STORY BY LARRY BOWEN
CONROE — Forget about A&M Consolidated’s football team getting off to a slow start coming off a loss to its crosstown rival. The Tigers couldn’t have started faster against Conroe Caney Creek without approaching the speed of sound.
Consol lowered the boom on the returning-to-earth Panthers, rolling to an easy 41-0 victory in a District 18-5A game at Moorhead Stadium on Friday night.
The Tigers (3-4, 3-1) moved past Caney Creek (3-4, 2-2) into sole possession of third place in the district standings. Consol showed no signs of fallout from its 56-44 loss to Bryan last week, scoring on two of its first three offensive plays and on each of its first five possessions in a feel-good win.
“I wanted them to totally dominate the football game in all three phases, and we did in the first half,” Consol coach David Raffield said. “I’m really proud of the way the kids did respond to our demands this week. We demand a day-to-day work ethic, to get better each time we’re out there. It didn’t work for us last week, but we came out and followed that same process and tonight was a great win for the program.”
Sandwiched between the loss against Bryan and next week’s battle against school district rival College Station, the game at Caney Creek could have developed into a sloppy affair. Instead, the Tigers appeared sharp and polished on the way to a 34-0 halftime lead.
Consol’s first five touchdowns were the product of a quick-strike offense that got plenty of help from special teams and defense. The primary beneficiary of the assistance was junior running back Tyri Merchant, who scored the first four touchdowns on just six touches of the football.
Merchant zipped 31 yards for a touchdown on Consol’s opening possession. He added a 13-yard scoring run a couple of minutes later, capitalizing on the play after Tyon Merchant blocked a Caney Creek punt.
Special teams delivered again when the Tigers appeared to be stopped on their next possession. Punter Daniel Zivney saw the right side wide open and raced 30 yards, setting up a 26-yard touchdown on a swing pass from Mason Hickson to Tyri Merchant.
Consol’s defense joined the party as senior lineman CJ Bridges recovered a fumble. Hickson hit David Gan for a 48-yard gain on the next play, then Merchant added a 3-yard scoring run.
Four plays into the second quarter, the Tigers led 27-0.
Merchant finished with 109 yards on nine carries, only two coming in the second half and both of those on the opening possession to allow reserve quarterback Dayden Lane a chance to settle into the game. It was Merchant’s second consecutive game with four touchdowns: He ran for 280 yards against Bryan.
“He’s playing really good football right now,” Raffield said. “He’s really coming into his own as an elite running back.”
The Panthers got into Consol territory on three consecutive possessions in the first half. The third ended when Tiger linebacker Derek Henicke stopped Zach Biles on fourth down. On the next play, Hickson hooked up with Derrick Dick for a 52-yard touchdown pass.
Consol’s oft-criticized defense smothered the Panthers. Caney Creek gained a total of 188 yards on 59 plays even though the Tigers substituted often. Consol got 15 tackles behind the line, including two apiece by sophomore linebacker Abel Daily and senior end James Hodges.
The Tigers used nine different ballcarriers in the second half, including burly senior offensive linemen Daniel Fojtik and Jorge Contreras.
Consol’s final touchdown came late in the third quarter when Lane threw a 17-yard score to freshman receiver Cade Williams.
Story courtesy of the B/CS Eagle