Odell and Defense shine as Wildcats trounce Nimitz 54-10

The first game at the new Tomball ISD Stadium extended home win streak to 15 games

Reed+Odell+celebrates+after+an+11-yard+touchdown+run+late+in+the+3rd+Quarter

Ericka Apolskis

Reed Odell celebrates after an 11-yard touchdown run late in the 3rd Quarter

Adeen Rao, Editor

The Wildcats kicked off their 2021-22 campaign last Friday with a 54-10 shellacking of the Nimitz Cougars, a victorious debut at the new Tomball ISD Stadium. The win continues a 15-game home winning streak that dates back to October 5th, 2018. The new 10,000 capacity stadium combined with the rebirth of the Navy Empire, the Wildcat’s student section, made for a 100+ decibel atmosphere that forced lots of pre-snap penalties from the Cougar offense.

“The [student section] brings a lot of excitement to the game,” senior linebacker Kale Berter said. “We definitely want to see them impact the game more as the season progresses.”

The Student Section getting amped up before the Wildcats home opener vs Nimitz (Adeen Rao)

Head Coach Sam Parker’s team had a nightmare start to the game, as they opened up with a failed offensive possession and then gave up seven on the Cougars’ first drive of the game courtesy of a 44-yard touchdown throw on third and long.

“After that start,” junior quarterback Reed Odell said. “I just wanted to come in, capitalize, and score.”

All eyes were on the quarterback battle going into the game as no one other than the coaches knew what the plan was going to be heading into the game. Odell jogged out for the first drive, but after two incomplete passes and a punt, down 7-0 the next drive, the coaches turned to sophomore Lane Stockton who zipped a throw to senior Zach Fields on a slant-route which saw him sprint to the end-zone 43 yards later. Fields reached a top speed of 19.6 miles per hour on the run, the fastest recorded speed in the entire game from any player. He finished the game with four receptions from five targets at 124 yards and two touchdowns.

“I owe all my success to the quarterbacks,” Fields said. “They are the ones who get me the ball. They are the ones who put [the ball] at a spot where I can catch it.”

After a Cougar drive riddled with penalties resulted in a 3-and-out, Stockton came back out onto the field but was victim to two errant snaps leading to the drive going nowhere despite the good field position. Another defensive stand by defensive coordinator Scott Herman’s defense saw the left-handed thrower Odell come out to play QB. It was at this moment most of the Wildcat fans realized that there was a pattern unplanned or not- if the QB scores he stays in, if he doesn’t he’s out.

“Ultimately, who goes in at quarterback at a time in the game falls on Coach Parker,” offensive line coach Scott Wiesmann said. “Right now he is just going to go with the hot hand.”

Odell took these parameters and led the Wildcats to seven straight scoring drives, completing nine out of eleven attempts at 220 yards and four touchdowns, adding on a rushing touchdown of his own alongside senior tailback Richard Rodriguez Jr.’s two scores of his own. All four of Odell’s passing touchdowns came from different receivers, showcasing his ability to spread the field.

“Reed has definitely stepped up,” junior wideout Chase Lovick said. “I wouldn’t count either of [the quarterbacks] out in the battle though.”

The defense bounced back after the aforementioned opening drive hiccup, only allowing three points for the rest of the game. As a unit, they held the Cougars to 4/16 on third downs with the Cougars needing an average of 11.2 yards per third down. The Cougars could not get going on either the passing or rushing front totaling 49 yards rushing and 10/29 133 yards passing and a touchdown. Nimitz’s 2.5 yards/play was lower than any total they recorded in all ten games they played last season. New starters senior Cayden Stegall and sophomore Blake Holt, alongside senior Jesus Castanon, combined for 29 tackles- 11 of them being for a loss with Castanon forcing and recovering a fumble, the only turnover of the game.

“I really liked the energy our defense showed in the game,” Berter said. “We do need to work on Cover 2 and Cover 3 and do a better job of disguising our formations.”

The defensive line was anchored by returning starter senior Andrew Davis, junior Cole Vedder, senior Jared Durrett, and sophomore Dylan Curl. Davis recorded the only sack of the game, an eleven yard loss early in the third quarter.

Andrew Davis sacks the Nimitz quarterback for an 11 yard loss late in the third quarter. (Adeen Rao)

There were many questions surrounding the special teams units going into the game, but senior soccer goalkeeper turned place-kicker was not one of them. Aubele hit all six of his extra point attempts, with the only failed PAT that occurred while Aubele was present was a botched snap. Sophomore safety Colin Helmer was the designated kickoff man, with his kicks usually landing around the five yard line and recording a 25% touchback ratio on eight kickoffs. Sophomore wideout Hayden Winsor took care of punting duties and punted 108 yards on three attempts with two of the three punts landing inside the 20. These factors contributed to Nimitz’s average starting field being at their own 27 yard line.

Lovick was the designated man for the punt returns and had a little bit of a scare when an errant ball bounced towards him and made contact with him, causing a fumble. Luckily for Lovick, he recovered his own fumble avoiding a costly turnover. Lovick started off the game returning every ball, but he let the ball get downed as the game went on.

“The coaches have been telling me to be more careful because we are in real deal games now,” Lovick said. “I like to go for the return because getting tackled gets me awake and in the game, and I know I can make something happen with the ball.”

Lovick and senior wideout Espen Ramos lined up as returners on the kickoffs, but due to the Cougars’ kicker’s unpredictable kicks, three different people returned the ball on Friday with the Wildcats racking up 96 return yards on three returns. Both the punt return and kick return game played a big part in the Wildcats garnering an average starting field position at their own 48 yard line, giving them a 20 yard advantage over Nimitz in the same category.

“We practice special teams a lot,” Lovick said. “That’s when you need to secure the ball and the field position and avoid turnovers.”

The Wildcats are now 1-0 heading into a three week away game slate against Beaumont West-Brook, Spring, and Kingwood respectively.

NEXT GAME: @ West-Brook 7:00 PM 9/3