The Thrall Tigers used a ball-control offense in the second half to hold off the Riesel Indians 18-14 in the season opener Friday night in Riesel.
Riesel drew first blood late in the first quarter. Riesel quarterback Will McClintock found Nolan Slagle behind the Tiger defense. Slagle made the catch and broke to the endzone. The two-point conversion was good, and Riesel led 8-0 with 3:03 to play in the first quarter.
“Our conditioning paid off,” said Thrall Head Coach Jason Cole. “Our kids were tired, but they fought hard the entire game.”
A turnover set up the Tigers’ first score when Corbin Cunningham jumped on a fumble at the Riesel 19 giving the Tigers great field position. A Colter Hill to Cayden Watson pass moved the ball to the five and Tyreke Irvin’s 4-yard run up the middle moved the ball to the one. Braeden West finished off the short drive with a 1-yard run for the score. The point after failed and the Indians led 8-6 with 11:56 to play in the second quarter.
“On third and fourth down plays our quarterbacks and wide receivers really stepped it up and made some big-time plays,” Cole said. “Colter was willing to take the hits to get the ball to our receivers.”
Another Indian turnover put the Tigers ahead to stay. West stepped in front of a McClintock pass and raced down the right sideline for a 54-yard pick six. Again, the point after was off target, but the Tigers led 12-8 with 9:51 remaining.
Riesel opened the second half with a long drive in the third quarter. The Indians drove to the Thrall 22 where they faced fourth and nine and appeared to be prepared to go for it. A penalty by Riesel forced the Indians to opt for a short punt. The Tigers got the ball back at their own five. Driving down the field Watson hauled in a pass and raced down the field for the 73-yard score extending the Tigers lead to 18-8 with 2:14 left in the third quarter. Taking the ball at their own 25, McClintock carried most of the load to set up a first and goal at the Thrall seven. Eventually McClintock went over the right tackle for the touchdown, closing the gap to 18-14. Thrall ran the final 7:56 off the clock using their time-consuming running game to eat up the clock.
“Both of our sophomore running backs and our senior, Braeden West, played their hearts out,” Cole said. “Riesel’s box defense was good, but our offensive line battled all night opening holes for our backs, and our inside receivers did a great job helping block their linebackers.”
Thrall will be on the road again next week to take on Moody.