KATY — In a Week 2 53-43 win at Clear Springs, Tompkins showed it can win a game on its offensive skill. On Saturday, however, the Falcons got back to who they are, a physical, playmaking defensive-minded team.
Tompkins took down Klein Collins, 28-13, at Legacy Stadium behind three takeaways in the second half, all interceptions. The final pick, a Tyler Collins 31-yard return with 23 seconds left, sealed what had been a nail-biter of a game in the closing minutes.
"Our eyes weren't great last week (against Clear Springs) and we weren't playing for each other," said Collins, a senior. "(Friday), we had a defensive group meeting about having each other's back and playing as one. That's what we did."
Tompkins (3-0) has nine takeaways, all interceptions, through the first three games of the season. The defense has complemented a methodical, run-oriented, opportunistic offense engineered by senior quarterback Cole Francis and a deep running back corps that includes senior Collin Marshall, and sophomores Caleb Blocker and Wyatt Young.
"It's amazing when you've got a defense that's always got your back," said Francis, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and rushed for 37 yards on six carries. "We know we still have to go execute, but it's great having that safety net of having our brothers there for us."
The Falcons led 14-6 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Klein Collins threatened with a drive to the Tompkins 21-yard line before senior linebacker Bryce Shaink intercepted sophomore Tucker Parks for the Falcons' first takeaway.
Nice athletic play by a 6'2, 225 pound LB. Bryce Shaink is a DUDE! pic.twitter.com/D4odpGyWCo— Kalief Muhammad (@CoachKaliefM) September 12, 2021
"We got pressure by the D-line and that always helps the secondary," Shaink said. "We just capitalized on it. Big plays come from doing your job, and that's what we do."
After Tompkins punted on the ensuing drive, senior linebacker Caden Welsh intercepted Parks again for the second consecutive series. Blocker made it pay off at the other end, scoring on a four-yard run for a 21-6 lead less than four minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers finally got in the end zone for their first offensive touchdown of the night on Michael Wilson's two-yard run with 3:10 left, cutting their deficit to 21-13 for a one-score game. After a Tompkins turnover on downs in Tigers territory, though, Collins picked off Parks on the first play from scrimmage of the final drive to end matters.
.@othsfalconfb senior DB Tyler Collins discusses his 31-yard pick 6 that sealed the Falcons’ 28-13 win over Klein Collins tonight. It was one of three takeaways for Tompkins. #txhsfb @OTHSABClub pic.twitter.com/WcwdZ7HnL4— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) September 12, 2021
"Credit to our defensive staff," coach Todd McVey said. "(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Eric) Robinson and our coaches do a great job making adjustments at halftime. We slowed things down. I attribute that to just our coaches doing a great job making adjustments and our kids applying what they learned."
The early part of the season is a two-way process, McVey said. Players are learning how to play with each other, while coaches are learning how to use players and where best to fit them.
That is especially true for the Falcons' defense this year. Last season, the secondary was the rock of the unit. This season, the defensive front, led by senior linemen Eti-ini Bassey and Sean DuBose Jr., makes things go.
"The message (after the Clear Springs game) was to continue to work getting better at tackling," McVey said. "Getting our eyes right, getting signals, making sure we're communicating across the board so that everybody is on the same page. I feel like we did a better job of that."
It is the second game that the defense has starred this season. The Falcons shut down Magnolia, 18-6, in the season-opener.
"It was all about effort," Shaink said. "As you can see, everybody was flying to the ball tonight, and that says a lot of things. When they line up every play and see us coming for them, they're not going to want to do it again. I think there's something to be said about that."
>> BEST IN THE STATE: Francis believes the Tompkins' defense is the best in Texas, which gives his offense an edge every week. "There's not a single look that we're not prepared for, because of the work that defense puts in going against us in practice every day," Francis said. "We're going against people every day that are better than anyone we'll play." The Falcons have allowed seven offensive touchdowns this season, five coming in the Clear Springs game.
>> E+R=O: The game started inauspiciously for Tompkins, with a Francis pick-6 on the first play from scrimmage sandwiched by a pair of special teams blunders in the kick return game. But on the first play from scrimmage immediately following junior Asa Brown's 13-yard interception return, Francis found junior Matthew Ogunrin on a 99-yard scoring catch to put Tompkins ahead to stay. "A big thing for us is 'E plus R equals O.' The event plus the response is the outcome," Francis said. "The event was a pick-6, the response was to flush it and move on. Obviously, the next drive we threw a touchdown deep ball on the first play. It's about keep moving forward."
>> STANDOUT SOPHS: Blocker led the Falcons with 60 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and Young had five catches for 49 yards and a touchdown and six carries for 18 yards. Klein Collins also had a pair of talented sophomores in Parks and Wilson. Despite the three interceptions, Parks rushed for a team-best 84 yards on 10 carries and completed 13 of 23 passes for 111 yards. Wilson had 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.