Out in a Hayes of glory
Conversely, it was stopping him that became a problem and the story of the game.
Turning in the Tigers’ first 100-yard output this season, Hayes helped Big Blue halt a four-game losing streak and avoid the district cellar by pounding Caldwell 49-34 at Hornet Field Friday night on a chilly evening with the temperature in the low 40s.
The Tigers, who had made the playoffs for a school-record four straight seasons, will sit at home this year with a 4-6 overall record and the victory over the Hornets handed them their first District 23-3A win.
Under new coach Chance Locklear, Caldwell finishes 1-9, its worst record since going 1-9 in 1998.
Trailing 20-14 at halftime after allowing two broken coverage touchdown passes in the final six minutes of the first half, Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller called upon his team to dig down deep.
“I just told them to play for the seniors,” said Miller, who is completing his sixth year as head coach. “Just go out and play as hard as you can and everything will work out.”
“This is a huge win.”
The Tigers heeded Miller’s call in earnest and they ripped off 35 unanswered points with an uncharacteristic pulverizing ground game that had previously been dormant.
Enter the 5-foot-8, 208-pound bowling ball who rolled over all Hornet defenders who got in his way.
Before Friday, Hayes’ previous claim to fame on offense was his game-winning two-point conversion against Cameron.
Hayes, who entered the game with 80 yards on the season, had been hampered by a sprained ankle most of the year and had played almost exclusively on defense where he is second on the team in tackles from his linebacker slot.
He punished the Hornets for 118 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns, the first 100+ effort by a Tiger runner in 10 games.
“It isn’t that big of a surprise,” Miller said. “We thought he was capable, but when he had the bum ankle, we’re going to have him on defense.
“He has real good instincts and vision. He’s a hard one to bring down. If he had been healthy, we would have seen more of that.”
Hayes had already surpassed his season total by halftime with 82 yards on nine carries, including his very first touchdown of the year on a 27-yard blast up the middle that left several Caldwell tacklers on the ground in frustration.
The junior muscled in from the 15-yard line to open the second half to hand Big Blue the lead for good and ignite the 35-point avalanche.
He closed out the Tigers scoring by pushing in from the one-yard line with 3:26 left on the clock to make the score 49-20.
After having to rely on the passing game for the majority of the season, Miller was thrilled to be able to move the ball by handing it off.
“It was really old style—running the ball at people. But, because of the great athletes they had in the defensive backfield, we knew we were going to have to attack them with our running game.”
Not to be lost in Hayes’ tremendous effort, Dailynn Ramey turned in his best game of the year with 71 yards on 20 carries with a couple of scores—his first from the line of scrimmage since the second game of the season.
The return of the run was also paramount in keeping the ball out of Bryston Burns hands as the Caldwell quarterback seemed to take it upon himself to defeat the Tigers.
In the first half alone, Burns had rolled up 252 yards of offense including a pair of touchdown passes and a 72-yard sprint for a score on the Hornets’ first possession.
He had completed 13- of-16 passes for 143 yards including eight straight completions to end the first half and put up 106 yards rushing.
“We had to try and keep the ball out of his hands,” Miller said. “And the best way to do that was run the ball successfully.”
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
The Tigers stuffed the Hornets in the second half, allowing them a paltry 66 yards of offense, 57 of which came on the final drive with Rockdale leading 49-20 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds remaining to be played.
Not including its final drive, Caldwell had control of the ball for only 3:19 in the second half and ran nine plays.
Rockdale ran 41 plays to Caldwell’s 14 in the second half.
Burns did finish with 309 yards of offense and had a hand in all five Hornet scores, but only 57 in the pivotal second half and 31 of that came on one run. He had six yards passing.
Now, Rockdale did not completely abandon its air attack, as quarterback Ethan Brinkley aired it out 19 times for 12 completions and 177 yards to become the first Tiger quarterback in history to pass for over 2,000 yards in a season, finishing with 2,037.
The junior lefthander completed his final six passes of the game, including a 43-yard in stride connection to Cody Skubal.
His chief target Skubal, grabbed three passes for 94 yards and a touchdown to complete his assault on the Tiger receiving records.
The 6-foot-3 senior basketball player finishes his only year of playing football with 52 catches, 910 yards and 10 touchdowns—all Rockdale records.
The season ending contest featured a little bit of everything.
Big Blue successfully executed an onside kick to open the game to catch the Hornets completely off guard.
Kicker Noe Zelaya perfectly topped the ball and Skubal drifted under the fly ball at the Caldwell 49 to set up a score.
The game also featured eight lost fumbles.
• All four Tiger wins this season were come-from-behind victories and two were on the road.
• The 49 points scored by to the Tigers Friday night is more than their previous four games combined.
• Of the 10 teams the Tigers faced in 2011, six are going the playoffs and have a combined record of 54-45.
