In a clinch
Friday night’s offering fits right in with the rest.
As has been their modus operandi during their current four-game winning streak, the Tigers jumped out early and then held on for a 33-21 victory over Madisonville at Mustang Field.
In this age where four teams enter the playoffs, the 5-3 Tigers clinched a playoff berth with the win and stand atop the district standings at 2-0.
Rockdale has defeated Madisonville (4-4, 0-2) in five of the last six meetings and three times in a row.
The Tigers face four-time defending league champion Navasota Friday at Tigerland Field in the Hall of Honor game.
After starting the season at 1-3, Big Blue has won four straight, their longest streak since 2009 when they opened the season at 7-0.
Despite the luxury of having their playoff future set, the Tigers are thinking district championship when they tackle Navasota.
“When you start the season, you have several team goals,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “It’s fun to be able to reach those goals.”
Miller has now led the Tigers to the playoffs six times in his eight seasons, which ties him for the most in school history with Casey Creghan (1994- 2003).
“After the loss to Liberty Hill, we thought if we could right the ship and set up a game with Navasota for the district championship.”
In the clincher, Big Blue leapt out 27-0 at intermission, but then struggled to find that first half groove and had to hang on for dear life as the Mustangs slowly closed the gap.
“We were up 27-0 at halftime and really hadn’t dominated like you would think we did,” Miller said. “We had some short fields to work with and we had the defensive touchdown.
“We were a little worried that we hadn’t been totally dominant on offense.”
The Tigers led 20-0 with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter and scored just twice in the remaining 40:30 of the game.
Madisonville outgained Rockdale 191-133 in the second half and outscored them 21-6.
The 319 yards is the lowest offensive output for the season for a Tiger team that was producing 442 per game coming in.
“I don’t know what our second half deal is,” Miller said. “I don’t know if we relax or not.”
The Tigers jumped out 38-0 against Hillsboro, 28-0 against Smithville and 28-0 last week against Taylor.
Elijah Brooks was a steadying influence, grinding out 136 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Brooks, who has carried the ball 59 times in the past two contests, racked up his fourth straight 100-yard effort and ninth of his career.
Madisonville entered the game as the most turnover prone team in district and they continued that trend Friday night, coughing up the ball four times which gives them 26 for the season.
James David took advantage of one of the drops after scooping up a Jailyn Smith fumble and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown and a 20-0 lead.
A four-year starter, it was David’s first career touchdown.
Big Blue had scored the first two times it touched the ball. Pearce Loth capped a 57-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Gibbs in which he drug two players into the end zone.
The touchdown was setup by a bit of rare trickery by the Tigers on a fake punt in where backup Dylan McCartney found Brent Drummond on a short snap for 26 yards and a first down.
On their next possession after a defensive stand (a David sack) and a short punt, Gibbs split the defense for an 18-yard score for a 13-0 lead.
The Tigers limited Madisonville running back Dontae Crist to 75 yards on 18 carries and kept him out of the end zone. The brunt of Crist’s yardage came on the first play of the game, when he scattered for a 30-yard gain.
“Our effort has been great defensively the last couple of weeks,” Miller said.