The Tigers won the coin flip to start the game were off to the races following an early setback.
Sealy owned the better record and was considered the home team in the neutral stadium in Bastrop and the community certainly made it feel like a home game with plenty more Tiger fans making the hour-plus drive than Taylor fans who reside just over 30 miles away.
In any case, when the decision to receive the opening kickoff was made there was a loud cheer from the players as they knew the sooner they could score the better.
It turned out that it didn’t exactly matter how soon they scored as the defense never let up a point, but more on that later.
On just the second play from scrimmage, Garret Zaskoda’s first passing attempt of the night, JoJo Torres reached up and stole the pass away to set the Ducks up in Tiger territory.
On Taylor’s second play from scrimmage, fill-in quarterback Ja’Von Carver lofted one up for a receiver who had nothing but wide-open field in front of him. But the pair was not able to connect on that play.
The Ducks continued to drive and Carver threw up another pass only to suffer an interception himself courtesy of A.J McGee.
The turnover occurred in the end zone so the ball was brought out to the Sealy 20 and Ivan Bolden’s number was called first.
He ripped off a 41-yard haymaker that sent Taylor reeling.
Before it could regain its balance, Bolden struck again, right up the middle, plunging into the end zone from 39 yards out which ended up serving as the game-winning score.
From there, Zaskoda racked up a trio of throwing scores to three different receivers, including a first-time trip to the promise land for Cody Manna.
From 19 yards out, offensive coordinator Chris Carruthers dialed up a play Manna said they had been practicing where #8 acted as if he was blocking before releasing up the middle of the field, which just so happened to be completely vacant.
However, in that abyss, Manna had a few moments to really think about what was happening.
“I was wide open and I saw the ball and I was so scared I was going to drop that thing,” he said with a laugh. But he was indeed able to reel it in and added, “It felt great.”
Manna’s resume had previously been stocked with mainly defensive contributions and Thursday night was no different as he was one of many that allowed no room for the Taylor offense to operate.
When asked if the 55-0 margin was the statement he had been expecting, he noted, “It was more than I expected,” still seemingly trying to wrap his head around the wide score gap.
“But we were trying to show our regional opponents, like Liberty Hill or whoever we play next, who we are and our effort and what we’re about,” he finished.
Hunter Clark certainly echoed the proud sentiment following the first shutout victory of the season mentioning, “We’ve been looking for that all year and to get it round one is pretty sweet.”
Clark also played an integral role in another first for the Tiger defense in transforming a turnover into a touchdown on the same play.
Who better to describe the scoop-and-score than the linebacker himself?
“I was playing on the back side coming across and I see him make the tackle and the ball pop out and I just picked it up and started running and I saw the end zone, but that running back was coming, but I had to get in there … it was fun,” he finished.
And exactly what was running through his mind while his legs were taking him down the sideline?
“I was excited, I saw Cody [Manna] running with me and Garrett [Redden] was right behind me and I just knew once I scored they were going to get pumped … it was really fun,” Clark said.
That fumble-recovery was preceded by a pair of scoring throws from the arm of Zaskoda to McGee first then Clay Roberts, much to the appreciation of offensive coordinator Chris Carruthers
“We’ve been rolling the last couple weeks and I thought we kept it up, we threw the pick early but [Zaskoda] bounced back and after that, we were hitting on all cylinders,” Carruthers said.
The halftime score of 34-0 was a clear sign of all cylinders being well-oiled and working to their full potential, meaning the starters would not be in the game for much longer.
Another Bolden score to open the second-half scoring pushed Sealy’s advantage to 41-0 which turned out to be the magic number that sent most of the starters to the bench.
But the reserves didn’t slow down one bit as Carter Cryan delivered a pass to Zaydrian Lane who did the rest, weaving in and out through the defense all the way into the end zone to serve as the first touchdown on the season for both players.
Exactly three minutes later, J.J. McDaniel joined the touchdown party, crossing the goal line from four yards out to push the score to its final resting place, 55-0.
When asked if the score difference was what he was expecting coming into it, Head Coach Shane Mobley mentioned, “The expectation was for us to come out and play our football, and if it had been the other way around and we played our best football, then we shake their hands and say good luck, but the way they’re playing I’m very proud.”
The Tigers move on to the Area Round where the winner of Zapata and Boerne will draw Sealy at a location to be determined.