SAN ANGELO, TX — The start of the 2021 football season and the debut of Head Coach Kevin Crane saw the 6A San Angelo Central Bobcats take on the Killeen Shoemaker Grey Wolves at San Angelo Stadium Friday, Aug. 27. Falling to the Grey Wolves 61-35 the previous year, the ‘Cats exacted their revenge through disciplined defensive play and a stellar outing from junior quarterback Tyler Hill. Although the game remained close throughout the first half, the ‘Cats ran away with it in the second, 43-28.
Killeen burst out of the gate on the opening kickoff after a massive 90-yard kick return for a touchdown and the Grey Wolves struck first, 7-0. Not to be outdone, the Bobcats responded with a methodical 8+ play drive that marched them 65 yards down the field for a touchdown of their own. Darius Floyd scored the season's first for San Angelo Central, and the Bobcats tie the game at 7-7.
Both of the teams’ defenses battled over the proceeding four possessions. Three of which ended in turnovers. The Bobcats forced their first takeaway on an errant pass thrown by Shoemaker QB Omari Evans. Safety Landon Cowley snatched it out of the air and handed the offense another possession. Following the interception by Cowley, the Bobcat’s offense took the reins deep in their own territory at the 5-yard line. Unfortunately, the offense struggled to replicate the same success of their previous drive and punted after only one first down. A booming, 61-yard punt at the end of the first quarter pinned the Grey wolves down at their own 15-yard line. Back-to-back stops in the Shoemaker backfield created an opportunity for the Bobcat linebackers to punch the ball out of the hands of a Shoemaker running back, securing the second takeaway of the night.
Taking over at the Shoemaker 47-yard line, Hill lit up the Grey Wolf defense with a series of lasers down the field. Connections of 26 and 19 to WR Jacob English put the Bobcats in scoring position at the Grey Wolves’ 4 yard line. Three unsuccessful plays in a row left the Bobcats facing a 4th and goal at the 1-yard line. The Shoemaker defense held fast and forced a turnover on downs.
A pattern emerged throughout the night regarding Central's defense. When the offense needed a stop, the defense delivered. Solid gap discipline by the ‘Cats defensive front snuffed out Kileen’s running game, and pressure forced inaccurate passes. Then, six plays and a punt later, the Bobcat offense took over again.
Now, at the Shoemaker 35-yard line, Tyler Hill connected with Jacob English, Jaedyn Gipson, and Samuel Navarette to set up another goal-to-go situation. Hill walked into the endzone for the 1-yd touchdown, and a 2-point conversion put the ‘Cats up, 15-7. The Grey Wolves had a final opportunity to get some offensive production going with less than three minutes before the half. A missed tackle on a wide receiver screen pass allowed Shoemaker to score an explosive 59-yard touchdown. The Bobcats headed to the locker room at the half, clinging to a one-point advantage, 15-14. After fielding the second-half kickoff, Central's offensive machine continued to churn. Several hard runs by Navarette, Floyd, and Hill continually pushed the ball further down the field. WR Jaedyn Gipson caught another 14-yard pass from Hill on 3rd down to set up a first and goal at the 1 yard line. Two plays later, Navarette powered his way into the endzone for the 1-yard touchdown. The Cats’ extended their lead 22-14.
Shoemaker’s struggles continued following the score. QB Evans had nowhere to go with the ball as the Bobcat’s defense constantly pursued him. As Central’s defense continued to play disciplined football, the San Angelo boys forced another 3-and-out for Killeen Shoemaker.
Following the punt, Central’s offense continued its efficiency. The Shoemaker defense forced the Bobcats to earn every first down. Facing a 3rd and 5 at the Bobcat 35-yardline, Hill ripped off back to back runs of 20 and then 16 yards. A costly 15-yard facemask penalty by the Grey Wolves pushed the ‘Cats into scoring position again. Hill threw an absolute dart to Jacob English for 29-yards and another Bobcat touchdown on the next play. Central extended their lead again, 29-14.
With the Grey Wolves reeling, their offense desperately needed to answer, but the Central defense had ideas of their own. After allowing a couple of first downs in a row, the ‘Cats stonewalled Shoemaker at midfield. Faced with a 4th down and 8 yards to go at the Central 40 yard line, the defensive front managed a sack back at the 50. The Bobcat offense then grinds out a multiple-play, time-consuming drive capped off with a 4-yard touchdown rush by backup quarterback Ben Imler. San Angelo pulled further away, up 36-14.
Both teams continued battling back and forth, with each defense creating takeaways. Central forced another turnover on downs after a long Grey Wolf drive, and the Shoemaker forced a fumble in Bobcat territory two plays later. The Central turnover allowed Shoemaker to score their first points of the second half, 36-21.
Following the Shoemaker touchdown, the ‘Cats special teams Kente exacted revenge for the opening kickoff score. Kente Nichols fielded the ball at the Central 14 yard line and then proceeded to bob, weave, and sprint his way 86-yards down the field for a punishing touchdown, 43-21.
Stupid, avoidable penalties plagued what had been a stellar performance by the Central defense on the next Shoemaker drive. It was 45-yards worth of dead ball fouls that kept pushing the Grey Wolves close to the endzone. The second 15-yard penalty even nullified a game-sealing interception by Sutton Grantham. Shoemaker scored from 2-yards out and cracked the door open, but still down 43-28.
Although Killeen started to see some success on offense, it proved to be too little too late andthe ‘Cats claimed victory against the Gray Wolves to secure Head Coach Kevin Crane’s debut coaching victory, 43-28.
The key to victory tonight was with the Bobcat’s defense. They dominated in every facet of the game. The defensive front clogged up the middle, contained the outside, and kept Shoemaker’s incredibly talented quarterback under wraps all night. However, if there is one complaint, it was the stupid penalties at the end of the game. Late hits and targeting are objective calls by the referee, but they still should not happen. If the score had even been one touchdown closer, the outcome of the game could have changed.
Offensively, Junior quarterback Tyler Hill gets the game ball. In his first start for the Bobcats, he had over 200 yards passing, around 80 yards rushing, and two touchdowns. His most important stat, however, is that he did not turn the ball over. He made good reads down the field, went through his progressions, and delivered on-target passes to his receivers on time. After the game, when asked about his offense, Head Coach Kevin Crane said, “He (Hill) performed well...It takes the whole team to do that. The offensive line protected well; the receivers ran great routes. Overall I’m very proud of our offense.” The offensive line indeed deserves to take a bow tonight for their performance. They faced a huge defensive front and did not allow a sack. The receivers ran clean routes, it showed. The majority of the throws Hill had to make were to wide-open receivers.
The Bobcats (1-0) make the long road trip to El Paso next week, where they take on the Montwood Rams (0-1) on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m. at Socorro ISD stadium.
Watch the post-game interview with San Angelo Central Head Football Coach Kevin Crane: