By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – As the Grapeland Sandies headed into Friday night’s contest with the Maud Cardinals, the message boards associated with high school football in East Texas were abuzz with speculation about how bad the Cardinals would defeat the Sandies at home.
Well…the keyboard pundits were sadly mistaken as the Sandies came out and hit Maud right dead in the mouth and never gave the Cardinals’ offense a chance to take flight. On the other side of the field, the Sandies’ high octane offense was clicking on all cylinders as they came off of their bye week and crushed the Cardinals by a final score of 45-13.
While the Grapeland offense was seemingly able to score at will, the defense wasn’t too shabby either. Aside from a blown coverage on Maud’s first offensive play from scrimmage and a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter, Grapeland’s “D” made huge stops and when they couldn’t ground the Cardinals, the Sandies were able to force a Maud turnover.
The game opened with the Sandies on offense and the hometown Friday night heroes wasted little time as they scored in less than two minutes. Brayden Cheatham picked up three yards on first down from the Grapeland 38, quarterback Rick Frauenberger picked up 32 yards on second down and then picked himself up, led the team to the line of scrimmage and hit Riley Chipman on a 30 yard touchdown strike at the 10:20 mark. Chipman added the two point conversion as the Sandies jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
While the quick score may have rattled the Cardinals, they didn’t appear to show it. After the kickoff, Maud took possession at their own 28. On their first offensive play of the game, the Cardinals dialed up a bit of trickeration as Maud QB Gage Jones handed the ball off and then had the running back pitch it back to him as WR Brooks Minter was left all alone to stroll down the sidelines for a 72 yard TD reception. The two point conversion attempt was no good but the Cardinals had cut into the Grapeland lead and made the score 8-6 with 9:28 left in the opening period.
That was as close as the Cardinals would get throughout the remainder of the game. After the Sandies took possession at their own 25, Grapeland went on a long, sustained drive using a balanced attack – aided by two costly penalties on the Cardinals – that ended on a Frauenberger to Chipman 15 yard TD pass. On the play, WRs Josh “Bear” Ackley and Rodney Davis delivered huge blocks just inside the 10 yard line to give Chipman an alley to the end zone. Chipman added his second two point conversion of the evening and with 5:26 still remaining in the first quarter Grapeland led 16-6.
After a three and out from Maud, Grapeland took over at their own 26. Cheatham picked up five yards in two carries to set up a third and five from the 31 yard line. On third down, Frauenberger dropped back to pass and saw Davis cutting across the middle. Davis, a state qualifier in the high jump, leapt high to catch the pass and when he landed there was nothing but green grass ahead of him as he raced 69 yards for the Sandies’ third TD of the first quarter. The try for two was no good but at the end of one, the Sandies led 22-6.
Once the second quarter got underway, the Sandies defense continued to hold the Cardinals in check. After the two teams traded possessions, the next Maud possession ended in disaster. Jones dropped back to pass and was pressured into an ill-advised throw that was picked off by Chipman at the Grapeland 45. The shifty junior eluded the first wave of would be Cardinal tacklers, juked another two and found clear sailing to the end zone for a pick six. Frauenberger connected on a fade route with Davis for two as the Sandies upped their lead to 30-6 at with 8:03 remaining in the half.
Maud’s next possession also ended with an interception as Keriun Davis stepped in front of a Jones pass at the Grapeland 44 yard line to give Grapeland possession of the ball once again. The Sandies used a mix of Cheatham on the ground and Frauenberger to Chipman or Davis through the air to move into the red zone. A holding penalty on Grapeland moved the ball back to the 27 yard line, but on third and 20, Frauenberger found Chipman on a pitch and catch for 27 yards and a touchdown with 1:14 left in the half. The try for two was successful as Frauenberger connected with Davis in the end zone to bring the first half scoring to a close with the Sandies ahead, 38-6.
After the break, the two teams played a scoreless third quarter as Grapeland began to milk the clock while Maud simply could not make any headway against a fired up Sandies’ defense. The Cardinals were finally able to find a little offensive spark as the fourth quarter got underway and scored on a TD pass from Jones to Cade Prince with 9:05 remaining in the game. Minter converted the PAT to make the score 38-13, but it was too little too late.
The Sandies added a late score of their own as Cheatham bulled his way across the goal line from seven yards out with just over five minutes remaining to be played. Chipman knocked the extra point through the uprights to bring the scoring to a close and seal the victory for Grapeland by a final score of 45-13.
The win moves AD/Head Coach Wayne Mahaffey’s squad to 3-2 on the season as they head into district play next week. Following the game, Coach Mahaffey commented on his team’s performance. “I think we came out really focused and executed extremely well. We got off to a great start and it was a big win. We just took it out of them early on,” he said.
Asked about the first Maud score, the coach commented, “Any time you run a trick play to start a game – to me – it’s kind of a sign of desperation. It seems like you’re trying to kick start something. Now, don’t get me wrong – we blew as many assignments on that one play as you can actually blow.”
In regard to his team’s defensive performance, he said, “Defensively we’re getting better each week. Since we made the switch to a new defensive scheme, we’ve really shown improvement. Each week we play it, we get a little more familiar with it. Our timing on the stunts gets a little better. We were just all over them tonight. I thought it was well executed.”
For the game, Rick Frauenberger carried the ball 22 times for 90 yards and completed 13 of 21 passes for 215 yards, with four TDs and one interception. Riley Chipman picked up 22 yards on the ground on five carries and caught 7 passes for 106 yards, with three TDs, two 2-point conversions and one PAT. He also had one interception return for 55 yards and a score. Rodney Davis caught 5 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. Brayden Cheatham chipped in 17 rushing attempts for 52 yards and one touchdown.
The Sandies hit the road next week for their district opener against the Overton Mustangs in Overton. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.