Look up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the Corsicana Tigers ...
If you haven’t seen Hal Wasson’s new Tiger football team, get ready to look upward.
That’s where these Tigers like to play — right up there in the clouds, where suddenly the Corsicana kids can throw and catch the ball with anyone.
At least that’s the way it looked last week in the season opener in Burleson, where young Solomon James got his first taste of high school football and his first chance to run Wasson’s hit ‘em high offense that spreads the ball and goes deep.
That’s what many will get a their first look at Friday when the Tigers face Saginaw Boswell in their home opener at Tiger Stadium, where both teams will probably throw the ball all night.
Boswell’s QB Brayden Thomas is a four-year starter who loves to throw. He threw for 288 yards last week, completing 21 of 34 passes and a couple of touchdowns in a loss to Wichita Falls Rider.
James, who is just a sophomore, had a breakout debut, throwing for 396 yards and three touchdowns in an offense that thrives on moving the ball downfield in a hurry. He completed 18-of-29 passes, and threw for 249 yards in the second half alone in a tough 34-21 loss to No. 13 Burleson Centennial.
Three receivers emerged as Lane Fuentes had eight receptions for 167 yards, including a 19-yard TD, and Drew Denbow had two catches, including a one-handed grab, for 68 yards and a 44-yard TD. Qua Chambers, who didn't play a year ago, made five receptions for 113 yards, including a beauty that went for a 35-yard TD.
“That quarterback can play,” said Boswell coach John Abendschan of James after watching the Tigers on tape all week. “He's so quick. He's a special kid. You can see that already. And Fuentes is the straw that stirs the drink. He's electric. We've been watching him (on tape) and trying to find a way to stop him all week.
“Denbow is a big Hunk-Yaw. He's big and strong and he can make big plays, and Chambers is very talented,” he said. They're a real talented team, very athletic. They're scary.”
Abendschan believes it could be a high-scoring shootout Friday night. He knows he has an experienced and talented leader in Thomas.
“I'm blessed to be able to coach him,” he said. “ Brayden is a special kid. He came back from shoulder surgery last year. He never quit. We've got a really good group of guys returning.”
The Pioneers, a 5A DI team, bring back 15 starters from a team that reached the playoffs a year ago.
That team lost to the Tigers in a wild back-and-forth game that had a long delay on a night most games in this part of the state wee washed out by rain storms. The Tigers had to come back twice to win 26-21 on Da'Jioun Nathan's TD run with 1:36 left in the game. Darious Coleman, who had a 95-yard interception return for a TD early, followed Nathan's winning TD run by picking off his second pass of the night to end the night for the Pioneers.
Nathan and almost all of the Tigers offense graduated and Coleman and the entire secondary graduated last spring, leaving some gaping holes to fill. They were more than obvious in the opener in Burleson, where the Tigers had trouble running the ball and too much youth in the secondary.
Wasson's ready to change his roster as quickly as calling an audible at the line of scrimmage and isn't afraid to put new faces in the lineup this week.
“There are going to be some changes,” said Wasson, who was disappointed in the running game, which was almost non-existent, and with his special teams. “We have worked really hard in practice this week. We've got a long way to go. We didn't make tackles and we didn't block in our kicking game, and we had a blocked PAT. We've got to be much better, and we will be.
“We're not just going to sit on our hands. One of our goals is to be results oriented. If you're given the opportunity and you're not results oriented there will be guys pushing you. Competition does two things: It will make you better or you will surrender to it.”
Wasson knows he can't win without a running game, and emphasized that the Tigers have to block better and run the ball. And he knows his team can't win games if they turn the ball over five times.
“Our running game has got to get better, and we've got to protect the football and we've got to be a lot better in our kicking game,” he said. “We did a good job of seizing momentum, but as soon as we got it we had a letdown in our kicking game. We've got to seize momentum and then sustain momentum. We weren't able to sustain momentum.”
He has known from Day 1 that it will be a long road to where he wants to take this team.
“I tell them every day that when you are getting out of the baby crib that you've got to crawl before you can walk and then jog before you can run,” he said. “We've got to get the right mindset and that's a work in progress.”
The Tigers have this game to prepare for the District 8-5A race that starts next Friday in Greenville. Both of their pre-district games are tests against playoff teams, and that should help accelerate the progress of Wasson's young team.
“With the teams I've had in the past I've seen the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and from Week 2 to Week 3,” Wasson said. “And we saw a lot of progress this week in practice. I saw a sense of urgency in practice and we need that.
“I know this was a close game against them (Boswell) last year, and they've got a real good, experienced quarterback and they're bringing back eight starters on offense and seven on defense.
“That's a good team, and we've got to come into this game hungry and ready to be a lot better.
“It's a big game,” he said. “It's the biggest game of the year because it's the next game.”
Boswell at Corsicana..............................7:30
Italy at Mildred...................................... 7:30
Kerens at Blooming Grove.......................7:30
Rio Vista at Rice.....................................7:30
Bartlett at Dawson.................................7:30
Frost at Granger.....................................7:30
Hubbard at Itasca...................................7:30