It’s that time of year again. The nights are getting a little cooler, the school year is beginning to hit its stride and the most telling sign of the arriving fall season: football is back.
It’s been just over 300 days since the last time the Sealy Tigers took a regular season snap but a week removed from having their original kickoff game cancelled due to weather, that number is down to zero.
The Tigers kicked off their season at home against St. Pius X on Sept. 9 to begin new head coach Shane Mobley’s tenure at Sealy. It was a daunting task for the Tigers as St. Pius X boasts a powerful offense behind junior quarterback Grant Gunnell and wide receiver Jalen Curry, both are ranked as four-star recruits by ESPN.
Sealy lost to St. Pius X 56-13 but Mobley said the team’s performance was still something they can take pride in.
“With everything they’ve had to put up with over the past few weeks with the storm and coming back from that, our kids have been really residual and learned to adapt,” Mobley said. “It’s not an ideal opener but they played hard the whole game and never quit.”
The game started off well enough for Sealy as the Tigers held the 25th-ranked Panthers to only one touchdown but allowed three more in the second quarter making the score 28-6 at half. The Tigers again held St. Pius X to just one touchdown in the third quarter before the scoring continued in the fourth.
Mobley said that the mistakes made on defense will be used as a teaching tool that will benefit the team as the season progresses into district play.
“The stuff that we did wrong was very fixable,” Mobley said. “We just have to work on the small details as far as being disciplined, where your eyes are and taking the right steps and little things like that.”
The Sealy offense showed promise throughout the game with senior Justin Eckhardt leading by example. Eckhardt finished the game with nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. The next closest receiver in terms of yards was senior Jared Kainer with 37.
Junior Garret Zaskoda completed just over 50 percent of his passes finishing the game at 18-34 for 222 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Despite the stat line, the interception was far from Zaskoda’s fault as the pass was tipped up and allowed St. Pius X to pick it off.
“I thought he played great as a quarterback,” Mobley said. “It was a pick in the books but that’s not on him and actually I’m really proud of the way he played.”
Zaskoda’s fellow junior Ivan Bolden was the primary ball carrier for the Tigers finishing the game with 18 attempts for 74 yards. His 4.1 yards per carry also led the team.
While the loss may start off Sealy’s season on a down-note, Mobley stressed the team’s mental fortitude in looking ahead to next week’s game.
“They’re learning as players and we’re learning them as coaches so it’s a process,” Mobley said. “It’s just learning what we can all do out there in the new system.”
Mobley said the key to ensuring the process is a successful one in the long run is to ensure that the loss comes as a lesson to the players.
“I’m a firm believer that if you lose, you can learn as much from a loss that you can from a win,” Mobley said. “So we have to take every good aspect of what we learned and talk to them and that’s how we continue to compete.
Mobley also said it is when district play begins when Sealy’s playoff hopes will be determined rather than the early games such as this one.
“You have to maintain the basics right now,” Mobley said. “We have to teach these guys how to prepare for different teams week in and week out.”
Sealy will take on Columbus High School at home on Sept. 15 in what will be the Tigers’ homecoming game. It is the Tigers’ second-to-last game before district play begins against Needville later this month.