Before head coach Shane Mobley went into his second game leading the Sealy Tigers, he admitted that game planning for the upcoming Columbus Cardinals was a challenge.
“They haven’t played a game yet this season so we have no tape to go on,” Mobley said. “You can only get so much from scrimmage tapes so in-game adjustments will be big.”
When the homecoming game finally arrived, one would’ve thought Mobley knew the Cardinals’ game plan better than they did.
The Tigers scored fast and early and would shut out Columbus for the 58-0 win, the first one of the team’s season.
After the Cardinals went three-and-out in the game’s opening possession, a shanked punt put the Tigers’ offense on the opposition’s 49-yard line and didn’t need long to pull ahead. On the very next play, junior quarterback Garret Zaskoda delivered a 15-yard strike to senior receiver Tyrek McNeese who took it the rest of the way into the end zone.
The Tigers would make it 8-0 after running back Ivan Bolden took a direct snap into the end zone for a two-point conversion. The conversion was part of the aggressive mindset that Mobley wanted to implement into the team this year.
“When you go for two, the defense has to prepare for that so it takes some time out of their practice during the week,” Mobley said. “Sometimes you get the right odds and if you do convert it, you’re up by eight and if you do it again then you’re up 16 and really three series ahead.”
After a low snap by Columbus’ center forced another punt that McNeese took back for a touchdown but was called back on a holding penalty. The Tigers took over at Columbus’ 35-yard line and scored on a passing touchdown to senior Justin Eckhardt several players later.
Sealy once again converted a two-point conversion with a second direct snap play by Bolden. With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Sealy was up 16-0 in what Zaskoda said was a huge boost to the team’s confidence.
“It gives you momentum and gets you really into the fight and gets you that confidence that you really need,” Zaskoda said.
The Tigers would score 21 more points in the second quarter to make it 37-0 at halftime largely thanks to McNeese. After a long run put the Tigers at the five-yard line, McNeese scored yet again on an out route thrown by Zaskoda.
McNeese would add another score to his loaded stat line later in the second quarter when he spun out of a tackle while running a stick route and took it roughly 70 yards for a touchdown.
“I was glad it was going to be a first down and all of the sudden I was chasing him and screaming down the field,” Zaskoda said.
McNeese credited the coaches and the game plan they put together in the week leading up to the game for his success.
“We just executed what we practiced all week,” McNeese said. “We wanted to go 100 percent the whole game and the coaches set us up with great play calling.”
The senior had several big plays called back on penalties but Mobley said that they were the type of penalties that show promise rather than carelessness.
“Those were effort penalties,” Mobley said. “It wasn’t a cheap shot or anything like that, they were going full force and trying to make something happen so we have to work on how to do those things right.”
McNeese said he wasn’t frustrated at all by the penalties and said he was happy with how the team was able to move on from them afterward.
Zaskoda said having a receiver like McNeese is a luxury that he is glad he can take advantage of.
“He can turn a three-yard play into an 80-yard play in a matter of seconds,” Zaskoda said. “It’s great because he’s just a really explosive player who really helps out the team.”
Zaskoda finished the game with just under 350 passing yards with five touchdowns and an interception.
As with any shutout performance, the defensive side of the ball was a source of consistent aggressiveness for the team. The team had a “bend but not break” mentality in the first half with Columbus enjoying success running with their quarterback.
The Tigers managed to force the Cardinals to go four-and-out twice in the second quarter including one tackle for a loss by linebacker Garrett Redden. Mobley said the early stops helped set the tone for the defense.
“You talk defense and fourth down a lot of times and we called some different defenses,” Mobley said. “It was big and the kids responded really well to it.”
As for the defense’s response to the Cardinals’ utilizing their quarterback’s mobility, senior linebacker Justin Eckhardt said the mid-game adjustments were key to stopping that.
“We put our backers on the inside so whenever the quarterback kept it there was going to be a guy that would meet him at the hole,” Eckhardt said. “So I think that helped us a lot.”
Mobley, who is a defensive-minded coach, said there is a certain sense of pride that is shared among the team when they shut the opponent out.
“When you give up 56 the week before and then turn around and get a shut-out, that’s huge,” Mobley said. “It shows the defense that we are good and a lot of it had to do with in-game adjustments.”
The Tigers’ next game is against Bellville on the road at 7:30 on Friday, Sept. 29.