By Will Johnson
TENAHA – If there were any doubts in the minds of the Grapeland Sandies football team – or their fans – about why the Tenaha Tigers are the number one ranked football team in Class 2A DII, they were removed on Saturday night.
The Sandies had an unusual game on Saturday evening as they traveled to Raymond Jackson Stadium in Tenaha to take on the Tigers. The game was played on Saturday to accommodate the Tenaha Homecoming and while the Sandies had high hopes of crashing the Tigers’ party, it didn’t quite work out that way. The Tenaha “D” held the high flying Grapeland offense to less than 50 yards of total offense as the Sandies fell to the Tigers by a final score of 48-0.
Grapeland opened the game with possession of the ball and for a brief moment, it appeared the Sandies’ offense would be able to move the ball against the vaunted Tiger defense. Brayden Cheatham picked up two yards on first down. Grapeland QB Rick Frauenberger connected with Riley Chipman for seven yards on second down and then – faced with a third and one situation – Frauenberger found Rodney Davis for 12 yards and a first down in Tenaha territory.
The game went south for the Sandies after that. Cheatham was stopped for no gain on first down. Frauenberger misfired on his next two passes and Grapeland was forced to punt.
The Tigers took over at their own 12 and went 88 yards on five plays for the game’s first score. Onterio Thompson picked up 11 yards on Tenaha’s first offensive play from scrimmage. Next, Tenaha QB CJ Hunt connected with Trai Gardner for 11. After a one yard gain from Thompson, Hunt and Gardner hooked up again for 10 more. With the ball now at the Tenaha 44, Gardner took a handoff on an end around and Gardner raced 56 yards to the end zone. The extra point attempt from Abel Rodriquez was blocked, but at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter, the Tigers led by a score of 6-0.
Following the kickoff, the Sandies took possession of the ball at their own 30. Frauenberger’s first down pass fell incomplete while Cheatham lost two yards on second down. On third and 12, the Tigers’ Cody Foshee jumped a bubble screen, picked off Frauenberger and took it all the way back for a TD. The Rodriguez PAT was good and with 5:32, the Tigers now led 13-0.
A three and out from the Sandies’ offense gave the ball back to the Tigers at their own 32. The Grapeland defense seemed to wake up at this point and began to punish the Tenaha ball carriers. After picking up an initial first down, the Sandies “D” kept the Tigers at bay on first and second down. On third down, Hunt completed a pass to Jay Lloyd, but a hard hit from a trio of Sandies jarred the ball loose and Grapeland pounced on the ball at their own 41.
It seemed as if the momentum might change over to the visitors’ side of the field after the fumble recovery, but another three and out from the Grapeland offense brought the quarter and any momentum shift to an abrupt halt.
Tenaha started the second quarter with a lengthy drive which ate up nearly six minutes. The Grapeland “D” looked very good at times during the drive as they forced several third and long as well as two fourth down situations.
The Tigers, however, seemed to pick up just enough yardage to sustain their drive and finally brought it to an end when Hunt found Gardner with an 11 yard scoring strike at the 6:45 mark of the second quarter.
While the Rodriguez XP brought the first half scoring to a close, it appeared to light a fire under the Grapeland defense. After Grapeland’s fourth punt of the half, Tenaha took over at its own 44. On first down, Hunt threw a swing pass to Gardner. As Gardner turned up field, Grapeland’s Cameron Mixon blistered the wide-out with a form tackle that caused an audible gasp in the stadium.
The Sandie defense seemed to build on the Mixon highlight reel hit and forced the Tigers’ first punt of the game. While the Grapeland offense was forced to punt the ball right back to Tenaha, the defense continued its resurgence. On first down from the 43, Hunt was picked off by Grapeland’s Tink McQuirter at the midfield stripe to effectively end the first half with the Tigers ahead by a score of 20- 0.
After the break, the Sandies attempted to build on the success the defense found at the end of the first half. Grapeland AD/Head Coach Wayne Mahaffey called for an onside kick to start the second half and it worked!
Just when it seemed the Sandies might be able to creep back into the game, a second down pass bounced off the hands of the Grapeland receiver and into the arms of Tenaha’s Jaqualin Franks who returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
Five minutes later, it was déjà vu all over again as another pass bounced off a Sandie player. This time, it was the Tigers’ Chase Lilly who was the beneficiary and he returned it 30 yards for Tenaha’s third pick six of the game.
A fourth interception by Tenaha was also returned for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back because of a penalty on the Tigers. Two plays later, Hunt and Gardner connected on another TD pitch and catch to make the score 41-0, after the PAT. Thompson added a 22 yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter to mercifully bring the scoring to an end with the Tigers ahead by a final score of 48-0.
The Sandies return home this Friday to take on the Wortham Bulldogs in a must win game at Sandie Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.