TRINITY - The Trinity Tigers clinched a district playoff spot Friday in their 14-6 win against the New Waverly Bulldogs at Tiger Stadium.
It was a defensive showcase for both teams, but it was Trinity's defense that made the difference in the fourth quarter with a crucial stop deep in their own redzone to maintain an eight-point final lead.
The Tigers offense also managed to make big plays when they needed to, scoring two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter and averaging 8.1 yards for play. Trinity's offense totaled 403 yards, while New Waverly finished with 195 total offensive yards.
In the first quarter, both offenses struggled and were forced to punt on their opening drives. Trinity threatened to score on their second drive, with junior wide receiver Koby Finley catching a 41-yard pass from junior quarterback, George Vaught, and taking it to New Waverly's three-yard line. However, Bulldogs senior defensive back, Cameron Fisher, intercepted Vaught's pass near the endzone two plays later. At the end of the quarter, New Waverly's offense made it to Trinity's nine-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Although both teams found opportunities during the second quarter, the Tigers were more aggressive in establishing a momentum and scored 14 unanswered points in less than one minute of game time.
"[New Waverly] had a really good game plan against us," said Tigers head coach, Jarrod Smith, "so we made some good adjustments."
The first Tigers touchdown was a 54-yard run by senior running back, Michael Lewis. On the following kickoff, Tigers sophomore inside linebacker, James Kinard, recovered a 13-yard onside kick by junior kicker, Jose Hernandez. Trinity's offense capitalized on the recovery with a 46-yard pass from Vaught to Finley, which set up a one-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back, Karsten Mack.
Finley and Mack were the game's offensive leaders in receiving and rushing.
Late in the half, New Waverly found some luck after their defense tipped a Trinity punt by Finley. This put the Bulldog offense at Trinity's 27 yard line and they immediately scored a touchdown pass from senior quarterback, Troy Roberts, to senior wide receiver, Chaz Jackson.
During the third quarter, both defenses caused turnovers and prevented their opposition from reaching the redzone. Tigers senior cornerback, Demontrey House, intercepted a pass by Roberts (Bulldogs QB). On the following drive, the Bulldogs recovered a forced fumble by Karsten Mack.
"Hats off to both defenses. We played very well in the second half," Smith said.
The game's crucial moment would arrive later in the fourth quarter with Trinity's offense pinned inside their own five-yard line. On third down, Vaught threw his second interception to Bulldogs senior outside linebacker, Broch Saxton. This gave New Waverly a late chance to tie the game starting from Trinity's two-yard line.
On second down from the one-yard line, Bulldogs junior fullback, Cedric Cunningham, had the ball knocked away at the line-of-scrimmage and the Tigers defense recovered. Starting again from their own three-yard line, Trinity's offense called on Karsten Mack for a 58-yard run which put them in good position to run out the game clock from inside Bulldog territory.
After the game, Coach Smith praised his team's ability to regroup and finish the game during the tough final minutes.
"Even though we gave up that [interception], our defense was ready to go to battle [..] and Vaught did a great job running the offense to end the game," said Smith.
Trinity's win guarantees them a district playoff spot later this month. They will play their final regular season game next week when they travel to Lexington to face the Eagles.