Tigers Trap Trojans
For the first time since the state championship season of 1976, the Tigers will be participating in the state quarterfinals after clipping No. 14 Coldspring-Oakhurst 21-14 Friday evening at College Station High School.
Coldspring (10-2) is the second one-loss team Big Blue has dispensed from the playoffs.
The 9-4 Tigers will now battle No. 6 Fairfield Friday night at the Waco ISD Complex in the quarterfinals (see story above).
There are only eight teams remaining in the playoff bracket and Rockdale is two games away from playing for a state championship
Friday’s winner will face the Sinton (11-2)-LaVernia (12-1) victor in the state semifinals next week.
“I don’t know that I’ve coached many groups that have deserved the success they have achieved,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “They are great competitors and they’ve worked extremely hard to get here.
“Our community deserves it. It’s a great feeling.”
Miller is enjoying the ride along with his team and the town, this is the furtherest he has traveled as a head coach in 14 years on the sidelines.
The Tigers suffered a great loss with the win as receiver Pearce Loth was lost for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee, which he injured in the first quarter.
The 6-foot-4 junior was one of the top pass catchers in the state with 64 receptions for 1,183 yards and 14 touchdowns— all Rockdale records.
Also, starting quarterback Clayton Gibbs is day-to-day after separating his throwing shoulder early in the game.
Gibbs played despite the injury, completing 14 passes for 146 yards a two touchdowns.
The gutsy senior had a hand in all three Tiger scores, also running in the clincher in the fourth quarter.
He even picked off a pass on defense right before halftime.
Should Gibbs be unable to go, the quarterback duties would fall to little used junior Dylan McCartney, who has attempted just 11 passes this season.
While both squads entered the contest piling up the points, it was the defense that took center stage on this chilly evening, especially for the blue and gold.
Behind its sneaky wing-T offense, Coldspring (10-2) had pounded out 330 yards a game, but Friday night, there was a Big Blue barrier at every turn.
Led by all-state linebacker James David and first-time starter Jon Hines (11 tackles each) the Trojans were limited to a season-low 169 yards of total offense and just 144 on the ground, under half as much as they were accustomed to.
The Tigers also nabbed two Coldspring passes (Gibbs, LaDontice Coates) and scooped up two fumbles (Whitsel).
Trojan quarterback Kaleb Morrison—who had completed just 25 passes coming in— attempted six passes, completing two for 25 yards, both in the first half.
“I was so proud of the defense,” Miller said. “They just kept making plays, knowing our offense would eventually push it in.
“We kept them frustrated, they are the type of team that needs to play in the lead.”
Rockdale is 9-1 when it scores first or leads at half. For the first time all year, the Tigers did not cross the goal line in the first quarter.
They did jump out to their requisite lead and were up 7-0 at halftime when the defense held on a fourth-and-two on a nice play by Pete Heintze at the Coldspring 48.
Set up by passes from Gibbs to Brent Drummond (13 yards) and Whitsel (12 yards) and a 13-yard break off from Gibbs, Gibbs found Drummond with a short three-yarder for the first score of the evening.
Contrary to their most recent offensive history, the Tigers managed just the one score despite making five trips into Trojan territory.
They stalled with two interceptions, a missed 26-yard field goal and a failed fourth down attempt.
In the previous three games, Big Blue had averaged 41 points in the first half.
“We didn’t come out with the confidence we had in the previous two games,” Miller said. “I was worried we might panic when we weren’t scoring.
“There may have been some question as to whether we were supposed to be out here with these guys.”
Big Blue was up to their old tricks to open the second half, driving 71 yards in 3 minutes, 13 seconds on their first possession as Gibbs found Pudgy Burgess on a slant over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown and 14-0 lead.
Coldspring struck right back, aided by a pass interference call at the five-yard line on fourthand seven, drove 69 yards with Daylon Giddens busting over from the six to close the gap to 14-7.
Coates’ interception and 24-yard return midway through the fourth quarter set the Tigers up at the Coldspring 34 and after nine straight running plays and erasing 4:25 off the clock, Gibbs snuck over from the one for a seemingly safe 21-7 lead with 2:03 remaining to be played.
However, on the ensuing kickoff after appearing to be stopped, Daylon Giddens lateraled the ball to Douglas Johnson who scampered 68 yards for a freakish touchdown to close the gap to 21-14.
Coldspring’s onside kick attempt spun out of bounds at the midfield stripe and the Tigers—aided by a personal foul call—were able to run the remaining 1:46 off the clock.
“We test ourselves a lot,” said Miller. “We talk all the time about overcoming adversity and we had some to overcome tonight.”