Although the Center Roughriders opened the scoring by recovering a fumble on a botched punt attempt in the end zone, the Sealy Tigers’ defense shut down a top running back in the state and got four touchdowns from sophomore quarterback D’vonne Hmielewski to secure a 38-7 victory Friday night at Waco ISD Stadium.
It’s Sealy’s second area championship in the last three years and the Tigers advance to the regional semifinal round where the China Spring Cougars will be waiting after taking down the West Orange-Stark Mustangs, who finished the season ranked No. 2 in “Dave Campbell’s” state rankings, 35-22 Friday night. The third-round matchup will take place at Cougar Field in College Station on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m.
Ninth-ranked Sealy traded turnovers and punts at multiple points in the game but was able to contain Center’s senior running back KeAmodre Horace who entered the contest having recorded at least 100 rushing yards in 10 of his previous 11 games.
Although Horace finished with 119 yards on 22 carries, he fumbled four times and lost three of those fumbles on successive possessions. Tiger head football coach Shane Mobley said part of the key was playing with three defensive linemen as opposed to the four or five they normally have.
“We tried to direct the running back one direction or the other, a lot of times you slant your nose away from the back or to the back and the running back's going to cut off that and sometimes linebackers when they get blocked they have to rip so we had to make sure we were all going the same direction,” Mobley said postgame. “Then that allows your defensive ends – because we played a lot of three front which we haven't been in a whole lot lately – which allows Brooks Redden and Clayton Prazak to fill gaps underneath or help maintain the bounce if he gets outside.”
Junior Thomas Clark led the team in tackles with nine and had seniors Lane Holley (7 tackles) and Tyler Hennessey (6 tackles) not far behind him. Senior Stevie Alvarez and sophomore Nathan Dreese both collected three tackles and a host of Sealy defenders recorded a pair of tackles including seniors Clayton Prazak and Rhys Reichardt, junior Brooks Redden and sophomores Haden Wernecke and Richard Hahn.
On the other side, Hmielewski provided the spark once again for the Tigers’ offense, firing a laser to lead Draper Parker into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown and connecting on a 5-yard hookup with Jakobe Davis to cash in on a Roughrider fumble at the end of the first half. In the second half, Hmielewski turned in a pair of rushing touchdowns from 24 and 10 yards out to put the nail in the coffin and secure a second playoff win in just his second year of high school.
“We had a sophomore center, a sophomore quarterback and we both made some mistakes early but (the seniors and coaches) told us to keep our head high, don’t hang our heads on that and just keep on pushing,” Hmielewski told the Sealy Tiger Sports Network about a few errant snaps. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
Seniors Ricky Avila (35-yard field goal) and Stevie Alvarez (14-yard rush) also contributed points to Sealy’s winning efforts and sets up another playoff game on Thanksgiving weekend, one of the two big items Coach Mobley was hired to accomplish.
“Our first year here we lost in the second round but that was a Thanksgiving week so three out of four years to be playing on Thanksgiving is pretty special,” Mobley said. “The unity that they've built playing like a team is awesome. To see guys step up like Jackson Osborne and Tyler Hennessy and Clayton Prazak, some of these seniors defensively and then you've got guys like Thomas Clark who have been there, Lane Holley is a senior but you’ve also got Mason Klotz who is a sophomore, Haden Wernecke. It's an awesome feeling to see that you don't have nine seniors or you don't have just a plethora of juniors, it's a whole group of guys that are out there playing, and that goes to show the team unity and the way these guys have bonded and are taking to each other and are playing for one another.”
Hmielewski finished 12-of-20 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns and added 71 yards rushing and the two touchdowns, accounting for all but 72 of the Tigers’ 350 yards of total offense.
Sophomore running back A’vonte Nunn supplemented the run game with 28 yards on eight carries, just ahead of older brother Alvin who finished with 24 yards on four carries. Although the elder Nunn missed some time due to injury, Mobley said he should be ready to go for next week. Dreese also tallied 18 yards rushing on four carries and Alvarez supplied the 14-yard score.
Parker hauled in six passes for 147 yards and a touchdown to reach the 1,000-yard milestone he set out to accomplish before his senior campaign began. He has also registered a touchdown in his last eight games played. Classmate Jakobe Davis also found the end zone as part of a three-catch, 13-yard performance and extended a scoring streak to five consecutive games.
Junior Connor Krenek supplied 46 receiving yards on three catches and was one of four Sealy defenders registering a tackle on defense including seniors Jonathan Monterroza and Ricky Avila and sophomore Mason Klotz.
Center totaled 222 yards of total offense between 175 rushing yards on 31 carries and 47 yards passing from junior quarterback Jake Hanson on 6-of-14 passing with an interception to Krenek who nearly returned it for a touchdown.
Moving onto the regional matchup against China Spring, Mobley drew similarities to the Tigers’ last trip to the third round where the state-ranked Liberty Hill Panthers ended Sealy’s season en route to a state finals appearance.
“We’re going to be walking into next week where it will be similar to watching Liberty Hill,” Mobley said. “These are tough, physical ballgames and we’ve got some guys who have some bumps and bruises so now it’s the mentality of, you won’t have much time to heal and you’re going to have to play through it and it’s going to come down to who’s the toughest.”