TIGERS OFF CENTER
The Tigers’ rousing performance Friday night did nothing to dim their reputation as a frontrunner as they annihilated Center 75-28 in a Class 3A, Division II, Region III area playoff game on a blustery evening that featured 35 degree weather and intermittent rain.
The 8-4 Tigers, who have won seven of eight, move on to face 10-1 Coldspring in regional play Friday at College Station High School at 7:30 p.m. (see story above).
Combined with a victory over Lorena last week in bi-district, it marks the first time the Tigers have captured back-toback playoff games since 1998.
“First off, it’s great to see how hard they are playing and how much confidence they are playing with,” Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller said. “Those two traits are the keys to success.”
The 75 points scored is a modern day school record, regular season or playoff game. Rockdale defeated Rosebud 103-0 in 1927. The 1975 team defeated Lockhart 68-0.
This edition of the Tigers has also become the highest scor- ing team in RHS history with 512 points, surpassing the 1975 team’s mark of 456.
Big Blue also piled up a school-record 694 yards, 403 on the ground and 291 through the air.
In their past three games, the Tigers are averaging 66.3 points per outing and have averaged leading 41-15 at halftime. They have combined to score on 18-of 21-first half possessions in the three games.
“It’s fun to see because we have so many different people contributing and joining in on our success,” Miller said. “I would hate to be a defensive coordinator and have to face us right now.”
Friday night’s effort fell right into place, kick started by the second play of the game, when Clayton Gibbs found Pearce Loth slicing over the middle of the field at the 50-yard line with Pearce angling to the right and outracing Octavious Evans to the end zone for a 7-0 lead with just 57 seconds gone off the clock.
“I was a little nervous,” Miller said. “We didn’t come out as fired up as we did last week against Lorena. We needed something to jump start us and that was huge and we never really looked back.”
In front of a large contingent of Tiger fans at A&M Consolidated, who ignored the lousy weather, the Tigers scored on six-of-seven possessions in the first half, interrupted when a wide-open Loth could not pull in a Gibbs pass and two plays later Gibbs was intercepted.
In the only drama of the evening, the Roughriders (3-8) pulled to within 20-13 when they parlayed the pickoff into a score to open the second quarter.
Big Blue stemmed the threat on their next two possessions when Brooks broke loose for a 29-yard score and then Gibbs pushed over from the two after Jon Hines blocked a punt for a 34-13 cushion.
Center fought back one more time, as scatback Jemarcuss Jones (21 carries, 161 yards) skirted left end and outran the Tigers down the left sideline for a 42-yard score to make it 34-20.
The Roughriders would score just one more time, after allowing 34 unanswered points and trailing 68-20 with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
Gibbs and Loth’s 10-yard connection with three seconds left in the first half handed the Tigers a 41-20 halftime lead.
Gibbs finished 12-0f-29 for 291 yards with three touchdowns.
Loth gathered in six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Elijah Brooks pounded out 185 yards on 21 carries and tied his own record set earlier this season with five touchdowns. He scored from the 5, 6, 8, 29 and 36.
That gives the senior 22 touchdowns this season, which ties him with his brother Daniel (2010) and H. Earl Marion (1967) for most in a season.
Brooks now has 35 touchdowns in his career, which ties him for first on the all-time list with Blade Bassler (1999-2000).
His backup, Dailynn Ramey, picked up a career-high 124 yards and scored twice (51, 42) on just seven carries.
“We’re finally starting to believe what we told them, that we can play with anyone we come up against,” Miller said. “Instead of coming out and hoping we can win, we are expecting to win.”