Coming off their bye week, the Sealy Tigers were looking to bounce back from a close loss against Brazosport earlier this month. It was not an easy task as the Tigers hoped to accomplish this on the road against the 4-2 El Campo Ricebirds.
What started as a low-scoring affair in the first quarter quickly turned into a back-and-forth scoring game with both defenses being constantly run over. Both teams exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter with the Ricebirds scoring on a seven-yard run by senior running back Nery Enriquez. The subsequent two-point conversion try would put El Campo up 8-0.
Head coach Shane Mobley said he anticipated the run being a focus of El Campo’s offense.
“Their run-game has been established for a long time and their linemen were quick and size-wise we were matching up well against them,” Mobley said. “But when you throw a 225 lbs. running back at you…it’s tough because wherever you line up on defense, you’re going to be wrong.”
Sealy would score just over a minute later on the ensuing drive on a fade pass to Justin Eckhardt. The pass was set up thanks to a big gain by Tyrek McNeese after spinning out of a tackle on a stick route and another big gain on the ground by Matt Lord.
Any feelings of the game remaining a defensive battle quickly dissipated in the second quarter as Enriquez again scored on a 10-yard run just 33 seconds into the quarter. Sealy would respond on the ensuing kickoff when Tyrek McNeese took it back for a touchdown. A failed two-point conversion by the Tigers made the score 14-12 before the first minute of the quarter was finished.
“There are going to be times where the defense is going to struggle and the offense is going to pick them up and vice versa,” Mobley said. “The deal is the kids are believing and there’s a lot of energy and that’s always fun to do.”
The Ricebirds seemingly fumbled the ball on the next drive as the center moved it before the snap, causing it to go live. While Sealy did recover it, the referee crew decided it was a false start rather than a fumble.
After two long passes set El Campo up in the red zone, the Ricebirds would punch it in at the goal line to go up 20-12 with 7:39 remaining in the half.
Sealy would respond with their own deep passing game as Eckhardt helped keep the drive alive making a leaping catch on 3rd down to push the ball to midfield. Two good runs by quarterback Garret Zaskoda and running back Ivan Bolden set the Tigers up inside the 10.
After penalties made it 3rd-and-goal at the 15, Zaskoda delivered a pass to Clay Roberts to make it 20-18. El Campo would finish the half with a field goal and went into halftime up 23-18.
The Tigers offense continued its production to start the third quarter with Zaskoda hitting Eckhardt for an 80-yard touchdown and McNeese fumbling a reverse play on the two-point try but recovering it and taking it into the end zone.
The touchdown gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 26-23. After another Enriquez touchdown run put the Ricebirds up, both teams exchanged turnovers but El Campo would capitalize on theirs with another touchdown run.
The Tigers would score on their next drive on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Eckhardt on a go route to shrink El Campo’s lead to 36-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Ricebirds spent the first two minutes of the quarter driving into Sealy territory but a series of penalties pushed El Campo back to 4th-and-18 on the 25-yard line. The pass to the end zone was incomplete but Sealy committed pass interference giving El Campo an automatic first down. The Ricebirds would score a few plays later.
Penalties continued to cost the Tigers as McNeese returned yet another kickoff for a touchdown but a block in the back call negated it. The Tigers rebounded well with Zaskoda converting a 4th-and-11 on a pass to Eckhardt and a roughing the passer penalty putting Sealy at the goal line.
With just over 5:30 left in the game, Sealy was down 42-40 but their struggle defending the run continued as senior Jared Haller scored with 2:33 remaining to go up 49-40.
The Tigers offense kept the team’s comeback hopes alive scoring on the first offensive play of the next drive when McNeese brought in a one-handed catch for a 60-yard touchdown. Sealy recovered the onside kick thanks to a last-second effort by Eckhardt to prevent the ball from going out of bounds.
The Tigers offense stalled on their last drive of the game as Zaskoda was picked off on a deep pass on 4th down to end the game.
The loss puts Sealy’s overall record at 3-3 and their district record at 1-2. With just three games left in the season, Sealy’s playoff hopes are still alive but each game has an increased importance from now on.
“Things are going to get kind of crazy [in the district],” Mobley said. “We’re still in the dog fight and we played the district leader close tonight so we just have to take care of business from now on.”
Sealy’s next game is on Fridayagainst Stafford at home with kickoff at 7:30. It will commemorate 100 years of Sealy football and also be a Pink-Out for breast cancer awareness.