(Taken from Athletic News)
When the first whistle blows, all eyes in the stands will be on the center of Skip Lee Field where the magical M-Star will reflect the Friday night lights. Coaches will scope the field: counting players, reading formations and looking for patterns. But days before B&R (Bruce Warren and Ruben Chavez) broke out 92 cans of paint to make their masterpiece that won them the 2008 Pioneer Paint Field of Excellence award, other sets of eyes were scouting this well groomed open space. On Wednesday, when B & R put down the lines and stenciled the end zones, these eyes watched. On Thursday, when they sprayed scarlet and black inside letters, they watched. And on Friday, when the M-Star takes on the magic of a home opener and Parents’ night, they will still be watching.
These eyes were oblivious to the diligent preparation that leaves nothing for chance at the big home opener. It started with the coaches who logged in over 24 hours of film since Sunday. The watchful eyes didn’t care about the players who absorbed skillfully broken-down scouting reports at practice on Monday, nor about Marci Bahr, who since Tuesday, has been stockpiling 56 cases of drinks along with 6 gallons of lemonade, 35 types of candy including the most popular Sour Patch Straws, 7 types of chips, 50 pounds of popcorn, 100 Chick-fil-a sandwiches and nuggets, 80 hotdogs, and 60 Cumbo tacos at the concession stand.
These eyes are not human, and they are not from Roswell, NM. They don’t understand football; they are interested in only one thing: food. They eat meals on wheels, but not the concession stand variety. These are the eyes of the red-tailed hawk, an efficient hunter that soars high above open fields. St. John’s has its own team of hawks. They can be seen perched on goal posts, fences, adjacent high rises, and trees, keenly preparing for prey on the wide open spaces of the “Great 28” acres of Maverickville. Their film sessions have an aerial point of view. They look for any slight movement either on or above the Bermuda grass which B&R have cut to fairway quality, leaving no place for the hawks’ opponents to hide. When they play, they hit hard and don’t let go. Unlike the falcon’s stoop, hawks move in a methodical controlled dive, similar to Coach Gleaves’ veer offense, gradually finding a way to strike a seam in the heart of a defense. There is nothing you can do to resist it.
While Bruce and Ruben worked on their paint preparations early in the week, a couple of feathers were lying in the back of the end zone.
“Where did these come from?” asked Coach Gleaves.
“The hawk left those—he’s messing with my design,” said Bruce.
“But those are blue,” said Coach.
“Those aren’t hawk feathers. That’s all that’s left of the prey. The rest is gone,” said Ruben.
A very clean tackle, based on solid fundamentals and plenty of preparation.
This Friday night, like the hawks that watched them, the Mavericks needed to make their reads count and their routes intentional. When they did they more than ruffled the feathers of the Second Baptist Eagles.
While the clock was counting down to kick-off in pre-game Friday night there were tell-tale signs that more than just feathers were going to fly on Skip Lee Field. The Eagles strutted in looking for their second consecutive blow-out, having defeated Brazos 63-7 last week. They were ready to park their inflatable eagle in the back of the end zone, but Coach Paul quickly put an end to that idea.
During the singing of the Star Spangled Banner a lone dove found a safe moment to fly across the M-Star. The game bird went untouched, just like co-captain Josh Winslow’s (’11) fifty yard strike to Tim Otey (’11) which set up the Mavericks' first score with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter. “That was my guaranteed catch,” said Otey. As it turned out, it would be the only ball that was caught on the offensive side for the Mavericks.
By the time Eagles got off the ground it was 27-0 Mavericks. Winslow scored his second touchdown on an extra effort three yard dive. The official’s hands did not go up as the ball crossed the goal line. Josh twisted out of the tackle and re-entered the end zone as his helmet fell off. “He scored twice,” said Mark Desjardins, who keenly watched the play from the sidelines. Caldwell Flores (’11) thrashed thirteen yards for the third score two minutes later, and Cameron Neal (’11) put in the fourth on a 38 yard run with 2:21 on the clock in the first half. Dan Tweardy (’12) split the uprights on all but one extra point.
The Maverick game plan was working on both sides of the ball until the half when the team lost their ability to finish plays. “We were really well prepared and we knew their routes,” said safety Chris Gow (’12). “In the second half we made the reads but did not tackle well in space.”
Second Baptist scored late in the first half and reeled off two more touchdowns in the third quarter, putting the Mavericks on the brink of a tail spin with just a seven-point lead. “The first half our game plan worked. In the second half we lost focus on what we were trying to do and slacked off due to our big lead. Then we stopped trusting and started trying too hard,” said Head Coach Steve Gleaves. “The consistency wasn’t there in the third quarter, but we found just enough focus to finish some big plays in the fourth.”
With 11:07 to go in the game, Stephen Firestone (’11) broke free for a 33-yard run and the game winner. Team defense kept their sights on the Eagles’ passing game. “We knew they had a few favorite routes and we practiced defending those patterns all week. The breakdowns were technical not tactical. When they made their big plays it was from poor tackling and not finishing the play, but we did end up with three big interceptions” said defensive backs coach, George Turley.
After the Eagles scored on a 49 yard reception to cut it to a one-score lead (34-27), the first pivotal pick came with less than 4 minutes in the fourth quarter by co-captain William Wallace (’11). “They were trying to tie it up. I got a good read and I made the play,” said Wallace. The last interception was Douglas Berkman’s (’12) second on the night. After Wallace’s grab, the Mavericks turned the ball over to the Eagles for one last drive. With time running down, Berkman found what he was looking for and did not let go. “I noticed all night that the quarter back would drop his arm just before the pass. On this play I saw the receiver go to the outside,” said Berkman. “When the qb’s throwing arm lowered, I took off and was able to pick it clean.” Clean as a hawk leaving just a few blue feathers on the ground. St. John’s ended the game taking a knee with possession near the M-Star. It was a hawkish performance that gave the Mavericks their first win of the season.
Sam Chambers St. John's Athletic News
For the Houston Chronicle review on the Mavs click here.