and-24 from the Bearcats’ 32, Palshaw was stopped short of first-down yardage after a catch down the right side.

Anna got one more chance when Packard recovered a Whitesboro fumble at the Bearcats’ 22 with 3:30 left to play. But on fourth-and-goal from 2, Adams’ pass into the end zone was dropped.

Acker and Ledbetter also had interceptions for Whitesboro.