Hill over Dale
Rockdale wanted to pass, the Panthers wanted to run... and run and run and run.
In the end, run won.
Leaping out to a big lead and then missing out on a couple of prime opportunities to make it larger, the Rockdale Tigers came up empty in the second half as the Panthers rallied for a 27-20 victory Friday night at Panther Stadium.
Rockdale draws even on the season at 2-2 as does Liberty Hill.
“Fatigue got us,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “We should have gone on and done what we needed to do and scored a couple of more times when we had the opportunity.”
“When you have a good team down like that you have to take advantage. We let them stay close and they started dominating the line of scrimmage.”
A nd the domination came in the form of Brandon Corn, who at 5-foot-6 and 132 pounds, doesn’t cut an imposing figure, but tangling with him at the line of scrimmage can leave you run over and flattened, as the Tigers found out.
The tireless Corn toted the ball 36 times for 243 yards and two scores as Liberty Hill played keep away in the second half, which is their metier.
Just for the record, Corn was the state powerlifting champion in his weight class, bench pressing 270 pounds and squatting 455.
Corn, who had 79 yards in the Panthers’ 16-7 victory over the Tigers last season, carried the ball 24 times in the second half.
After grabbing a 20-7 lead in the first half and holding a 13:13 to 10:47 possession time advantage, the Tigers got their hands on the ball for just over six minutes in the second half while the Panthers plowed up and down the field.
In the fourth quarter, Rockdale touched the ball just twice, for just over three minutes.
“ They made some halftime adjustments,” Miller said. “And part of it may have been that it was going too easy and we lost our focus.”
The passing combination of quarterback Ethan Brinkley and receiver Cody Skubal was effective once again as Skubal grabbed seven passes for 155 yards and accounted for all three Tiger scores.
It’s the third straight game Skubal has surpassed 100 yards in receiving.
Br ink ley was 21- of- 42 for 261 yards with the three connections with Skubal and was picked off just once, on the final play of the game when he was trying to engineer a comeback.
Perhaps riding the euphoria of the last minute come-frombehind victory over rival Cameron, Rockdale charged out of the locker room and surged ahead of the Panthers for the first time ever in the four game series.
After Dillon Goodman’s touchdown return of the opening kickoff was called back after officials said he stepped out of bounds, Brinkley guided the Tigers down the field to the nine-yard line, where they tried four times to punch it in but were unsuccessful.
After holding Liberty Hill to three- and- out and a 12-yard punt from Jacob Simons that handed the Tigers the ball at the Panther 24, Brinkley found Skubal in the flats and he covered the final 20 yards for the score.
A f ter forcing another Liberty Hill punt, the Tigers struck again, as Brinkley found the 6-foot-3 Skubal in the corner of the end zone from 27 yards out to make it 13- 0 as the second quarter got underway.
On a strange run in which he appeared to be downed and play stopped, Corn jumped up and broke off a 29-yard run to close the gap to 13-7.
The undaunted Tigers answered right back as Brinkley found a wide-open Skubal on a turn-in near the sideline and he raced untouched for 70 yards to make the score 20-7.
Unfortunately, after scoring on three consecutive drives, the Tigers would not find the end zone again.
Rockdale was caught napping on the ensuing kickoff as Jadan Boatright scooted down the sideline for 82 yards and the Tigers two-touchdown cushion was shor t lived, leav ing the score 20-14 at intermission.
Rockdale was able to drive down to the 11-yard line right before the half, but were unable to put points on the board.
Brinkley was 16-for-27 in the first half for 227 yards and the trio of touchdowns.
Barely getting to touch the ball in the second half, he completed just five passes for 43 yards in the second.
“Field position was the thing that really hurt,” said Miller. “You’re a lot more conservative at that point.”
Liberty Hill began its second half comeback, scoring on a 19- yard Jonathan Johnston angle to t he end zone for a 21- 20 lead with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
When Rockdale was forced to punt the ball away with 5:20 remaining to be played, it was unlikely they would get their hands on the ball again.
Brinkley’s 43-yard punt and a illegal procedure penalty forced the Panthers to start from their own 31-yard line.
Using 10 plays to cover the 69 yards, Corn cracked over the middle for the final 20 yards and a 27-20 lead, but the Panthers did leave the door open a crack, with 1:16 left on the clock.
A nice return by Dailynn Ramey set the Tigers up in great field position at the Liberty Hill 47-yard line.
Completions to Skubal and Austin Caffey moved the ball down to the 34 with a first down with 33 seconds left.
On first down, Brinkley was looking for Ramey on a sideline pat ter n, but R amey slipped down and Cody Tanner nabbed the pass at the 16 to end the game.
“We felt like it’s one we should have won,” Miller said. “It comes down to execution.”
Last week—Liberty Hill, 27, Rockdale 20; Connally 49, Caldwell 0; Navasota 42, Cameron 21; Sealy 35, LaGrange 16; Elgin 30, Giddings 29; Smithville 69, Needville 0.
This week—Madisonville at Rockdale; Giddings at West Orange Stark; Navasota, LaGrange, Caldwell, Smithville all idle.
First quarter ROCKDALE— Cody Skubal 25 pass from Ethan Brinkley (kick failed) 4:16
Second quarter ROCKDALE—Skubal 27 pass from Brinkley (Zelaya kick) 11:29 LH–Brandon Corn 28 run (Jaden Boatright kick) 8:59 ROCKDALE—Skubal 70 pass from Brinkley (Zelaya kick) 7:55 LH— Boatright 81 KO return (Boatright kick) 7:43
Third quarter LH—Jonathan Johnston 20 run (Boatright kick) 1:34
Fourth quarter LH– Corn 20 run (kick failed) 1:16
RUSHING— ROCKDALE: Dailynn Ramey 8-24, Brinkley 1-3, Hayes 1-1. LH: Corn 36-243 2TD, Johnston 14-126 TD. PASSING—ROCKDALE: Brinkley 21-41-1, 261 yards, 3TD. LH: Hester 0-2- 0. RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Skubal 7-155 3TD, Garza 5 -26, Caffey 6 -70, Gibbs 3-10. TACKLES—David 9, Hayes 9, Alonzo 9, Estrada 8, David, P. 7, Woolverton 4.
TIGER SEASON LEADERS
Rushing— Ramey 44 -154 2TD, David 11-41 1 TD, Hayes 7-24, Nelson 2-5, Brinkley 15-(-5) 2 TD.
Passing—Brinkley 99-161-5, 1,178 yards, 8 TD.
Receiving—Skubal 27-494 6 TD, Garza 19-188 1 TD, Gibbs 15-125, Caffey 18-195, Goodman 9-120 1 TD, Hayes 5- 41, David 1-5, Ramey 4-10, Nelson 1- 0.
Tackles—David, J. 52, Hayes 46, David 23, Woolverton 18, Estrada 20, Alonzo 16, Garza 14, Caffey 13, Schneider 13, Skubal 11.
TIGER SEASON RESULTS (2-2)
Abilene Wylie 35, Rockdale 14
Rockdale 51, Salado 42
Rockdale 11, Cameron 10
Liberty Hill 27, Rockdale 20