After a strong first half that showed a determined Dekaney (13-5A, 0-6 overall, 0-4 district) team more organized than ever before, the Wildcats fell to Tomball (13-5A, 2-5 overall, 2-3 district) Fri., Oct. 24 at Leonard George Stadium.
Despite a less-than-stellar performance from senior QB Chad Tarhini (who completed 9-of-22) and holding his counterpart, star receiver Jordan Leslie, to two catches for 26 yards, the Wildcats fell victim to penalties – 11 for 120 yards total - in the second half, haplessly watching the Cougars put up 15 unanswered points to make the final score 34-14.
Dekaney head coach Willie Amendola said that penalties kept his team out of the game during the second half.
"Penalties [killed us], but each one of them was well-deserved," Amendola said, explaining that most of them were due to his team being particularly aggressive on defense. "They're eager, which is good. They went full-speed, which I'm happy about because they are making big progress each week.
"It's not a lack of discipline," he continued. "It's poor body posture. … These holding penalties: We're a half-step late, and we're reaching. Or we're playing aggressive and trying to make a block."
As a whole, though, the Dekaney defense continued to play well. Their blocking, in particular, was much improved over some of the season's previous contests. Sophomore DL Jermaine Morris sacked Tarhini early in the first quarter, something not even the fierce D-lines from powerhouses Westfield and Klein Oak were able to do.
Although Dekaney still remains winless in their first varsity season, junior quarterback Keenan Atilee came out looking more confident and accurate than on his prior outings. Even more impressive was the tandem created with junior running back Elijah Johnson, who rushed for 117 yards on 20 carries. Another sign of hope for the beleaguered Wildcat faithful is that, especially in the first half, the offense afforded the defense more sideline time. Atilee crafted together several long drives. Even though they didn't always result in touchdowns, it's a clear indication that he is settling into his new role of managing his team, who are all underclassmen as well.
It was Tomball who scored the first time they took to the field, though. Tarhini handed-off to senior WR Collin Torres, who darted five yards into the endzone with 6:20 left in the first quarter.
Dekaney didn't take long to answer. Atilee strung together an outstanding drive, connecting with Johnson on several key passes, with Johnson then cutting and running the ball up the field – sometimes with several Cougars still clutching him. On the scoring play, Johnson plowed through several tackles before scoring a 19-yard TD run with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
Unfortunately for Dekaney, Tomball promptly knocked the wind from the Wildcats' sails. Following a bad snap, Tomball senior DB Kyle McKenzie ran the ball back for a safety, making the score 9-6.
Tomball had one more flashy play left in the first half, and it came two Dekaney possessions later. Atilee fumbled the ball, which was recovered by senior linebacker Jonathan Ermert. Tarhini connected with Leslie for a five-yard TD pass with 4:42 left in the half.
From there on through halftime, though, it was Dekaney's show. Atilee pieced together his most impressive drive of the year. He handed off to sophomore WR Greg Livingston on a reverse from Johnson, running the ball in 24 yards. Junior FB Dominique Briscoe scored off a one-yard play action pass from Atilee with: 15 left in the half. Johnson ran the ball for two points, and the Wildcats closed in on the Cougars 19-14.
On Tomball's next possession, junior Alonso Hudson picked off a pass from Tahiri in one of the biggest plays of the game. The team's exuberance was short lived, however; after halftime, the momentum shifted in Tomball's favor once again.
Tomball head coach Tommy Kaiser said, although his team started off slow, they were able to make the proper halftime adjustments, which were mostly mental.
"We were frustrated at the half," he said. "We settled down and took a deep breath. It was more mental. We went out and played like we were capable of."
Kaiser said that his team started out slowly during the first half, but their struggles were also due to Dekaney's strong performance.
"Dekaney played hard. They were doing a nice job of being competitive and giving us things that were hard to deal with," he said.
Tomball wasted no time establishing ball control in the second half. Following a beautiful completion to junior TE Matt Marfisi, Tarhini handed off to junior RB Garrison Wilson with 6:30 left in the third quarter, making the score 25-14.
Despite hard tackling from junior Samuel Edmon, Tomball's last score of the game came off a quarterback keeper from Tahrini after he faked a hand-off to Wilson, making the final score 33-14.
This week, Dekaney takes on Klein Collins…