It had its ups. It had its downs.
After dominating Lorena in an impressive first half performance, the Tigers faded in the second half in a frustrating 36-22 setback at Leo Buckley Stadium on a chilly evening where the temperature dipped into the 40s.
Rockdale—a 31-point underdog— ends the season at 5- 6, while 9-2 Lorena moves on to face Fairfield Friday in Bryan in the Class 3A, Division II, Region III area round.
Lorena—which has now won at least one playoff game in the past five seasons—defeated Fairfield in bi-district last season.
Leaping out to a 22-8 halftime lead, the Tigers failed to score in the second half while Lorena reeled off 28 straight points to seize the game.
“We were able to get first downs in the beginning,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “In the second half they made the adjustments and they had true momentum. They were able to capitalize on it and we couldn’t.
“We had some adversity there in the second half, but we just kept playing. We had several opportunities to give up and we didn’t.”
“In the first half, we had not done a good job of shutting them down,” said Lorena Coach Jeff Biles. “Their kids did a great job, and I give them a lot of credit. But our kids fought back and made some good things happen in the second half.”
Trailing 22-8 at halftime, Biles challenged his team at intermission and they responded in earnest with 28 unanswered points with precision ball control and a whole lot of Harris Coleman.
Since the Tigers choked off the Leopards’ passing lanes (8 completions, 76 yards), Coleman was forced to launch a ground attack.
Coleman bulldozed his way over, under and through the Rockdale defense for 194 yards and three touchdowns, the bulk of it coming in the pivotal second half.
The Leopards’ response to Biles’ challenge began as soon as they touched the ball at the outset of the third quarter.
Lorena engineered two nearly identical drives to open the third quarter, marching 69 and 68 yards, with Coleman pounding in from short range for scores to quickly close the gap to 22-21 with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
Rockdale had control of the ball for less than four minutes in the quarter.
They picked up three first downs to move into Lorena territory before linebacker Chase Campbell nabbed an interception to halt the Tigers’ 13-play possession at the Lorena 38-yard line and any hope of resurgence.
Afterpickingupa firstdown on a fourth-and-one at their own 48, Chris Whiteside broke the game open with a 42-yard sprint up the middle of the Rockdale defense to make it 29-22 with 5:33 remaining to be played.
The Tigers had one more chance to tie the game, but could not convert on fourth-and-11 with 3:41 showing.
Coleman—who was averaging almost 300 yards of total offense coming in—then carried the offensive load and the ball on nine straight plays for 66 yards, culminating on a 13-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left. It was his 28th score by rushing this season.
In contrast, Rockdale owned the first half.
Trailing 8- 0 in the second quarter and after a missed field goal, the Tigers went on their own scoring spree, to secure a 22-8 halftime advantage by crossing the goal line twice in a two-minute span.
Af ter converting a fourthand 12 with a pass to Clayton Gibbs (7 catches, 57 yards), Brinkley bulled over from the one on fourth and goal to tie the game 8-8 after Elijah Brooks’ (111 yards) conversion.
The Tigers then stopped Lorena on fourth-and-three at the 27 and converted that into a three-yard run by Ramey at the end of an 11-play, 68-yard drive to make it 15-8.
Next, Rockdale turned a fumble by Whiteside into a five-yard hookup from Brinkley to Austin Caffey (6-for-55) on a slant route in the end zone with 1:22 left in the half for the 22-8 lead.
The Tigers converted four fourth-down attempts during that span.
“They did a tremendous job in the second quarter,” Biles said. “We never touched the ball. They had it the whole quarter, so it’s hard to generate any momentum on offense when your offense is standing on the sideline watching.”
“It was just the way we persevered,” Miller said. “We had so many injuries and it wasn’t just the kids who couldn’t suit out, but those who have played hurt. They gave it all they had and left us with some fond memories.”
• Senior quarterback Ethan Brinkley ends his career as the Tigers all-time leading passer with 4,616 yards and 36 touchdown passes.
• With 111 yards against Lorena, Elijah Brooks crossed over the 1,000-yard mark, becoming just the 12th Tiger to accomplish the feat.
