For a high school program that lost six all-district players on offense to graduation, athletes that scored 29 touchdowns, Memorial shrugged the departures off as if it was no big deal in its opener Friday night.
Highlighted by four touchdowns in the second quarter and 275 total yards for the 12 minutes, the Mavs defeated Kempner 39-26 in the season opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The 39 points represents the third-highest points total for a Memorial season opener in the 15-year history of the program. And until last year, the Mavs had never pieced together back-to-back season-opening wins. Now they’ve won three straight to improve their opening-day record to 6-8-1.
The ground game, led by Austin Franklin’s terrific effort of 156 yards, stung Kempner’s defense to the tune of 367 yards and 19 first downs.
“We executed pretty well offensively. Defensively, any time you play that kind of offense, you’ll look great for two plays and one play you’ll look terrible. They’ll hit a big play on you. That’s what they did. We took care of the fullback. We were really worried about him,” Mavs head coach Chris Quillian said.
One was concerned about Memorial’s defense and special teams surrendering 20 points in the second quarter, followed by a 59-yard touchdown in the opening 1:13 of the third quarter that got the Cougars within 36-26.
But Kempner never came close to smelling the end zone after that, while the Mavs finished their scoring with a 38-yard field goal from Oscar Aguirre.
As for the second-quarter fireworks, Franklin scored on a nifty 60-yard run, Tylen Bennett went on a 66-yard scoring excursion, Jaylen Beverley scored from four yards out and burly quarterback Sabian Smith bulled his way in from 15 yards out.
The Cougars had just scored to get within 8-6 when Franklin raced off right tackle and used some surprising quickness for a little guy to go the distance for the badly-needed TD.
“I was determined to score and thank God, I scored. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all my life. It’s Friday night lights. This is life. This is what you look forward to. All that hard work on the practice field, in the weight room, this is what it’s for,” Franklin said.
Franklin’s contributions weren’t done in the second quarter. Setting up Smith’s first rushing touchdown of his varsity career was a 50-yard pass completion to Franklin.
“Austin was supposed to be going straight down the field and he saw that safety, so he bent it to the outside. Of course, Sabian’s scrambling around and threw that on the run,” Quillian said. “He’s a playmaker. He makes things happen.”
Sandwiched in between was Bennett’s nice run that saw the sophomore dart from left to right in open field and score.
It came one play after someone from the coaching staff yelled at Bennett “to get outside” after a short run.
After Kempner failed to move the ball, Memorial got the ball and motored 59 yards in seven plays, going up by 15 with 1:41 left.
Somewhat tainting the outstanding production was Kempner returning the kickoff after the fourth TD and Jordan Shelton going nearly 90 yards for the touchdown with time expired.
The passing game accounted for the first touchdown as Joseph Campbell hauled in a 15-yard pass from Smith. Drake Sanchez deposited the team in the red zone with receptions of 21 and nine yards.