Using another record-setting day from quarterback Ethan Brinkley and a pivotal late defensive stand, the Rockdale Tigers clipped Cameron 11-10 Friday night at Tigerland Stadium in front of an overf low crowd to bring the Bell back to town.
Big Blue held serve as the home team in the series as a visitor has not won a Battle of the Bell since Cameron pulled off the feat in 2004.
The series victory was the 18th for the Tigers to the Yoemen’s 39. Cameron leads in the overall series 60-23-2.
Cameron starts the season at 0-3 for the first time since 2003.
There’s an old adage in coaching circles that says, “play for the win at home, the tie on the road.”
After Brinkley snuck in from the two-yard line with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining to be played, Miller—confident in his squad—pushed aside the old mantra and was going for the tie and then take his chances in overtime.
“ We felt like we were hav- ing more luck on offense than they were and had more confidence,” Miller said. “I’ve always just believed in momentum. They had a 10-0 lead for a long time, but we had been stopping them.”
However, when Br ink ley scored, Yoe noseguard Edgar Luna was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after a late hit on the Rockdale quarterback and was kicked out of the game.
On his way to the sideline, Luna furiously tossed his helmet to the sideline and was assessed another penalty.
Luna’s outburst pushed the ball to the 1 1/2 yard line and changed Miller’s outlook on the situation.
“I contemplated going for two, but the penalty made the decision for us.”
Enter 5-foot-7, 208-pound senior Markus Hayes, a starter at linebacker on defense, but someone who had carried the ball just five times coming in.
Not to mention, he had fumbled the ball away earlier in the game at the 10-yard line.
In a full backfield, Hayes ran up the gut of the Cameron defense and piled into the end zone to provide Big Blue with an 11-10 lead as the Rockdale stands went wild.
“Now that it worked out the way it did, it was a good call,” Miller said.
Cameron still had a little over two minutes to work with, so there was work to be done by the Tiger defense.
It appeared that the Yoemen might have a shot at stealing the win as quarterback Jason Kopriva scooted the Yoemen down the field with a 28-yard completion to the always dangerous D.D. Westbrook (7 catches for 92 yards) and then a 17-yard hookup with Dylan Riola that moved the ball to the Rockdale 32-yard line.
Penalties stymied the Yoemen all evening (11 for 102 yards) and two penalties on their final drive pushed them back to the 48-yard line.
Facing a second-and-25 and the clock running down, Kopriva threw two incompletions and on four t h- and- 25 , he found Westbrook in the flats but it was Hayes—who minutes before had provided the winning points— providing the winning stop as Westbrook was way shor t of picking up a first down with 55 seconds remaining.
“Our attitude the last couple of weeks has been they are convinced they can win a lot of games,” Miller said. “They never believed they weren’t supposed to be good.
“I don’t know why we’re so confident, we just are. The last two weeks we’re sitting there with our backs against the wall and we never panicked.
“We’ve got some kids who are really growing up. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The Tigers had to scramble to get in a position to grab the lead.
Sitting at their own 28-yard line with 9:43 left in the game a nd t ra i ling 10 - 0, Br in k ley engineered the Tigers down the field, the biggest play coming on fourth-and-10, when he found favorite receiver Cody Skubal for 15 yards that moved the ball to the Cameron 16.
The Tigers stalled, however, and Miller called on kicker Noe Zelaya to finally harvest some points.
Zelaya, who was one-of-three in the field goal department in two years, drilled a 31-yarder through the uprights to close the gap to 10-3 with 6:02 left.
It was up to the Tiger defense to stop the Yoe and provide them with enough time to complete the comeback.
They took it one step further.
After a facemask penalty had given Cameron a first down and the ball at the 46, Keaton Denio— who frustrated the Tigers all evening with 99 yards rushing— dashed to his right, but lost control of the ball after Skubal smothered him, which Dillon Goodman pounced on, setting up the game winning drive.
While he established several new passing marks in last week’s win over Salado, Brinkley rewrote one and broke another.
The junior southpaw was 32- of- 51 for 300 yards with one interception.
The 32 completions breaks his one-week old mark of 29 and the 51 attempts breaks D.J. Marek’s mark of 44 set in 2005.
“When we had to go to the pass, we thought he could do it,” Miller said. “It goes above and beyond what we expected. Beyond his ability, he’s so smart in not making judgement errors”.
Brinkley’s top target Skubal hauled in nine passes for 114 yards, one week after establishing a new school record with 198 yards in receptions.
The 6-foot-3, basketball playing Skubal, used his leaping ability again to make a 31-yard circus catch at the two-yard line to set up the game winning score.
Brinkley did not play favorites as he spread the wealth around to eight different pass catchers as five receivers had at least four catches.
“We made two or three lucky decisions there at the end,” Miller said. “You combined that with the effort of the kids and the fact that they were not going to give up until we had a chance to win.”
BATTLE OF THE BELL
Wins: Yoe 39, RHS 18
CAMERON—Keaton Denio 10 run (Rodriguez kick) 2:39
CAMERON— Mar tin Rodriguez 38 FG
ROCKDALE—Noe Zelaya 31 FG 6:02
ROCKDALE—Ethan Brinkley 2 run (Markus
Hayes run) 2:25
The Leaders RUSHING— ROCKDALE: Dailynn Ramey 10-12, Brinkley 5-7 TD, David 1-2, Hayes 1- 0. CAMERON: Denio 19-99. PASSING—ROCKDALE: Brinkley 32-51-1, 300 yards. CAMERON: Kopriva 16-24- 0, 142. RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Skubal 9-114, Garza 6-32, Goodman 4-56, Caffey 5-55, Gibbs 4-25, Hayes 2-14, Ramey 1-4, Nelson 1- 0. CAMERON: Westbrook 7-89. TACKLES—David 17, Hayes 16, Skubal 7, Patrick 7, Caffey 5, Woolverton 4.
Last week— Rockdale 11, Cameron 10; Madisonville 51, Caldwell 0; Navasota 31, Bryan Rudder 7; Columbia 29, LaGrange 0; Giddings 45, LaVernia 7; Smith-Wimberley cancelled.
This week—Rockdale at Liberty Hill; Caldwell at Connally; Madisonville open; Elgin at Giddings; Sealy at LaGrange; Navasota at Cameron; Needville at Smithville.
TIGER SEASON LEADERS
Rushing— Ramey 36 -130 2TD, David 11-41 1 TD, Hayes 6-23, Nelson 2-5, Brinkley 14-(-8) 2 TD.
Passing—Brinkley 78-119-4, 917 yards, 5 TD.
Receiving—Skubal 20-339 3 TD, Garza 14-162 1 TD, Gibbs 12-115, Caffey 12-125, Goodman 9-120 1 TD, Hayes 5- 41, David 1-5, Ramey 4-10, Nelson 1- 0.
Tackles— David 43, Hayes 37, David 16, Woolverton 14, Estrada 12, Caffey 12, Schneider 12, Skubal 11, Garza 10.