• Junior receiver Austin Caffey led the Tigers in receptions with 36 which puts him second on the career list with 69, just four behind leader Joe Sanders’ 73.
• Senior kicker Noe Zelaya made 74-of-91 extra points in his career, which places him third on all-time list. Mario Garza (1973-76) leads with 93. Zelaya was also 5-of-9 on field goals.
• For the second time this season, linebacker Makus Hayes racked up 27 tackles Friday against Lorena. While there are no solid records for tackles, Richard Kubiak had 29 against Belton in 1968.
• Taylor (5-6) pulled off a major upset in the first round, clipping tradition-rich Waco LaVega 17-14. The Ducks now face Carthage. No. 1 Navasota (11-0) proved it was human in allowing 16 points in its 62-16 thrashing of China Spring. The Rattlers did not allow a single point in district play and will take on Jasper in area.
• Sophomore Dailynn Ramey’s three-yard scamper in the second quarter was his first touchdown of the year. His 75 yards rushing was also a career-high.
• Injured linebacker James David attended the game in a wheelchair and made an appearance in the lockerroom after having successful knee surgery.
• The combined record of all 11 teams Rockdale faced this season was 58-52.
• In the second quarter of the last two games, the Tigers outscored their opponents 49-6.
TIGER SEASON LEADERS
Rushing—Brooks 173-1,045 13 TD, Ramey 85-380 TD, Hayes 26-148 TD, Coats 6-36, Dansby 8-24, David 1-5, Burgess 2-6, Castilleja 2-3, Gibbs 8-(-8), Brinkley 35-(-26) 4TD, Baldivia 2-32.
Passing—Brinkley 129-228-12, 1,679 yards, 13 TD; Gibbs 26-64-2, 381 yards, 4TD.
Receiving—Caffey 36-403 5TD, Gibbs 29-447 4TD, Loth 26-398 4TD, Burgess 17-148, Baldavia 6-138 TD, Walton 7-187 TD, Ramey 5-21, Ford 3-49 TD, Trejo 7-122 TD, Burton 5-42, Dean 1-16, Brooks 3-31, Whitsel 2-23, Gates 1-12, David 2-18, Hernandez 1-9, Hayes 1-7.
Tackles—Hayes 154, David 119, Coates 93, Caffey 82, Trejo 57, Ehler 50, Dansby 51, Gibbs 48, Baldavia 45, Hernandez 31, Heintze 31.
lineman of the week
TIGER SEASON RESULTS (5-6)
Rockdale 35, Salado 21
Rockdale 24, Burnet 17
Cameron 34, Rockdale 0
Liberty Hill 76, Rockdale 35
Smithville 27, Rockdale 0
Rockdale 27, Hillsboro 15
Taylor 34, Rockdale 38 (3 OTs)
Rockdale 45, Madisonville 13
Navasota 43, Rockdale 0
Rockdale 43, Caldwell 12
Lorena 36, Rockdale 22
|Rockdale||0 22||0 0—22|
LORENA—Duggan Burch (Harris Coleman
ROCKDALE—Ethan Brinkley 1 run (Elijah
ROCKDALE—Dailynn Ramey 3 run (Noe
Zelaya kick) 3:41
ROCKDALE—Austin Caffey 5 pass from
Brinkley (Zelaya kick) :37
LORENA—Coleman 2 run (Coleman kick)
LORENA—Coleman 1 run (kick blocked)
LORENA—Chris Whiteside 42 run (Bobby
Strahan pass from Coleman) 5:33
LORENA— Coleman 13 run (Coleman
RUSHING—ROCKDALE: Brooks 24-111 TD, Ramey 13-75 TD, Brinkley 7-19. LORENA: Coleman 32-194. PASSING—ROCKDALE: Brinkley 16-27-1, 144 yards, TD. LORENA: Coleman 8-14-0, 204 yards. RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Gibbs 7-57, Caffey 6-55, Trejo 1-20, Brooks 1-7, Burton 1-5. LORENA: Cox 3-35. TACKLES—Hayes 27, Baldavia 13, Caffey 7, Trejo 7, Ehler 7, Dansby 7, Coates 5.