It’s just ten minutes after the Brazosport Exporters held off the Sealy Tigers’ rally attempt and first-year head coach Mike Ferrell is on his knees embracing his young son. His emotions are clear on his face and he would not stop embracing his family for another few moments.
It was a feeling of overwhelming emotions that was shared by everyone in T.J. Mills Stadium on Friday night at one point or another. The game was a tale of two halves with a looming blowout quickly turning into a back-and-forth battle that would go down to the very last minute.
Going into the game, the Tigers had won their previous three games and were hoping to take an early 2-0 lead in the district standings against the Exporters. While Brazosport was looking to win their first district game of the year.
After both teams opened up the game going three-and-out, the Exporters were the first ones to capitalize on given opportunities. On a fourth-and-nine on Sealy’s 29-yard line, Brazosport’s quarterback Jarvis Davis overthrew one of his receivers but a pass interference call gave the offense a new set of downs at the 12-yard line.
Davis would score a few plays later on an outside run. Just two minutes later, the Exporters scored again on a swing pass to senior running back Ameer King.
“They’ve got phenomenal team speed and I said it during the week that their tailback might be the fastest guy I’ve had to defend,” Head coach Shane Mobley said. “[Davis] has great vision and we just had some blown assignments in some places."
The Tigers’ offense was struggling to produce any positive yards throughout the first quarter and suffering from turnovers. Sealy’s first third-down conversion was a short lived victory after a fumble gave the Exporters the ball at Sealy’s 39-yard line with 2:54 remaining in the quarter.
The turnover led to yet another Brazosport touchdown to make it 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
It seemed as though it would be much of the same in the second quarter when senior receiver Jalen Johnson turned a five-yard slant pass into a 43-yard touchdown. However, it was the only score the Exporters would have in the quarter as the Tigers’ defense began to contain the speed of both Davis and King.
The Tigers offense would finally find its stride as well with just two minutes left in the first half. After taking a hard hit and being shaken up, quarterback Garret Zaskoda completed a pass to Tyrek McNeese for a first down and a sense of momentum began to shift in the Tigers favor.
“We started changing some of our routes based off the coverage they were showing us,” Mobley said. “Once we got a grasp on their tendencies, we were able to come out and do what was best for us to get the yards.
That feeling was strengthened when running back Ivan Bolden got his game going as well breaking off three long runs pushed them all the way to the Exporters’ 16-yard line.
The Tigers scored their first touchdown of the game on a two-yard pass from Zaskoda to senior Justin Eckhardt with just five seconds left in the half. After a failed two-point conversion, the score at halftime was 27-6.
“Let’s just say we had a heart-to-heart and we never gave up and we always felt like we could get back into the game,” Mobley said. “It’s all based on pride and being who we are and the kids believed in it and knew I was speaking from the heart.”
The Tigers’ rally attempt started off immediately in the second half with Bolden breaking off a 15-yard run on the first offensive play of the third quarter. A personal foul call pushed the Tigers into Exporters’ territory after the play as well.
Zaskoda overcame his first half struggles as well hitting his receivers more accurately including an 11-yard throw to McNeese on a fourth and eleven. Sealy needed only nine plays to go 73-yards on the drive that was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown catch by Jared Kainer and a two-point run by Bolden.
On the Tigers’ next drive, Bolden broke off a 33-yard run to make it 27-21 with seven minutes left in the third quarter. The sense of excitement and momentum stalled for the Tigers on the ensuing kickoff as it was returned for a touchdown by Exporters receiver Draven Saldivar.
Sealy’s defense wouldn’t allow the Exporters offense to score at all in the third quarter giving the offense a chance to catch up down 34-21.
The fourth quarter didn’t start well, however, as the Exporters forced a Sealy fumble then scored yet again to make it 41-21 with eight minutes left to go and Sealy’s chances of coming back were looking bleak.
“We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers and things like that,” Mobley said. “We just made too many mistakes early on.”
The offense answered back quickly with a 28-yard touchdown pass to McNeese on a stop-and-go route. With the score 41-28, Brendan Cevallos forced a fumble which Sealy recovered at their own 45-yard line to give the Tigers life with 5:45 remaining in the game.
After a long run by Eckhardt put the Tigers inside the ten-yard line, Zaskoda would score on a short run to put the score at 41-35.
Brazosport would score on their next drive on a long touchdown pass thanks to broken coverage by Sealy.
The Sealy offense continued to perform well as Eckhardt made a leaping touchdown grab to make it 48-41 with 3:37 remaining. Eckhardt’s contributions wouldn’t stop there as he saved the ensuing onside attempt from going out of bounds and Sealy recovered.
Zaskoda would scramble into the end zone just a few plays later to tie the game at 48 with 2:44 left to go.
Brazosport slowly drove the ball down the field and a pass interference call put the Exporters inside Sealy’s ten-yard line with 48 seconds left in the game. Ameer King would take it in for a touchdown 20 seconds later.
With one timeout and just 15 seconds left, the Tigers managed to get to Brazosport’s 40-yard line but the final Hail Mary pass was intercepted.
“You’ve got to take the good out of a loss,” Mobley said. “When we finally realized how we overcame and we’ve got to appreciate that we did that. You just have to move on and can’t harp on it.”
The Tigers have a bye week this week but will face El Campo on Oct. 20 at 7:30.