• You may wonder how Smithville slithered into the playoffs despite the fact that it lost. Simply, the Tigers had to lose by three or more to be eliminated. They fell to LaGrange 13-12.
• In 19 years of coaching, Friday night’s victory is only the second time Jeff Miller has ended a season with a win. It’s only the third time he has missed the playoffs as a coach.
• While he re-wrote the Tiger history book in passing this season, junior quarterback Ethan Brinkley needs just 63 yards to equal Mark Drake’s career mark of 3,000 (2007- 08). He also needs four scores to tie Drake’s record for career touchdowns of 27.
• Twelve different receivers caught passes this season and four had at least 23 catches.
• With 37 grabs, senior Zach Garza finds himself third on the season receiving list behind Skubal and Joe Sanders.
• Navasota’s Solomon McGinty had one more catch than Cody Skubal (53 to 52) to win the district receiving title. Ethan Brinkley was second to Kadarius Baker of Navasota in passing (2,349 to 2,037). Baker tossed an impressive 33 touchdowns.
• Sophomore linebacker James David led the Tigers in tackles for the season with 118. Markus Hayes was next with 104. David also led the district in interceptions with two.
• Playing against his former teammates, senior defensive end Koltyn Woolverton registered a season-high nine tackles including a sack.
• The Tigers were penalized for just 273 yards in 2011, by far the lowest in the district. In comparison, Smithville was flagged for nearly 1,000 yards in penalties.
• Why punt? The Tigers were more successful on fourth down than third down this season, converting 57 percent of the time on fourth down and 44 percent on third down.
Last week—Rockdale 49, Caldwell 34; Navasota 27, Giddings 16; La- Grange 13, Smithville 12.
This week— Navasota vs. Sealy ( Waller); Smithville vs. Columbus (Bryan); Giddings vs. Bellville (A&M Consoidated).
TIGER SEASON LEADERS
Rushing— Ramey 135- 461 4 TD, David 41-165 2 TD, Hayes 38-198 3 TD, Nelson 7-12, Gibbs 2-2, Brinkley 40-(-35) 3 TD.
Passing— Brinkley 176 - 303 - 8, 2,037 yards, 15 TD.
Receiving—Skubal 52-910 10 TD, Garza 37-347 2 TD, Caffey 33-358, Gibbs 23-220 TD, Goodman 14-174 2 TD, Hayes 5-41, David 2-21, Ramey 9-14, Ehler 2- 6, Hamilton 1- 6, Trejo 1-4, Nelson 1- 0.
Tackles— David, J. 118, Hayes 104, Schneider 49, Woolverton 47, Gibbs 44, Caffey 42, Estrada 41, David 41, McQuinn 39, Garza 26, Hamilton 24, Alonzo 23, Garcia 21, Goodman 21, Skubal 18, Trejo 14. Rockdale Caldwell 20 First downs 15 45-203 Rushes-yards 25-177 12-19- 0 Passes 15-21-1 177 Passing yards 161 380 Total offense 338 2-40 Punts 3-30 4-4 Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-25 Penalties-yards 4-30
Score by quarters Rockdale 3077— 49 LaGrange 70147—34
First quarter ROCKDALE—Markus Hayes 27 run (kick failed) 10:00 CALDWELL—Bryston Burns 72 run (Robert Vychopen kick) 9:09 ROCKDALE—Ethan Brinkley 1 run (Clayton Gibbs from Brinkley) :14
Second quarter CALDWELL—J.J. Jackson 23 pass from Burns (Vychopen kick) 6:11 CALDWELL— Redmond Ward 27 pass from Burns (Vychopen kick) :19
Third quarter ROCKDALE—Hayes 15 run (Zelaya kick) 8:51 ROCKDALE—Dailynn Ramey 4 run (Zelaya kick) 4:46 ROCKDALE— Cody Skubal 43 pass from Brinkley (Zelaya kick) 2:18
Fourth quarter ROCKDALE— Ramey 9 run (Zelaya kick) 11:50 ROCKDALE— Hayes 1 run (Zelaya kick) 3:26 CALDWELL— Burns 4 run ( Vychopen kick) 1:21 CALDWELL— Burns fumble recovery in end zone (1:14)
RUSHING— ROCKDALE: Hayes 18-118 3TD, Ramey 20-71 2TD, Brinkley 2-7, David 5-7. CALD: Burns 19-167 2TD. PASSING— ROCKDALE: Brinkley 12-19- 0, 177 yards TD. CALD: Burns 14-19-1 142 2TD RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Skubal 3- 94 TD, Caffey 4-48, Garza 2-14, Gibbs 1-11, Ramey 1- 6, Trejo 1- 4. CALD: Jackson 6-79 TD. TACKLES— Hayes 10, Woolver ton 9, David 7, Schneider 6, McQuinn 6, Kirk 5, Caffey 5, Gibbs 5, Pelzel 4, Ramey 4, David, P. 3, Garza 2.