Sat, Apr 19, 2014

Silsbee Tigers are undefeated district champs

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By GERRY L. DICKERT
The Bee

The Silsbee Tigers are the undefeated District 21-3A champions, taking a 56-26 win over Hardin-Jefferson in the regular-season finale this past Friday night in Sour Lake.

The Tigers now head to the first round of the Class 3A, Division I football playoffs where they will meet Huffman Hargrave, the Division I representative from District 22-3A. The game is set for 7 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 14, at Baytown’s Stallworth Stadium.
Tickets for the game are available until noon on Friday. Adults tickets are $5 and students are $3. All tickets at the gate at game-time are $5.

Tickets for adults and students will be sold at the Silsbee ISD administration building and students can also purchase tickets at the high school.

The winner of this bidistrict game between Silsbee and Huffman will advance to face Navasota in the regional round the weekend of Nov. 20-21. The Rattlers, the District 24-3A representative, earned a first-round bye and are ranked in the Top 20 in the state by the Associated Press.

While the Tigers rolled to back-to-back blowouts over Orangefield and Hamshire-Fannett, it appeared the Hradin-Jefferson Hawks had a spoiler in mind as they battled to keep the Tigers at bay through the first half.

Silsbee opened the game in typical fashion with senior Rahkeem  Bolton taking the kickoff 32 yards to set up the line of scrimmage at the Hardin-Jefferson 42. Senior quarterback Jeremy Johnson connected with Pheal Hill for five yards to the 37 and then the speedy QB took the ball 18 yards to the 19 and 15 yards to the 4 yard line on successive carries.

Chris Barnes did the rest, going four yards for the touchdown with 10:18 left in the first quarter. Caleb Henry booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

H-J didn’t let the momentum advantage go Silsbee’s way for long as Garrett Gustafson took the ensuing kickoff at the 7 yard line, sprinting along the sideline to the Silsbee 37 for a 56-yard return. But an illegal block moved the Hawks back to their own 18.
Blake Venable hit James Morrison for a 9-yard pass completion, ran for a yard and then, on third down, completed to Morrison again for seven yards for a first down at the H-J 35. A penalty against the Tigers helped move H-J to the Silsbee 36 and another five-yard penalty pushed the Hawks to the 31.

Nick McCown picked up six yards to the Silsbee 25 and Venable scampered 19 yards to the Tigers six-yard line.

On first down, Jacoby Turner found the end zone with 7:15 left in the first quarter. Once again, the Tigers’ special teams did a special job with Jarrian Rhone getting through the line to block the extra point, leaving the score 7-6.

While Hardin-Jefferson opted for the clock-burning, grind-it-out approach to scoring points, the Tigers were more into the big plays. Taking possession at the H-J 46 after back-to-back kickoff attempts flew out of bounds, Barnes immediately reeled off 13 yards to the 33 and Johnson completed to Hill for six yards to the 27.

Scrambling out of the backfield, Johnson went 18 yards to the H-J 9 with Bolton picking up two more yards to the 7.

Johnson hurled a pass into the end zone where high-jump artist Prentice Lane went up and pulled down the seven-yard offering for a touchdown with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers were up again by a touchdown, 14-6.

Defending the kickoff return has been a problem area for the Tigers this season and H-J‘s turner exploited that for a 53-yard return from the 10 yard line to the Silsbee 37 on the next Hawks’ drive.

After several short gainers for the Hawks, Venable took over, completing a pass to Morrison for seven yards, running for 15, and then four yards down to the Tigers 2 yard line.

On the next play, Venable found the end zone with 2:01 left in the quarter. The extra-point pass attempt was intercepted by Jacob Keefer, leaving the score 14-12 with the Tigers up.

The Tigers took the next kickoff at their own six yard line and a bobbled ball left Silsbee sitting inside their own 10 yard line to start the next drive.

After a run by Barnes lost a yard, the Tigers decided to go to the air. Johnson completed to Rhone for 18 yards to the 23. A holding call on the next play, though, pushed the Tigers back to their own 13.

This time, Johnson went to his high-flying receiver Lane for 38 yards to the Hawks’ 49.

A two-yard pickup by Johnson on the run set up another pass to Lane, this one for 18 yard to the 29.

On the next play, Bolton found an opening and went the distance for the touchdown, pushing the Tigers up by a score of 21-12 just nine seconds into the second quarter.

