Tompkins halfway through remarkable reversal
The Tompkins football program took time to develop, winning a total of five games in its first four varsity seasons. This included a frustrating winless season last fall despite playing four opponents within eight points or less.
With much of the same starting lineup, the Falcons have produced completely different results halfway through the 2018 season. Their 15-10 victory Sept. 28 against Seven Lakes left them 5-0, already with the school record for victories in a season.
“I think it’s just them wanting to be better,” Tompkins coach Todd McVey said. “Our team last year set the base of playing hard. These guys have been working since January. We don’t worry about anybody outside our walls. We worry about proving to ourselves every day that we belong. They come out with that effort every day and good things happen when they work hard.”
The Falcons are prime example of how quickly things can change in high school sports. Last year they were outscored 312-123 in nine games. This year they hold a 219-58 margin, ranking first in District 19-6A in defense (11.6 points per game) and second to Mayde Creek in offense (43.8).
“I think it’s the work we’ve put in during the offseason,” junior defensive back/punter Pryce Powell said. “This year we have a different mindset. Last year 0-9 to this, there aren’t really words for it. It’s just a great feeling to be around the guys, just knowing that all the work we did over the summer and leading up to this is paying off.”
The Falcons’ turnaround was evident virtually from the opening kick, as junior running back R.J. Smith scored on his first two carries of the season to spark a 38-21 triumph against Fort Bend Austin. Tompkins followed with a 58-13 rout of Klein Cain and a 70-7 blowout of Alvin.
They closed an impressive non-district run with a 38-7 victory against Clear Creek. Fittingly, Seven Lakes gave them their closest game of the season as both teams opened district play. It took Ryan Schmidt’s 43-yard touchdown off of a tipped pass in the fourth quarter to put Tompkins ahead for good.
The Falcons are for their most formidable test this week, taking on perennial powerhouse Katy on Oct. 5 at Rhodes Stadium. But they are enjoying every minute of the success this year has brought thus far.
“It feels great,” Schmidt said. “We equaled our record for the past five years already this season. Going from 0-9 to this, putting in a lot of work during the offseason, we’re just doing it not for the hate of others but for the love of our teammates.”
The Falcons played as a unit on defense with perhaps their best outing, holding a Spartans squad with depth at receiver and a healthy quarterback to 228 yards with three turnovers, two of them interceptions made by sophomore Colby Huerter.
Jesse Jensen added a few stops for short gains and two pass breakups, while Powell had an interception and a leaping breakup that might have saved a Seven Lakes touchdown, in addition to his 41.3-yard average on seven punts, one of which set up a safety.
Powell credited the defensive front with forcing Seven Lakes into deep shots they might not have taken otherwise. Hakeem Ajijolaiya and Branden Jackson were among those making stops, while Oluwatunmise Adeleye had three tackles for loss, a sack and a safety. Michael Spath recorded a key fourth-quarter sack to force a field goal attempt that was abandoned due to a missed exchange.
One year after allowing 34.7 points per game, the Falcons have allowed merely 24 in their last three games.
“We knew coming into the season that we could be special,” Adeleye said. “We just had to work hard every single practice, work hard every day.”
McVey said the nature of Tompkins’ victory against Seven Lakes will help moving ahead. Facing a Spartans defense that had them scouted well, the Falcons relied more on winning field position and waiting for an opportunity to take the lead.
Smith entered the night with 873 rushing yards in four games, averaging 17.8 yards per carry. He gained 59 on 23 carries against the Spartans.
“They adjusted,” Smith said. “They slanted a lot. So far during the season we’ve been running up the middle and then out, so they tried to clog up the middle. Our offense wasn’t as good as we wanted. We just have to get better every week, every day, keep pounding the stone.”
Tompkins can expect difficulty moving the ball against Katy, if not in all three phases. The Tigers had a week of rest before starting their drive for a 10th consecutive district championship.
Katy has outscored four opponents 174-70, with the only loss to No. 1 North Shore.
“I’m going to enjoy this one tonight,” McVey said after the win against Seven Lakes. “Obviously they’re a tremendous team and they’re extremely well coached. We’ll have our hands full.”