Titans shut down Calhoun running game for win
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Brandon GriffithSeason (entering East game)" 793 yards rushing on 103 carries, 13 touchdowns.
Against East: 15 carries, 91 yards, 1 touchdown (45 yards on one carry, held to 7 yards on five carries in second half.)
The question loomed over Victoria East's District 30-4A opener like a bad smell: How do you stop one of the Crossroads' top rushers?
Simple, said Titans junior defensive end Lorenzo Vega: You know what he's going to do before he does it.
"We practiced this over and over at practice, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it," he said. "One guy got the fullback, one guy got the quarterback, one guy got the pitch. We practiced it over and over again, and we executed it on the field.
And the practice paid off.
Despite one breakaway run for a touchdown, the Titans defense held Calhoun fullback Brandon Griffith and the rest of the Sandcrabs' offense in check for much of the game, and used a dominant second quarter to start off district play with a 35-14 win Friday night.
Much of the strategy came from scouting the Sandcrabs heavily, said East coach Mickey Finley. But coming off a bye week, and in turn having the extra time to prepare, helped too.
"It was a great advantage for us," he said. "That offense is really hard to defend, and having two weeks was a blessing for us, allowing us time to prepare. It's just a thing where the kids have to do exactly what they have to do, otherwise they get the big run like they did."
Heading into this game, Griffith, a senior fullback for the Sandcrabs, had amassed 793 yards rushing on 103 carries with 13 touchdowns.
Friday, though, Griffith was held to just 84 yards on 15 carries, including just seven yards on five tries in the second half. He had one run for a touchdown, a breakaway draw play for 45 yards, in the second quarter.
Vega said it came out to planning for the game.
"We knew they liked (Griffith), we knew they liked to keep it, and that they didn't like to pitch it," he said.
The Titans had been scouting the Sandcrabs for weeks, and it showed.
The other runners for Calhoun didn't fare much better. Running back Jeremy Loya had just 42 yards on nine carries, 27 of which came on the opening drive on of the second half. Quarterback Joseph Bargas was held to 24 yards on 10 carries, but notched one of Calhoun's two touchdowns on a one-yard run.
It all started with the Titans plan, Finley said.
"Our defensive coaches put together a good plan for us, and they did a good job of making adjustments during the game," he said. "They were getting the option pitch on us a little bit, and they made some changes and it pretty much shut down their whole offense."
All told, the Sandcrabs had just 194 yards of total offense as the East defense, which has been prone to wilting during games, were emboldened by offensive successes in the third and early fourth quarter.
One player for the Sandcrabs did find some success. Devian Cantu rushed for 67 yards on five carries in the first half as the Titans struggled to answer his speed. But the running back vanished in the second half, touching the ball just one time for a loss of three yards.
For Vega, it was big night. Aside from playing a central role in manhandling Calhoun's rushing game, the defensive end also had a key fumble recovery on an odd play borne out of multiple mistakes.
In the fourth quarter, a botched punt sailed only about 10 yards, and both teams decided to let it bounce and roll to a stop. What no one expected was for the ball to pop up and hit a defender for Calhoun, making it live.
Vega was following it the whole way.
"That was a little punt, our quarterback kind of shanked it," he said. "There was a guy right in front of me, so I was just waiting for it to touch him, I waited for it. The ball bounced on him and I fell on it."
It wasn't the only bizarre play of the game. In the second quarter, with fourth and 10 and at the Sandcrabs' 40, the Titans employed a trick - the hook and ladder - for the first down, a pass to wide receiver Josh McClure followed by a pitch to Roderick Warren to get just enough for the first down.
Calhoun coach Richard Whitaker said his team had some injured players, but would not go into detail as to who they were or what was ailing them.
"We had a couple of injuries that really hurt us," he said. "It took some things away from us offensively in the second half, it really hurt us. . A couple of them stayed in the game, they had to, but we were not able to do some things that we had to.
"First half, we moved the ball really well, second half, we couldn't. Not to take anything away from them, but we had some ineffectiveness from those injuries. Hopefully, we'll get over it soon."
Whitaker said the Titans are one of the best teams in the region.
"My hats off to them," he said. "This is not a negative statement, they have more athletes at this class than any team in South Texas."
East's offense came up big in the second quarter, after falling behind by a point because of a blocked extra point in the first quarter. Johnathan Garner came away with two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, in the quarter. The passing touchdown came on fourth down, one of two for the Titans in the game, on a five-yard route over the middle.
But discipline was a problem. The Titans had three touchdowns, two by Roderick Warren, called back because of penalties, the third coming late on a Johnathan Garner run.
All told, Victoria East had 11 penalties for 100 yards, some of which Finley chalked up to adrenaline early in the game.
"The kids executed well, and most of the time when you execute well you get some good results," Finley said. "Of course, sometimes we didn't, but that's football. Nobody's perfect."