The good, the bad, the victory
Big Blue overcame some firstgame jitters and showed a balanced offensive attack while Ethan Brinkley became the Tigers’ all-time leading passer in a 35-21 victory Friday night at Eagle Field in the 2012 season opener.
Not so far removed from the wildwest shootout, 52-41 win, last season on this same field, Rockdale had to once again come from behind to grab the victory.
While Big Blue steamrolled Salado for 594 yards—the most in the Jeff Miller era—they were flagged for almost 100 yards of penalties, suffered four turnovers and allowed three long plays.
“You expect some mistakes, but we had two or three opportunities to put the game away and for whatever reason, we didn’t,” said Miller, who has led the Tigers to a 5-2 record in season openers. “I’m not happy with the way we played. Too many penalties, too many turnovers.
“They are big and physical and we knew it would take our best to beat them,” said Salado Coach Glenn Talbott. “We’ve gone back and forth against them before and we were in it at the end.”
While the Tigers were ham- pered by the lack of a running attack last season, it appears there will be no such concerns this season as a trio of Tigers rolled up 355 yards on the ground and scored four times.
Varsity newcomer Elijah Brooks emerged from the pack with a 211-yard, three touchdown performance to pave the way as he darted and changed lanes all evening.
“He has the Brooks’ skills keeping him focused,” Miller said. “He had great vision tonight and a great center of gravity.”
Last season’s leading rusher as a freshman, Dailynn Ramey, picked up 82 yards on 17 totes, while the bruising Markus Hayes gained 66 on just eight carries before being thrown out of the game in the third quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct
|Ethan||Brinkley (2010-||12) 3,176|
|Dickie||Summers (1962-||63) 2,539|
“We have three great running backs this year and all three had really big runs tonight,” Miller said.
Brinkley’s eclipsing Mark Drake’s passing record (3,000 yards) was almost an af terthought.
The senior needed just 64 yards to pass the mark (set in 2007-08) and he sewed that up in the Tigers’ first drive and he now stands at 3,176 yards with at least nine games left in his career.
His 30-yard connection with Pearce Loth to set up Big Blue’s first touchdown, gave him 91 yards on the 11-play drive to push him over the top.
The lefthander needs just four touchdown passes to pass Drake’s career mark of 27.
Brinkley—a three-year starter— finished with 239 yards and a score on 15-of-23 accuracy, but was picked off an uncharacteristic three times. He only threw eight all of last season.
Brinkley was deadly accurate in the first half, completing 12-of-14 passes including his first six in a row.
Speaking of Loth, he made a splash in his varsity debut as the 6-foot-4 sophomore led the Tigers in receiving with four for 71 yards.
Three of those grabs came during the opening series of the game for 66 yards.
Despite the miscues, Miller couldn’t help but be encouraged by the even-steven offensive showing under new offensive coordinator Hunter Hamrick.
“That’s what I liked about it,” Miller said. “We now have a team that can do what the opponent gives us. We are always looking to be more balanced.”
Salado used quarterback Ryan Simmons for balance as the electrifying performer duplicated his accomplishments from last season (292 total yards) with 165 yards on the ground and 160 through the air to account for 325 of the Eagles’ 423 yards of offense.
“It took just five minutes of watching film on him that we knew we had to stop him and unfortunately, we didn’t do a very good job stopping him,” Miller said.
Despite Big Blue’s two-touchdown victory, Salado had the opportunity to tie the game, trailing 28-21 with 5 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the game and the ball in its hands.
Af ter a muf fed snap on a 22-yard field goal attempt by the Tigers, the Eagles took possession on their own five, but a 62-yard scamper by Simmons set them up at the Rockdale 27-yard line.
However on the next play, all hopes of tying the game were lost when the snap richoted off Simmons’ leg and into the waiting arms of 6-foot-6 Tiger tackle Josh Pelzel.
Thanks to a 17-yard breakoff by Brooks on first down and a nifty 29-yard snag by Clayton Gibbs (3 catches, 65 yards) on second and 25, Brooks was able to bust outside and go untouched down the far sideline for 35 yards to seal the victory with just 1:50 showing on the clock.
While it was Salado that scored first on the opening drive, thanks to a freak tipped pass by Hayes that landed in the arms of Brandon Womac for a 42-yard pickup, Big Blue came right back and engineered an 88-yard drive, culminated when Brooks busted over from the two.
Both teams ended the first half with a flurry of scoring, as sandwiched around a 58-yard Salado scoring pass, Hayes went 12 yards fora score and Brinkley shot a pass to Gibbs on a slant route from 26 yards out for a 21-14 halftime lead.
TIGER SEASON RESULTS (1-0)
Rockdale 35, Salado 21
|21 First downs||18|
|239 Passing yards||160|
|594 Total offense||322|
|Rockdale 7 14||7||7—35|
|SALADO—Ryan Simmons 2||run (||Chase|
|Crenwelge kick) 10:22|
|Zelaya kick) 6:12|
|ROCKDALE —Markus Hayes||12||run (||Zelaya|
|Simmons (Crenwelge kick)||3:||51|
|Ethan Brinkley (Zelaya kick)||1:||22|
|ROCKDALE—Brooks 20 run||(||Zelaya||kick)|
|SALADO—Simmons 55 run||(||Crenwelge|
RUSHING—ROCKDALE: Brooks 18-211
3 TD, Ramey 17-82, Hayes 8-66, Gibbs
1-0, Brinkley 6- (-26.) SALADO: Simmons
14-165 2 TDS.
PASSING—ROCKDALE: Brinkley 15-26-3,
239 yards, TD. SALADO: Simmons 9-22-2,
160 yards, TD.
RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Loth 4-71,
Caffey 4-41, Gibbs 3-65 TD, Ramey 1-16,
Dean 1-16, Brooks 1-16. SALADO: Wong
TACKLES—Coates 12, Hayes 10, David
8, Caffey 6, Ehler 6.
This week— Burnet at Rockdale; Hearne at Caldwell; Coldspring at Navasota; Madisonville at Cleveland; Taylor at Brookshire-Royal.
Last week—Rockdale 35, Salado 21; Robinson 33, Taylor 14; Navasota 42, Willis 0; Madisonville 24, Lorena 14; Bellville 77, Caldwell 15.