Coming off a dominant 42-17 win against crosstown rival Bellville, the Sealy Tigers football team was looking to push its win streak to three on the road against the undefeated Needville Blue Jays.
The game was also the first district game of the year for the Tigers. It began with a quick three-and-out by Needville after the Tigers put constant pressure on the Blue Jays’ junior quarterback Kenny Hrncir. Sealy’s first offensive possession of the game was as good as one could hope with junior running back Ivan Bolden breaking off two big runs including on for a touchdown to make it 6-0.
After a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Sealy defense again was back on the field and chasing down Hrncir well. Momentum seemed to be swinging in the Tigers’ favor after senior Brennan Brandes picked off a third-down pass but it was negated on a defensive penalty. The penalty also gave the Blue Jays a new set of downs at their own 41-yard line.
After a long pass put the Blue Jays just outside of the red zone, the defensive line play continued to dominate the trenches and forced Needville into a fourth down and 12 situation. Hrncir attempted a pass to the end zone but it was batted away at the last second by sophomore safety Reece Novicke.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Zaskoda delivered a deep strike on third and long to senior receiver Jared Kainer who took it to the Needville 10-yard line for a 70-yard catch. The offense stalled when an interception on a pass to the end zone gave Needville the ball back to start the second quarter.
After a 4th down conversion on a trick play, Hrncir took the ball into the end zone on a quarterback keeper to make the score 7-6.
Sealy’s offense again showed promise on the next drive converting a fourth and short play on another catch by Kainer but failed to produce any points after going four-and-out. One of the few bright spots on the offensive side of the ball was Bolden’s production.
“After I broke for that first touchdown, our offense just went down,” Bolden said. “All the coaches were talking about was 3-0 and we just had to focus on that.”
The Blue Jays looked as if they were going to score yet again after a deep pass put them inside Sealy’s 20 but Hrncir fumbled the ball with 5:23 remaining in the half and Sealy recovered. It was a prime example of the mentality instilled by head coach Shane Mobley in his first year.
“Our [defensive] mentality is bend but don’t break,” Mobley said. “I don’t look at the stats or worry about how many yards we give up because at the end of the day it matters what’s on the scoreboard.”
Zaskoda was under pressure for much of the next drive but utilized his feet well escaping from pressure outside of the pocket and even scrambling for a first down on a third-and-long play. Unfortunately, his second interception of the game happened at Needville’s 13-yard line with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Blue Jays again drove down the field quickly thanks to a 19-yard pass on a rollout and a 16 yard run by running back Ashton Stredick. With 17 seconds left in the half, Hrncir dropped back to pass and fumbled the ball after being sacked by defensive linemen Will Ford.
With a halftime score of 7-6, it was clear the game was going to be a defensive battle that would require the absolute best on both sides of the ball. Something Mobley said the coaching staff was aware of even before the game began.
“They were the quickest tailbacks we have seen yet and they have two other good receivers so they had our full-blown respect no doubt about it,” Mobley said.
For junior Ja’Shaun Briscoe, Bolden and the rest of the offense, the halftime adjustments weren’t the only thing that helped them regain their confidence.
“When we went in at halftime, coach really got on us and that just made us step it up,” Briscoe said.
The two standout performers on offense were Bolden who had 75 rushing yards at half and Kainer who had 87 yards receiving.
Unfortunately, the opening possession of the second half was a short one for the Tigers as Zaskoda threw his third one on the night just seven seconds in.
“We’re going to make mistakes and we understand that so the key to that is the next play is the most important play is the next one,” Mobley said. “If you focus on what’s next and win that battle, it’s going to help the team.”
Senior Tyrek McNeese proved that to be true when a few plays later when he picked off a deep pass with 7:45 left in the third quarter. Bolden and McNeese then combined for most of the yards that took Sealy all the way down to the one-yard line.
A high snap on third down forced the Tigers to settle for a field goal but the attempt was no good.
The score remained 7-6 at the end of the third quarter.
After Needville went four-and-out inside the Tigers’ 25-yard line, Sealy’s offense once again came alive.
Bolden took a long run to Needville’s 40-yard line and Zaskoda delivered a 22-yard pass to Kainer on third and 14 a few plays later. After another botched snap forced Sealy into a fourth and 10, the Tigers converted it on a pass to senior Justin Eckhardt.
Finally, for the first score since the first quarter, Bolden shoved off a defender on a run to the outside for a touchdown. Hunter Clark caught the two-point try on the next play to make it 14-7 with four minutes left in the game.
“When we got on the field, Garret told me if I get the ball to just put it in and that’s what I did,” Bolden said.
The Blue Jays managed to get a first down on a Hrncir run but a sack by Eckhardt on the next play stalled the drive and the Tigers forced turnover on downs after pressuring a throw that was batted down on 4th down.
While it seemed like the Tigers had to only run out the clock to win the game, a fumble on a wide receiver run gave Needville one last chance to drive down the field for the tie with 1:22 remaining in the game at their own 24-yard line.
Ja’Shaun Briscoe made one of the most important plays in the game when he batted a pass away that would’ve put the Blue Jays at midfield on the first play of the next drive.
“I saw it coming and I thought I was going to pick it but [the receiver] hit from behind,” Briscoe said. “I really wanted that pick.”
The Blue Jays tried to trick the defense who was playing deep coverage down the field with a running play but fumbled it after the running back tried to redirect to the outside. Sealy recovered the fumble and the offense took the knee to close out the game 14-7.
“The defensive line was resilient and fighting their tails off and forced the back to go backwards so that was big to end the game on a high note,” Mobley said. “I think this district is up in the air right now and this gave us a lot of momentum heading into this next week.
Bolden was the star of the game finishing with 148 rushing yards on 20 attempts and two touchdowns.
“He’s finding his role in our offense really well,” Mobley said. “They were concentrating a lot on Eckhardt and McNeese which helped open up the running game and our coaches did a good job of picking that up.”
Jared Kainer finished with five catches for 116 yards.
The Tigers will take on their second district opponent week when 3-1 Brazosport comes to T.J. Mills Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.