The last two games, a 28-0 win over Mayde Creek on Oct. 10 and a 29-16 win over Morton Ranch on Oct. 19, Tompkins’ offense hasn’t performed up to par.
Against the Mavericks on Saturday, for instance, the Falcons’ offense, the best statistically in District 19-6A, produced just two touchdowns, punted three times, was 1-for-3 on red-zone trips, and had two giveaways, an interception and a fumble.
No matter. Tompkins’ defense has dominated of late. After holding an explosive Mayde Creek offense to 153 total yards, the Falcons held a potent Morton Ranch rushing attack to just 66 yards on 28 carries to improve to 7-1 overall, 3-1 in 19-6A.
“They have our back and we have theirs,” Tompkins junior defensive back Colby Huerter said of the offense. “We play as one and we fight. As long as we win.”
Entering the game, the Mavericks were averaging 201.3 rushing yards per game. But against Tompkins, Morton Ranch had six rushing plays go for negative yardage and mustered just 2.4 yards per carry.
“We’re just doing our job,” said junior defensive end Tunmise Adeleye, who had a sack and three tackles for a loss. “(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Eric) Robinson does a great job breaking down an opponent’s offense, so we know what to expect and we know their tendencies. Like Morton Ranch, when they lined up in certain formations, we knew where the ball was going. That’s something we picked up on film.”
Morton Ranch (4-4, 1-3 19-6A) had only 132 total yards of offense, about 163 fewer than its season average. The Mavericks had their chances, however.
After senior Will Brown recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to cut the Mavericks’ deficit to 16-7 early in the second quarter, senior linebacker Garren McLaughlin intercepted Tompkins junior quarterback Jalen Milroe on the next series deep in Falcons territory.
But Tompkins stalled the Mavericks to keep them out of the end zone, surrendering only a 24-yard field goal.
“That was a huge stop,” Tompkins coach Todd McVey said. “It doesn’t matter where the ball is, they’re understanding we need to go out and play. Embracing that mentality of the next play … that was a big turning point in the first half.”
Morton Ranch’s only true threat the rest of the way came late in the fourth quarter, when senior Josh Gaton’s acrobatic 37-yard scoring catch served as the final score of the game with a little more than four minutes left.
Otherwise, the Mavericks never were able to establish a consistent running game, the bread and butter of their offense, which kept the passing game in dire straits.
“We’ve learned to play for each other,” Huerter said. “We’re practicing as if it’s a game every day, and for that I give a lot of props to Coach Robinson. He’s doing a great job of keeping us focused.”
The Falcons are surrendering 17.3 points on 233.4 yards per game this season.
Sophomore Eti-ini Bassey has been a pleasant surprise along the defensive line. Junior linebacker Temisan Alatan has impressed. Linebackers Eric Christianson and Kobee Madriz have been steady influences, and the secondary is a veteran, playmaking unit led by Huerter, Jesse Jensen and newcomer Dru Polidore.
“All the pieces are working together,” McVey said.
And while the offense has been up and down the last couple of weeks, players nor coaches are too concerned.
McVey said the offense played better in the second half than the first against Morton Ranch. But the rushing game was spotty, averaging just 4.1 yards per carry, and the passing game was sporadic. Milroe only had four big passing plays throughout the game, for 42, 37, 44 and 29 yards, respectively. Otherwise, he either had trouble connecting with open receivers or was limited to throwing underneath the coverage.
Tompkins' star senior running back R.J. Smith—the fourth-best rusher in 19-6A—had just 33 yards on 17 carries.
The Falcons generated nine of 29 points via safety and an explosive 54-yard punt return from senior receiver Taurean Muhammad. Two red zone appearances finished with field goals.
“It’s really about picking up the tempo,” said Milroe, who completed 12 of 21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, both to senior Anthony Munoz. “I feel like we need to prepare harder. The key thing for football is playing with energy and heart. We’re not coming out with energy, and we have to not play down to our competition and get after it each and every game.”
McVey credited Morton Ranch’s defense for some of the offensive issues. Overall, though, there is a bigger picture at stake.
“We all have video on each other now,” McVey said, indicating that offensive success only gets tougher as a season goes on, particularly in district play where teams know each other well. “We just have to continue getting better at what we’re doing. They did some different things up front; No. 9 (senior defensive lineman Brandon Brown) is a good player. He fills up two holes. But our guys found a way to gut it out.
“It isn’t always going to be 60-0. As long as we have one more point than they do, it’s still a ‘W.’ We just have to be consistent in what we’re doing.”