Athletes were finishing their warmups, fans were packing the stands and the bands were just settling into their sections at T.J. Mills Stadium in Sealy before a lightning strike caused a 30-minute delay, pushing kickoff back to 8 p.m.
Tiger head coach Shane Mobley noted that although this hasn’t happened while he has been in Sealy, “as coaches, you come across this all the time. It’s adversity so the main thing is it was a learning session for us as coaches from a teaching aspect.”
Eventually, the teams returned to the field and started the game with accelerated pregame festivities after the hosts won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, kicking off to the Bulldogs who mishandled the pooch kick and were pinned within their own 10-yard line to start the game.
Waller picked up a pair of first downs but was forced to punt after it failed to surpass the 44-yard line and punted the ball away to Ja’Marris Cotton who provided a solid return to set the Tigers up well but a penalty brought the ball back to the hosts’ 27-yard line.
A 3rd-and-4 connection between Carter Cryan and Draper Parker brought Sealy from its 33-yard line to within five yards of the goal line and two plays later, Reece Novicke barreled into the end zone from two yards away to take a 7-0 lead after a good Ricky Avila point-after try with 5:17 left in the first.
The Bulldogs suffered a quick three and out, not making it out of the shadow of their own goalposts, and the Tigers took over on their own 38.
Running back Matthew Lord’s number was called four times on the ensuing drive, registering runs of 14, 6, 10 and 2 yards, carrying Sealy into the red zone. From there, a scramble from the quarterback Cryan nestled the ball within the 10-yard line and Alvin Nunn was the running back of choice this time, taking in a few would-be defenders into the end zone with him, running the Tigers’ lead up to 14-0 after another good kick with only seconds left to play in the first.
As Waller went to run nearly the 30th play from scrimmage on the night, the skies opened up and as the rain began to pour, a lightning strike drove fans to their cars and the teams to the locker rooms.
Although Mobley mentioned this scenario hasn’t played out at T.J. Mills Stadium in his tenure, he knew his team had to stay focused despite all the uncertainty clouding the resumption or cancellation of the game.
“We came into the locker room and told the boys, ‘get your mind right,’” Mobley explained. “We made some adjustments, we talked to the kids; ‘Think about this, come talk to us, who was getting to you, who wasn't getting to you, get water in you, drink fluids.’
“Then here we go with another lightning strike,” Mobley continued. “It just kind of settled over the top of us and we were in a delay and in talking with (Waller) Coach (Gene) Johnson things that come into mind is what's too late to start? Because you still got three quarters of ball to play, that's two hours. So you're gonna be playing into midnight if you don't get started at a certain time.
“Kids’ health (was another thing), you know, kids are tired from the day some of the kids have been up since 6 o'clock this morning,” Mobley added. “Yes it is a fun game, it's a homecoming game, it's great for the people to come home, it's big for the kids, but at the same time, we've got a big ballgame next week and we roll straight into district (after that).”
Following a waiting game that saw the lightning delay clock reset nearly every five minutes for an hour, both sides determined to mutually suspend the rest of the game and not continue the non-district battle but that didn’t wash away the good sportsmanship.
“I think Coach Johnson is very professional, he's great,” Mobley said of his counterpart. “The biggest thing was that after we called it, we took the boys into the gym and we got in the line and they shook each other's hand. We said the prayer afterward and wished them the best of luck and like we told them; ‘We can't control Mother Nature, some things in your life, you prepare for something and things don't go your way.’”
Things did go the right way for the offense, however, and offensive coordinator Chris Carruthers came away with a positive attitude from the cancellation.
“Yeah, we joked that the offense was running too smooth and so God might have said, 'Hey, wait a minute, we don't want to peak too early,’” he said. “Obviously you want to play the whole game and try to put four quarters together but the last thing you want is to have an injury that affects your season and week three so you try to look at the big picture and canceling games isn't the end of the world.”
Senior quarterback/wide receiver/safety Reece Novicke concurred it wasn’t the best way to spend his final homecoming game but he knows the rest of the season remains plentiful.
“It was weird because we were in the locker room and Mobley wasn't telling us because he wanted us to stay focused,” he said of the clouds of uncertainty hanging over the locker room. “They reset the 30 minutes and they would tell us but the whole time we're staying focused and were ready to go back out there. We didn't want to cancel we wanted to finish it.”
Another reason they wanted to finish was because of the hot start the offense got out to, especially after slow starts in the other games to begin the season.
“The last two weeks we didn't start fast at all and then this week we started really fast, put up 14 points in two series so that was good for the offense,” Novicke added. “And the defense, that's what we do is pitch shutouts.”
That undefeated mindset will carry Sealy into its rivalry matchup with the Bellville Brahmas next week in Bellville at the Pasture of Pain where the hosts will own a 3-0 record after a 21-7 win over Stafford although Carruthers noted there likely won’t be much added motivation necessary.
“We know they've got a couple of really good athletes, they've got some really good linemen, they're big and strong, they're going to come at you and be tough, physical,” he said. “It's always a fun game to be a part of it's always a really good atmosphere. You know, we've been able to beat them the last couple of years but they're going to be amped up and ready to roll, we'll be at their place and so it'll be a really, really cool atmosphere. They're gonna be 3-0, we'll be 3-0 and so I think it'll be a really good challenge for our kids physically and mentally. And like said, it was good we got things rolling even if it was only for a quarter going into that game.”