The Tigers actually fell behind in the first quarter. Marian/Keefe got the ball for the opening drive and marched 65 yards down the field in 10 plays and took 5:31 off the clock, capping the drive with a 10-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Emmanuel Capellan and receiver Liam Dolan. Capellan ran in the two-point conversion for the Mustangs' 8-0 lead.
“That was the first time we’ve been behind all season, and I thought ‘what better time to have that happen than this week,’” said Tech coach James Runner. “It was ugly at first, but credit to our guys and the coaching staff for really making the adjustments. (Offensive coordinator) Alan Bercy made absolutely great adjustments to help us get the ball moving, and the rest was history.”
The Tech offense took a little while to get rolling. After their first and only drive of the first quarter stalled out, the Tigers came back early in the second quarter with a quick-hit touchdown. Just as has been the case all season long, Gravely took a handoff in the backfield, broke through a hole and took the ball 57 yards for a touchdown. He then punched in the two-point conversion to tie the score with just over eight minutes to go in the first half.
After a series of penalties derailed Marian/Keefe’s next drive, the Tigers got the ball back at midfield. From there, Gravely took control once again. He brought Tech into the red zone with a 39-yard run, then punched in an eight-yard touchdown to take the lead going into halftime.
The Tigers kept that momentum going into the second half, scoring on their first offensive play, albeit on a bit of an accidental play. When attempting to run a jet sweep play, the snap went high and bounced off quarterback David Barrios’ fingers. Luckily for the Tigers, Gonzalez was in a position to snatch the ball out of the air, reverse field and take the ball 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-8.
A little later in the quarter, sparked from a 36-yard fumble recovery return from Gaskin, the Tigers started a drive deep in Marian/Keefe territory and once again scored in less than five plays. And once again, it was Gravely who finished the drive, this time scoring on a 13-yard run.
Gaskin was able to punch in a 4-yard touchdown with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter, and Barrios hit junior receiver Brandon Touy for a 31-yard touchdown pass with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 43-8.
One of the highlights for Tech in this game was the performance of the defense, which completely shut down the Mustang offense for the final 38:33 of the game.
“I’m very proud of this whole defense,” Runner said. “Emerson Ramirez and Steffan [Gravely] played really well tonight, as did David [Barrios] at safety, but we’re really blessed with the defensive linemen that we have up front. They do the dirty work that helps those guys make plays.”
Next up for Tech is No. 5 New Mission, a team that demolished its first-round opponent Charlestown, 44-6, on Friday night.
“Look man, it’s great to get that first playoff win out of the way, but we’ve got to forget about this quickly,” Runner said. “At the end of the day, New Mission is going to come out here ready to go. We saw them beat up on their opponent the other night, so we know what they’re capable of on offense and defense. We’ve just got to prepare extremely hard and then go out and execute.”
The Tigers (8-0) will go up against New Mission (5-3) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Manning Field.