By Albert Trevino
TRINITY- The playoff-bound Tigers took control in the second half Friday to win 41-22 against the Lexington Eagles and finished their regular season with a 5-1 district record.
The Tigers defense did not allow any offensive points in the second half and junior quarterback, George Vaught, led Trinity's offense with 281 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Lexington had early momentum with an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter after a slow start by Trinity's offense. Trinity's opening drive ended with a punt from deep in their own territory and gave the Eagles good field position to set up a 13-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore quarterback, Nic Dillon.
On the second Tigers drive, Vaught fumbled the ball on a sack and gave Lexington's offense an opportunity to extend the lead. The Eagles drive ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback, Walker Hess, to senior wide receiver, Andrew Lane. The extra point kick was blocked.
Trinity's offense reached inside Lexington one-yard line on the following drive, but failed to run the ball into the endzone pass a tough Eagles defensive line. The drive resulted in a turnover on downs.
"Lexington came out with a lot of intensity," said Tigers head coach Jarrod Smith. "At first, we didn't match that."
Late in the first quarter, the Eagles' momentum would start to shift as they started the next drive from their own five-yard line. On a third-down pass, Tigers junior strong safety (and WR), Koby Finley, stripped the ball from sophomore wide receiver, Justin Barron. The ball was quickly recovered by Tigers outside linebacker, Tyreke Carroll, and ran for Trinity's first touchdown.
Lexington's offense suffered a second fumble to start the second quarter and turned the ball over at Trinity's 26-yard line. The Tigers capitalized by moving down the field and finishing with a 16-yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver, Michael Lewis. The extra point kick tied the game at 13 points.
Two drives later, the Eagles defense made a play to take back the lead by causing a fumble on a failed hand-off to Michael Lewis. The ball was recovered by Eagles junior free safety, Berto Lara, who ran for a 26-yard touchdown.
Tigers junior running back, Karsten Mack, helped the offense bounce back and tied the game before halftime with an 80-yard touchdown pass from George Vaught.
To start the second half, Trinity would call on their defense to put pressure early and allow the Tigers offense to keep pace for the rest of the game.
On Lexington's first drive of the third quarter, Tigers sophomore cornerback, Javonte Oliphant, intercepted a pass from Eagles freshman quarterback, Walker Hess. This immediately set up a 37-yard touchdown run by Karsten Mack.
The Eagles found luck on Trinity's next offensive drive by earning two-points on a safety after an intentional grounding penalty by George Vaught in the back endzone. Despite starting with good field position, Lexington's offense failed to convert a first-down on their following drive and was forced to punt.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles offense continued to struggle and allowed Trinity to extend their lead.
From Trinity's two-yard line, Vaught threw a 98-yard touchdown pass to Koby Finley. On the following drive, the Eagles punt team fumbled the ball on a bad snap at their own three-yard line. This set up a short pitch pass from Vaught to Mack for a touchdown to make the final score 41-22.
The Tigers finish the regular season with an overall record of 7-3 and are set for their third consecutive playoff appearance, where they will face the Crockett Bulldogs in the first round Friday at Palestine High School's Wildcat Stadium.
Senior Michael Lewis, who has been a Tiger varsity player since his freshman year, said the team's growing success is a result of hard work and patience over the past few seasons learning Coach Smith's no-huddle offensive scheme.
"We switched coaches, then everything just started getting better with the spread." said Lewis.
The playoff game against Crockett will be a battle of familiar opponents. The Tigers have won the last two games against the Bulldogs from 2012-2013. Smith and Lewis both expect the team to be play aggressively in order to earn their first playoff win.
"It's gonna be live. We'll be there, and we'll be ready." said Lewis.