Tiger Takeaway

Big Blue defense causes four costly turnovers
BY BILL MARTIN
Reporter Sports Editor


Rockdale’s Patrick Dean locks up Taylor quarterback Ryan Gardner for a loss. 
Steve Young photo Rockdale’s Patrick Dean locks up Taylor quarterback Ryan Gardner for a loss. Steve Young photo Prior to the season, Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller proclaimed that this version of the Tiger defense has the opportunity to be the best he has ever had.

Friday may have been a hint of things to come.

Sparked by Jr. Harris’ two blocked punts, the Big Blue D forced four turnovers and limited Taylor to one touchdown with the game on the line to pluck the Ducks 21-14 in front of an overflow crowd at Tigerland Field.

Avoiding their first two-game losing streak since 2013, the Tigers rebounded from a season-opening loss to West with some good old fashioned smash-mouth football for their seventh straight win at home. They have beaten Taylor in seven of the last nine meetings and four of the last five.

“We were much better than we were a week ago,” said Miller, who is 10-2 versus Taylor. “That was a good indicator of why we love our front seven.”

Clockwise from bottom left, Will Story breaks up a pass to Brock Wells. Middle left, Brajon Ayala goes head on, on his way to 135 yards. Top left, a jubilant Dylan David exits the field after the Tigers’ second blocked punt. Top middle, Jr. Harris executes one of his two blocked punts on the evening. Top right, defensive end Patrick Dean takes off down field after an interception. Middle right, Kerry Locklin was able to come in from Canada and join son Torry on senior night. Bottom right, Torry Locklin with a Taylor stiff arm en route to a touchdown and 119 yards. Bottom middle, Nathan Newlin defends against Taylor’s dangerous receiver Andre Jones. Clockwise from bottom left, Will Story breaks up a pass to Brock Wells. Middle left, Brajon Ayala goes head on, on his way to 135 yards. Top left, a jubilant Dylan David exits the field after the Tigers’ second blocked punt. Top middle, Jr. Harris executes one of his two blocked punts on the evening. Top right, defensive end Patrick Dean takes off down field after an interception. Middle right, Kerry Locklin was able to come in from Canada and join son Torry on senior night. Bottom right, Torry Locklin with a Taylor stiff arm en route to a touchdown and 119 yards. Bottom middle, Nathan Newlin defends against Taylor’s dangerous receiver Andre Jones. Harris, who was questionable for Friday night’s rival battle after suffering from dehydration that resulted in a hospital visit last week, became a ubiquitous force of nature.

He busted in from the left side of the line to block Ryan Hanson’s first punt after Taylor’s first drive of the evening stalled and the errant football took a candy hop right into his arms and he sprinted 30 yards for Big Blue’s first score with barely two minutes gone off the clock.

The senior provided his second deflection, this time from the right side, after the Ducks’ drive ended at the 45-yard line and was recovered at the 15.

The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to create some space, but after Locklin’s 14-yard effort moved the ball to the one-yard-line, the ensuing snap was mishandled and Taylor recovered in the end zone.

To top things off, Harris scored his first career touchdown on offense.

“Obviously he was feeling a lot better,” Miller said. “He’s just tough. He loves playing the game and when you try to block punts you have to sacrifice your body and he is willing to do that.”

Harris finished with seven tackles and five quarterback pressures.

After the Tiger defense held the Ducks (1-1) on downs to close out the third quarter, Harris bulled over from the one to give the Tigers some breathing room, 21-7, with 9:47 remaining to be played.

The score had been set up by Brajon Ayala’s 42-yard scamper.

Defensive back Nathan Newlin and defensive end Patrick Dean also picked off passes to add to the defensive dominance.

The Tigers held the Ducks under 100 yards rushing and of the 191 yards Taylor quarterback Ryan Gardner compiled, 73 of it came on one play that resulted in a touchdown.

Gardner also led Taylor in rushing with 53 yards.

“Being able to perform in all phases of the game, and how pivotal it can be when you don’t,” said Taylor Coach Rusty Purser. “I think it’s very obvious– we didn’t perform on the punt. We gave up a block, gave up an easy seven points for those guys. They did a great job preparing.

“There’s no question. They were coached up and executed well. We didn’t. So we’ve got to get better there. We give up the big interception right after that. Really big momentum.”

While there was some apprehension about the Tigers’ running attack heading into the season, running back Brajon Ayala and quarterback Torry Locklin have provided Big Blue with a consistent source of offense on the ground while they try to figure out the passing game without Jaqualyn Crawford on the field.

Both eclipsed the 100- yard mark, with Ayala gobbling up 135 yards on 20 carries, while the hard-nosed Locklin delivered 119 yards on 24 carries and a score.

Locklin was 9-of-15 through the air for 89 yards with his first interception of the season.

“Our passing game has no rhythm, no identity right now,” Miller said. “We are not going to be able to win consistently if we are playing that inconsistently.

“We have to remember, there’s nine kids out there that didn’t play any role, hardly, at the varsity level on our offense. So, we keep talking about trust it. Just trust it, trust your teammates, trust what you’re doing, trust your blocks, and all of that good stuff.”

The Leaders

RUSHING— ROCKDALE: Ayala 20-135, Locklin 24-119 TD, Rowe 1-7, Harris 1-1 TD, Dean 1-(9). TAYLOR: Gardner 10-53. PASSING— ROCKDALE: Locklin 9-15-0, 89 yards, Loth 0-1-0. TAYLOR: Gardner 13-31-2, 191 yards 2TD.. RECEIVING— ROCKDALE: Johnson 3-43, Loth 1-17, Caldwell 1-12, Moore 1-8, Hughes 1-5, Myles 1-3, Rowe 1-1. TAYLOR: Wells 3-92 TD. TACKLES— David 9, Springer 8, Baggerly 8, Harris 7, Moore 6, Mitchell 6, Gomez 6, Story 5.

TIGER SEASON LEADERS

Rushing—Ayala 32-215 TD, , Locklin 42-190 2TD, Rowe 4-13, Harris 1-1 TD, Dean 1-(-9). Passing—Locklin 27-43-1, 254 yards TD, Loth 0-2-0. Receiving—Johnson 5-49, Loth 4-45 TD, Caldwell 4-37, Myles 5-36, Hughes 4-36, Monzingo 2-17, David 1-25, Moore 1-8, Rowe 1-1. Tackles—David 23, Springer 18, Story 16, Harris 11, Baggerly 10, Monzingo 10.

SEASON RESULTS (1-1)
West 42, Rockdale 24
Rockdale 21, Taylor 14
Lexington
OPEN
at Rogers
at Academy
Troy
at Cameron
McGregor




Photography by Cliff Dungan and Steve Young Photography by Cliff Dungan and Steve Young


Click here for digital edition
2017-09-14 digital edition

Copyright 2009-2017 Rockdale Reporter, All Rights Reserved.



Special Sections


Special Sections
Archive