While it was mostly smash-mouth, ground-based football on display Oct. 10 during Tompkins’ 28-0 win against previously undefeated Mayde Creek, Falcons senior wideout Gabe Atkin had another 100-yard receiving game, showing why he was atop the yardage chart for District 19-6A entering the game.
Since an early-season injury to senior and No. 1 receiver Taurean Muhammad, Atkin has emerged as the favorite target for junior quarterback Jalen Milroe. Against Mayde Creek at Rhodes Stadium, Atkin finished with four catches — the first four completions of the game for Milroe — for 113 yards and a touchdown one week after torching Katy for a program single-game record 293 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
For his part, Atkin didn’t have any special trick or shortcut for his success, or for his team’s.
“It’s just going to work every day in practice and doing our drills right and coming out every single day with the right attitude,” he said. He added it was about “going 1-0 every week,” repeating a familiar mantra from Tompkins coach Todd McVey about only looking at that particular week’s game and opponent.
Tompkins wideout Gabe Atkin talks about what has led him to a great start to the season, leading the division on yardage early on, and how he catches those deep strikes. #txhsfb pic.twitter.com/5EM28UVdv9— Katy Times Sports (@KatyTimesSports) October 11, 2019
Atkin’s specialty so far has been the deep ball, and it was on display again against Mayde Creek.
With about five minutes left in the first half, he caught a high-arching pass from Milroe for 45 yards, setting up a 12-yard touchdown run by senior running back R.J. Smith.
In the second half, Atkin caught another 51-yard bomb from Milroe to flip the field on Mayde Creek. Three plays later, Tompkins scored on a 30-yard screen pass from Milroe to senior running back Garrett Mack.
Atkin was covered on his two long completions, as well as a 10-yard slant in the first half for a touchdown that gave Tompkins a 7-0 lead. He wasn’t covered well enough, though, as he showed a focus on the ball that allowed him to make catches as defenders struggled to keep up with him.
“My eyes are dead on that ball,” he said of his approach on deep balls. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to go up and get that ball.”
He mentioned a similar focus and determination when asked about how he’s leading all Katy ISD receivers in yardage this year.
“It’s coming to work every day with my coaches, my teammates,” he said. “It’s about doing every single drill right, every single day, and getting our feet right. Those deep balls, it’s a challenge, but I’ve got to go up and get them somehow.”
That sort of focus could be seen up and down the roster as Tompkins topped a gritty Mayde Creek team.
Smith had two touchdowns, but mostly served as a battering ram to control field position and the clock, finishing with 26 carries for 97 yards. Milroe connected with Atkin for long passes, but subtracting those completions, his line was 2-for-7 for 39 yards.
“This was two teams getting at each other,” McVey said. “They were undefeated. They have a very good football team and coach (Mike) Rabe has done a heck of a job with those guys. We knew we had our hands full. Each game takes on its own identity.”
Senior defensive back and punter Pryce Powell was one of the stars on defense for the Falcons, as he had an interception with 5:45 left in the third quarter when Tompkins still only had a 14-0 lead. Powell also had a nice night with his rugby-style punting, finishing with five kicks for an average of 35.8 yards.
Junior Dru Polidore also had a pick in the fourth quarter, helping turn back the momentum after a Tompkins fumble on the previous possession.
Powell said that after a solid, but unspectacular, first half, the coaches were on them to play up to their full potential.
Mayde Creek’s largest gain in the second half was 13 yards, and, overall, the Rams had seven plays for negative yardage with a lost fumble and two interceptions. On the fumble, senior linebacker Eric Christianson literally shoved a player aside to then fall on the ball.
“We brought the high energy, and that was the difference,” Powell said.
Tompkins improved to 6-1 overall, 2-1 in district play.