When Burnet clogged up the middle, the Tigers offered up Austin Caffey.
The tough-as-nails Caf fey turned in one of the best performances for a receiver in RHS history in leading Big Blue to a 24-17 victory over Burnet Friday night at Tigerland Field.
On the eve of the Battle of the Bell, the Tigers improved to 2-0 for only the third time since 1997.
Caffey, who established himself as the Tigers’ over-the-middle possession receiver last year as a sophomore, sniffed out a seam in the heart of the Burnet (1-1) defense and outran the Bulldogs on two perfectly executed screen passes from 29 and 32 yards out in the first half to provide Rockdale with a 17-3 advantage at intermission.
“Austin has a great knack for the game,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “He could play running back for us if we needed him to. We also did a great job of blocking for him and Ethan did a great job of getting the ball to him. We were taking what they gave us.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior, who was named the District 23-3A newcomer of the year in 2011, finished with 10 catches for 139 yards. The three touchdowns against Burnet were the first of his career.
With 10 grabs, Caffey becomes just the third receiver in Tiger history to reach double digit receptions, behind Gene Grayson’s 12 in 1978 and Joe Sanders’ 11 in 2008.
The 100-degree heat and stif ling humidity took its toll on both teams and there was no real ebb-and-flow to the game.
The early going became a field goal-fest with Burnet’s Austin Huff and Rockdale’s Noe Zelaya trading 34 and 40-yard kicks for the first scores of the game.
By the end of the contest, both teams were grabbing their kneepads.
“It was a tremendous job of competing for both teams,” Miller said. “It was a heavyweight slugfest. We both just smooth ran out of gas. I’m really proud of the kids who haven’t played much and had to play.”
The Bulldogs placed eight men in the box on defense and cut off the Tigers’ running attack that rolled up 355 yards last week in the win over Salado.
Big Blue managed just 79 yards on Friday on only 23 tries, led by Elijah Brooks’ 41 yards on 11 carries.
The Tigers ran the ball just six times for seven yards after halftime. Brooks took the ball six times for six yards.
Brinkley and Caffey took on the responsibility of moving the ball downfield and Brinkley completed 23 passes on 31 attempts for 285 yards, the third-best effort in Tiger history.
The senior lef thander was 12-for-13 for 170 yards in the first half.
His three-touchdown connection with Caffey tied him with Mark Drake (2007-08) for touchdowns in a career with 27.
Burnet churned out 400 yards of offense to Rockdale’s 364, mostly on Derek Kiser’s 267 yards through the air.
Kiser, in his first year as a starter, went to the air 39 times, completing 23. The Tigers picked him off three times.
With Big Blue clinging to a 17-10 lead, Burnet was in the process of tying the game in the early going of the final period, but self-destructed.
On first-and-20, Trenton Hafley (13 carries for 54 yards) took in a Kiser screen pass and motored 52 yards downfield for a score that was called back on an illegal block call.
On the next play, Tiger linebacker James David broke through the Bulldog line and stuffed Kiser which caused a fumble which was scooped up by James Castilleja at the 37.
In the game clinching score, the Tigers moved the 37 yards in seven plays, culminated with Brinkley finding a wide-open Caffey in the right flats for an eight-yard score and a 24-10 lead with 6 minutes, 29 seconds remaining.
Ed Dansby’s interception on Burnet’s next possession gave Big Blue the opportunity to run the clock out with 5:11 left, but the Tiger stalled and were forced to punt the ball away.
On fourth-and-17, Kiser hit Blayne Parisher in stride for a 34-yard touchdown to close the gap to 24-17 with 1:29 remaining to be played.
Rockdale had to punt again, but Castilleja’s interception slammed the door on Burnet’s chances.
“We played a lot smarter this week,” Miller said. “It was a cleaner ball game.”
TIGER SEASON LEADERS
Rushing—Brooks 29-252 3 TD, Ramey 23-100, David 1-5, Hayes 12-73 TD, Gibbs 1-0, Brinkley 10-(- 21).
Passing—Brinkley 38-58-4, 524 yards, 4 TD.
Receiving—Caffey 14-186 3TD, Loth 10-133, Gibbs 8-113 TD, Ramey 2-43, Dean 1-16, Brooks 1-16
Tackles— Hayes 25, David 24, Coates 21, Gibbs 11, Caffey 9, Ehler 9, Ramey 8, Of field 7, Pelzel 5, Castilleja 5, Heintze 5, Brooks 5, McQuinn 4.
TIGER SEASON RESULTS (2-0)
Rockdale 35, Salado 21
Rockdale 24, Burnet 17
|BURNET—||Austin Huff 34||FG||4:||14|
|ROCKDALE—||Noe Zelaya 40||FG||11:||51SALROCKDALE—|
|Ethan||Brinkley (Zelaya kick)||9:||21|
|ROCKDALE—||Caffey 32 pass||from||Brinkley|
|ROCKDALE—||Caffey 8 pass||from||Brinkley|
|Derek||Kiser (Huff kick) 1:||29|
RUSHING—ROCKDALE: Brooks 11-41, Ramey 5-15, Hayes 4-7, Brinkley 4-5. BURNET: Hafley 13-54. PASSING—ROCKDALE: Brinkley 23-31-1, 285 yards, 3 TD; Gibbs 0-1-0. BURNET: Kiser 23-39-3, 267 yards TD. RECEIVING—ROCKDALE: Caffey 10-138 3 TD, Loth 6-62, Gibbs 5-48, Ramey 1-27, baldavia 1-9. BURNET: Barnard 7-80. TACKLES—David 16, Hayes 15, Coates 9, Gibbs 9.
|Caldwell at||Robinson;||Houston||Sterling at|
|Taylor 33,||Brookshire-||Royal 3;||Navasota 36,|