Taylor’s defense used a pair of big plays to set the first-half tone against Humble in the Mustangs’ 35-14 Class 6A-Division II regional semifinal win on Nov. 30 at NRG Stadium.
HOUSTON — Taylor’s defense used a pair of big plays to set the first-half tone against Humble in the Mustangs’ 35-14 Class 6A-Division II regional semifinal win on Nov. 30 at NRG Stadium.
But while the highlights of the game will feature the 92-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior free safety Trevor Woods and the 40-yard interception return by sophomore cornerback Hollis Robinson that set up a touchdown from the 4-yard line, it was the determined stability of the unit that salted the game away in the second half.
In the first half, Taylor allowed passes of 49, 60 and 40 yards, with the latter two going for touchdowns that allowed Humble to rally from a 21-0 deficit to a more reasonable 21-14 halftime score.
But in the second half, Humble quarterback Dexter Wyble’s longest completion was 11 yards as he completed just 4 of 9 passes for 18 yards. Not coincidentally, the Wildcats did not score in the final two quarters.
At halftime, Taylor coach Chad Simmons and senior safety Braden Hay said there was an emphasis placed on limiting the long passes, which were Humble’s specialty.
“Honestly, coming into the game all week, we said, ‘Look, the one thing they can really hurt us on is beating us deep,’” Simmons said. “One of them was a screen that the guy broke, but the other that beat us deep was a bust in the coverage, and we re-emphasized it at halftime. Especially when we got up, we knew that’s what they had to do.”
Hay added, “I was trying to do my best to shift the momentum back to our side, you know, and make some plays for us.”
That effort showed in the second half.
On Humble’s first offensive series, Hay shot up from his safety position and tackled a receiver in the backfield on a bubble screen for a three-yard loss. On the next play, he knocked down a pass.
“For those plays, it was really just quick reads,” he said. “Our scouting gets me to know what they’re going to do pretty much before they do it. Once I saw one guy go out for the bubble (screen), I went out there and got that … The next play, I was expecting them to throw it deeper, and I gave them a little more cushion so that they’d throw it to my guy. I could have honestly picked it off, but I was just looking for a big play for our defense, so I just went and batted it down.”
Later in the same drive, Hay knocked down a deep fade pass toward the end zone, forcing a turnover on downs. It was the fourth straight incompletion by Wyble, primarily because of the Taylor defense as opposed to inaccuracy on his part.
“The way I saw it from my position was, I’m not letting anything deep beat us,” Hay said. “As soon as any ball was thrown deep, I tried to get as close to it as I could and hit it away. But other than that, I trust my teammates. I know they’re going to do their part and we really wanted to keep it shallow, because we were up with a big lead. They’re obviously going to try to take some deep shots, so we were kind of expecting them to come.”
The Mustangs have five interceptions in three playoff games, and 17 on the season. Overall this year, Taylor has 31 takeaways.
Robinson had an interception in the area playoff win against Houston Memorial on Nov. 23, and Woods had another interception return for a touchdown on Nov. 16 in the bi-district playoff win against Fort Bend Elkins.
It was Woods’ third pick-6 of the year, as he also had one against Deer Park on Sept. 14.
Simmons said Woods simply has a nose for the football.
“He’s a natural football player,” Simmons said, recalling Woods’ 92-yard pick-6 that thwarted a Humble scoring opportunity. “He’s instinctive and a heck of an athlete. That was huge for our momentum, and obviously for our opponent’s.”
Woods credited his speed and eye for the end zone for his development, which now includes playing offense. He is used for one of Taylor’s offensive packages, “Dogs,” which features him and Hay as receivers.
On his interception return for a touchdown, Woods said he was just playing his position well.
“It was a bootleg (pass) the other way, so I have anything that comes back the other way. I was just waiting on it, sitting on it,” he said. “I don’t know if he didn’t see me, but he just threw it right to me.”
Taylor is in the regional finals for the first time, going up against Cypress Creek at 2 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium. The Mustangs will likely continue to lean on its strong secondary. The Cougars are an impressive passing team.
Cy-Creek averages 267.3 passing yards per game, with senior quarterback Julian Uwadia completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,129 yards and 39 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Uwadia has two receivers with more than 800 yards and 10 touchdowns each in seniors Legend Grigsby (869 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Cogan Derousselle (820 yards, 11 touchdowns). Seven other receivers have scored at least one touchdown.
The Cougars average 38 points per game.
As if a shot at the state semifinals wasn’t enough motivation for Taylor, Cy-Creek also eliminated the Mustangs in the area round of the playoffs last year. As a result, Woods said only one word was on his mind this week.
“Revenge,” he said.