KATY — Tompkins sophomore running back Caleb Blocker is a longtime admirer of former Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch.
"He's always been an inspiration," Blocker said. "Ever since I was a kid, I always watched him. I always wanted to be like him. I love that 'Beast Mode' factor."
On Friday, in the Falcons' 32-28 district-opening win over Cinco Ranch at Rhodes Stadium, the precocious Blocker was a beast in his own right, bringing back memories of Lynch with his punishing, physical style of downhill running to compile a season-best 127 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder kept his legs churning all night long as Tompkins (5-0, 1-0 19-6A) rode him to victory in initiating defense of its district title.
Blocker leads the Falcons in rushing this season with 293 yards and six touchdowns.
"He's worked extremely hard, and the offensive coaches have done a good job developing him," Tompkins coach Todd McVey said. "He's growing and getting better as a back. It's a little faster game than when he was a freshman, as he's figuring out. I'm real proud of his effort. He runs hard, he runs low, and we just want that to continue."
Blocker said reading blocks and trusting a formidable offensive line of left tackle Ashton Frank, left guard Ethan Vazquez, center Dylan Erwin, right guard Pedro Da Silva and right tackle Tyler Lynch have been essential to his rapid rise.
"I was just trusting my O-line to block their man every time," Blocker said. "Every single time I saw a hole or a crease, I just tried to hit it as fast as I could and keep moving my feet."
With Cinco Ranch (3-2, 0-1), off to its best start in four years, having no answers for Tompkins' prowess at the line of scrimmage, the Falcons took advantage.
If senior quarterback Cole Francis wasn't handing off to Blocker for 5.8 yards per carry, then he was efficiently completing 12 of 19 passes to four different receivers or keeping the ball himself for 46 yards on 10 carries in the Falcons' read-option.
"They never know what's going to come," Francis said. "We can run every single play in our playbook. Whether it's a downhill run or outside run, teams never know what's going to come."
The Cougars led 14-10 before the Falcons scored 18 unanswered points to take a 32-14 lead with 4:12 left in the third quarter. Senior receiver Joshua McMillan hauled in a 22-yard pass from Francis, one of Francis' two touchdown passes; Mario Garcia drilled a 31-yard field goal; and Blocker scored twice in a span of a little more than two minutes.
Cinco Ranch made it interesting, however, thanks to a potent passing game. Junior quarterback Gavin Rutherford found junior Fischer Reed on a 32-yard scoring dart. From there, the game hit a relatively tense stall before Rutherford found Jack McCall on a 23-yard catch for a score as time expired.
Though Tompkins got into the Cinco Ranch offensive backfield early and often for six sacks, Rutherford found substantial success against a dynamic Tompkins playmaking secondary, completing 16 of 24 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, completing passes to six different receivers, and not turning the ball over.
"We had to respond to a lot of adversity," McVey said. "Give Cinco Ranch a lot of credit. They came out and played very hard with great energy. They were 3-1 for a reason.
"Coming into district play, we know we're going to get everybody's best, and they gave us theirs. We're fortunate to be 1-0 in district."
>> INTIMIDATING: Tompkins' defense overwhelmed Cinco Ranch up front, led by seniors Sean DuBose Jr. and Eti-ini Bassey, and sophomore Eduwa Okundaye. Cinco Ranch hardly ever had a clean pocket and managed a measly 23 rushing yards on 24 carries. "We were just getting after it," DuBose said. "We go up against a great O-line every day in practice, and that prepares us. We had to come out with a strong game and keep up that intimidation factor of our team. We have to make every team fear our name. We want to prove we're the strongest and hardest-working team out there."
>> ELECTRIFYING: The most exciting and dynamic play of the game? Credit Cinco Ranch junior Yetziel Perez Gilbes, who had a brilliant 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 6:57 left in the second quarter. It was the first kickoff returned for a touchdown for any District 19-6A team this season.
>> UP NEXT? KATY: Up next for Tompkins is a highly anticipated showdown with Katy (5-0, 1-0) at Legacy Stadium on Oct. 1. Last season, the Falcons snapped the Tigers' 12-year stranglehold on the district title with a 24-19 win en route to earning their first district championship. "Have a great week of practice and just focus on our stuff," Francis said. "We've got to worry more about what we're doing than what they're doing. Do what we do, preach what we preach, and keep going."
.@othsfalconfb senior QB @colefrancis04 talks about the Falcons’ 32-28 win over Cinco Ranch tonight to start up district play. Francis completed 12 of 19 passes for 217 yards and two TDs while rushing for 46 yards. #txhsfb @OTHSABClub @texashsfootball pic.twitter.com/kPXpEvvJdG— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) September 24, 2021