Hardin-Jefferson wasn’t through though, putting together a 13-play, 81-yard drive that took almost seven minute off the clock.

Driving methodically down the field against a shocked Silsbee defense, the Hawks seemed to be derailed when on third down, when Henry dropped Venable for a sack and an 8-yard loss to the H-J 44.

On fourth down, Turner threw a halfback pass to Morrison  that moved the ball down to the Silsbee 8 yard line. Turner took the next handoff for seven yards to the 1 and Venable did the rest, scoring a touchdown with 5:04 left in the half. The extra-point kick was good and H-J trailed the Tigers 21-19.

The Tigers attempted to move quickly down the field again on their next possession, but an interception derailed their plans as Sadion Vellery came up with the pick and possession for the Hawks with 2:58 left in the half.

Over the next nearly three minutes, the Hawks worked from their own 5 yard line, chipping away at the Tigers defense as the clock continued to move.

Finally at the Tigers 8 yard line with just second left, Venable hit Gustafson in the end zone. With no time left on the clock, the extra-point kick flew true and the Hawks took a 26-21 lead into the locker room at the halftime break.

H-J had hoped to bring that same momentum back to the field in the second half but was forced to punt when Silsbee’s defense stiffened up fourth down.

The Tigers went back to its ground attack, starting with a 16-yard run by Bolton to get things started on the next Silsbee drive. Between Bolton and Johnson, the Tigers moved down the field with Johnston taking a third-down run at the goal line from the 1 yard line. Leaping over the top of the Hawks defense, stretching out for the touchdown, Johnson scored with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers were back on top 29-26 when Johnson converted a two-point run.

The Hawks punted again on their next possession and the Tigers took over, moving 53 yards in four plays for another touchdown.
Lane pulled in another pass from Johnson, this one for 40 yards and a score as Silsbee went up 35-26.

Hardin-Jefferson fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Tigers the ball at the H-J 20. Bolton ran three times for Silsbee, his third try a 3-yard touchdown jaunt. Johnson completed a pass to Hill for the two-point conversion and the Tigers were up 43-26.

On the first play from scrimmage on the next drive for H-J, Venable threw a pass picked off by Silsbee’s Ronald Barrett.

Set up at the H-J 43, the Tigers scored again. Bolton again did the largest part of the work finally crossing the goal line after breaking tackle after tackle on his way to another score, this one from the 25.

After Henry kicked the extra point, the Tigers were up 50-26 with 8:57 left in the game.

The Tigers took possession again quickly as they converted on what likely is the longest onside kick in history. The Tigers kicked away and as Silsbee sprinted downfield to cover the ball, they found a loose football that still had not been touched by H-J. Still a live ball, the Tigers took possession at the H-J 5 when Craig Porter pounced on the opportunity.

Two plays later, Bolton did it again, scoring from the 5 for a 56-26 advantage for the Tigers.

While the Tigers gave up 26 points in the first half, the defense refused to yield in the second half, holding H-J scoreless through the third and fourth quarters.

The Tigers finished with 414 yards of total offense as compared to H-J’s 279. For the first time this season, the Tigers’ rushing game eclipsed the passing attack with 247 yards on 39 carries on the ground and 167 yards on 11 of 12 completions for Johnson in the air. With the exception of the one interception thrown by Johnson, the Tigers had no other turnovers. They gave up 75 yards on eight penalties. Hardin-Jefferson gave up three interceptions, two fumbles and 125 yards on 12 penalties.

Aside from his near-perfect night passing, Johnson added 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Bolton paced the ground game with 16 carries for 157 yards and four touchdowns, while Barnes, who left the game early with an injury, finished with three carries for 19 yards and a TD.

Lane had four catches for Silsbee for 101 yards with two TDs, while Darian Turk had three catches for 25 yards, Rhone had one for 17, Garrett Drake had one for 14 and Hill had two for 10.

For Hardin-Jefferson, Morrison was the top offensive producer with eight catches for 102 yards. Venable completed 14 of 24 attempts for 95 yards and Turner was 1 for 1 for 36 yards.

Turner finished with 12 carries for 50 yards and Venable added 15 carries for 49 yards.

The Hawks finished their season at 4-6 overall and 2-3 in District 21-3A play.
 
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