Blue Streak Stopped
Fairfield stopped a rampant Rockdale, sprinting away from the Tigers 42- 7 Friday on an icy evening that featured brutal 28 degree weather and 20 mph winds in the Class 3A, Division II, Region III state quarterfinals at Waco ISD Stadium.
The 9-5 Tigers had won eightof nine coming in and four in a row in reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since the state championship run of 1976.
Fairfield (14-0)—which has never reached the semifinal round— moves on to face Sinton (12-2) in the state semifinals Friday at Rhoades Stadium in Katy. Graham (14-0) and No. 1 Argyle (14-0) are the other two remaining teams.
“We made them earn everything they got,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “ This team showed so much pride and resiliency this season. They’ll look back on this with some wonderful memories and they deserve a big hand.”
While both teams featured shoot-’em-up offenses that had put a strain on scoreboards all over Texas, it was the Fairfield defensive unit that put their stamp on the game, limiting the Tigers to a season-low 161 yards of offense.
Led by lightening quick defensive ends Josh Gallegos and Danny Cockrell, the Eagles pinched in from the corners and kept Rockdale quarterback Clayton Gibbs cooped up all evening.
Gibbs—who entered the game with over 3,000 yards passing and 35 touchdowns passes—completed just 5-0f- 25 passes for a season-low 68 yards.
“Our plan was to put pressure on their quarterback,” said Fairfield Coach John Batchel. “(Gibbs) is a great quarterback, but we really did a good job with pressure.”
Gibbs was also playing with a grade three shoulder separation he received last week against Coldspring, which added to the frustration.
“What a competitor to go out there and give it a shot,” Miller said.
Gibbs was surely missing his favorite target, Pearce Loth, who was on the sidelines with a torn ACL from the week before.
“We had to move a lot of people around because of that,” Miller said.
The Tigers’ longest completion of the night was 26 yards to Pudgy Burgess.
Elijah Brooks carried the ball 22 times for 89 yards and the Tigers’ lone touchdown, coming with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the gap to 28-7.
While Fairfield is a well balanced offense, they prefer to run, but the Tigers forced the Eagles to take to the airways.
Tailback Larry Rose entered the game averaging close to 250 yards a game on the ground, but Rockdale cut him off at 147 on 23 tries. And, 74 of his total came on one gallop.
Rose—who had just 50 yards in the first half—did score four times to bring his season total to 45.
“Credit them with doing a good job of stopping Larry,” said Batchel. “We can pass the ball, we just haven’t had to show it much.”
Quarterback Josh Gallegos was able to make up the difference, connecting on 15-of-24 passes for 219 yards as the Eagles accumulated 425 yards of offense.
Rockdale is 9-1 when scoring first and 0-4 when they allowed their opponent to score first.
So when Fairfield took advantage of a bad punt exchange at the Rockdale four yard line to grab a 7-0 lead, the odds were against the Tigers.
Rose busted over right tackle with 8:09 left in the first quarter.
After a impressive 51-yard punt from Gibbs, with the wind at his back, was downed at the 1-yard line, Gallegos marched the Eagles the 99-yards needed to score, capped by a 10-yard pass to Cameron Hicks to make it 14-0.
The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and traveled to the 20-yard line and appeared to have a first down when the Eagles were flagged for an illegal substitution on fourth-and-three.
After Batchel embarked in an animated discussion with officials, the flag was waved off and Gibbs was stopped after a one-yard pickup.
“I still don’t quite understand what that was on the penalty call,” Miller said. “It definitely hurt our momentum. We were about to have the ball inside the 20, but somehow, we still needed to convert a fourth-and-3
After Rockdale was stopped at the 18-yard line on fourth-and-8, Fairfield drove 72 yards, culminated by Rose’s second score after he took in a Gallegos pass for 28 yards and a 21-0 halftime lead.
For the first time all season, Rockdale did not score in the first half.
After Rockdale was forced to punt to open the second half, Rose dialed up long distance as he headed left, then shifted right and out ran everyone for 74 yards to make it 28-0.
The Tigers responded with a 13-play, 78-yard drive with Brooks skirting around left end for the score to make it 28-7.
Fairfield volleyed again, using a 42-yard completion from Gallegos to Hicks to set up a 4-yard run by Gallegos to make it 35-7 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the win, Fairfield set a new Class 3A record for scoring in a season. They had been averaging 58 points a game.
• Correction. In last week’s lead sports photo, Darius Ford was mistakenly identified as Billy Harris.
• Josh Pelzel will be recognized at halftime of the Dallas-Green Bay game this Sunday as a participant in the 2nd annual Simper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 in Carson CA. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Pelzel has verbally committed to Big 12 champion Baylor.
• Pelzel’s teammate James David has been selected to play in the 8th annual Offense/ Defense Bowl which will be played Jan. 3 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound all-state linebacker has also committed to Baylor.
• David led the Tigers in tackles with seven and had 107 for the season, breaking the 100-tackle barrier for the third straight season. A four-year starter, he finished his career with 415 stops in a school record 43 starts.
• The Tigers set a new season scoring record of 540 points, eclipsing the old mark of 456 set by the 1975 team.
• Derivative of the scoring onslaught, Adolfo Chavira set a new school kicking record, converting 62-of-74 extra points, breaking Mario Garza’s old record of 49 established in 1975.
• Elijah Brooks got the one touchdown he needed to become the Tigers all-time leading scorer with 36 touchdowns, besting Blade Bassler’s 35 from 1999- 2000. He also broke the single season scoring mark with his 23 touchdowns, one better than his brother Daniel’s 22 in 2010.
• Brooks fell just 52 yards short of tying his brother’s single season rushing mark of 1,696 with 1,644 yards.
• Brooks finished his career with 2,689 yards, which is second to Don Wesley’s school-best 3,389.
• Senior quarterback Clayton Gibbs destroyed every season passing mark, finishing with 3,086 yards and 35 touchdowns. He bested the school record for touchdowns in a season by 19. His total yardage of 3,688 is also a school mark. In his career, Gibbs had 3,467 yards passing and 39 touchdowns thrown.
• Austin Caffey leaves as the Tigers’ all-time leading receiver with 109 catches for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns.
• Pearce Loth also marked up the record book, with single-season records of 64 catches, 1,183 yards and 14 touchdowns. A junior, Loth has 90 catches for 1,581 yards and 18 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are school records.
• The Tigers picked off 15 passes this season, led by Ladontice Coates’ five thefts.
• The Tigers also recovered an impressive 27 fumbles in 2013, including six by Austin Caffey, which ties the school record set by Randy J. Morgan in 1976.
• The combined record of all 14 teams (11 made the playoffs) Rockdale played this season was 92-70—and pending. Cameron and Fairfield are still playing.
• Gibbs was named the District 18-3A offensive most valuable player, the first Tiger quarterback to be so named since Blade Bassler in 2000. Gibbs finished the year with a sparkling 140 quarterback rating.
• David was named first-team all-district for the fourth time. • Caffey was named first-team all-district on both offense at tight end and defense at linebacker.
• Josh Pelzel was named first team on offense for the second time.
• Junior defensive lineman Preston Ehler was named firstteam for the second straight season.
• Ten Tigers were named to the first-team.
• Navasota defensive end Jordan Wells was named the District 18-3A most valuable player.