BLANKET — The May Tigers’ comfortable 16-point halftime advantage was quickly trimmed to two just over four minutes into the second half, but head coach Craig Steele’s squad responded with 36 unanswered points to run away from the Blanket Tigers for a 66-28 victory Thursday night.
The win was the third straight for May (3-1), which overcame three turnovers by amassing 554 yards of total offense — 346 rushing and 208 passing.
“It wasn’t our best game and that’s okay,” said Steele, who is looking to guide May back to the playoffs for the third year in a row. “We want to be playing our best ball in November and hopefully we just keep improving. But we did have way too many turnovers. We need to cut back on the turnovers.”
Blanket — which generated 211 yards of total offense and coughed the ball up twice — turned a pair of May fumbles on its first two possessions of the second half into touchdowns to close to within 30-28, but head coach Tyler Tabor’s squad was unable to hang on to the momentum.
“We came out in the second half and got some breaks and turnovers and punched it in,” said Tabor, whose team dipped to 1-3 with its second straight setback. “We did have some momentum, but this was a good football team we were playing with a lot of experience and they didn’t fold at all. They came back strong and made some big plays that turned the tide right back their way. The momentum shift didn’t last long.”
Ethan Jaggars rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, completed 5 of 11 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kick 40 yards for six points to spark the May effort.
Justin Howard chipped in 115 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while Dylan Starnes caught four passes for 88 yards with three trips to the end zone. Dakota Chambers also contributed 67 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with two catches for 55 yards, while Jared Howard was 4 of 7 through the air for 49 yards with a scoring toss.
Also making receptions for May were Kelton Mote (19 yards), David Woods (13 yards), Matthew Kunkel (11 yards), Justin Howard (10 yards) and Brant Harris (10 yards).
Blanket was sparked by the play of Rafael Marquez, who rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, Blanket racked up 144 yards on the ground as Kenan Vanecek chipped in 12 yards and Michael Cox added 10.
Through the air, Tyler Martinez connected on 7 of 19 passes for 67 yards with a pair of interceptions. Kaeden Chasteen caught a team-high two passes for 22 yards, while Wesley Musick hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive. Aaron Martinez (11 yards), Marquez (8 yards), Caleb Wigham (7 yards) and Jaime Mares (7 yards) also caught passes.
Leading 30-14 at halftime, May appeared to extend its lead to 22 points when Chambers returned the opening kick of the second half 80 yards for a touchdown. May, however, was flagged for holding on the play.
May then began its first drive of the second half at its own 12 and fumbled the initial snap of the quarter, which Chasteen scooped up for Blanket and returned to the 3. Two plays later, Marquez found the end zone and Blanket had trimmed the deficit to 30-22 following a Mares kick at the 9:07 mark.
The next May drive began at its own 20 and advanced to the Blanket 36 where the ball was jarred loose from Jaggars following a 6-yard gain and recovered by the home team.
Three plays after the turnover, Marquez broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run — Blanket’s longest play of the night — as May’s lead quickly dwindled to 30-28 with 5:37 left in the third period.
May began to swing the momentum back in its favor with a nine-play, 74-yard march that ended with a 10-yard scoring toss from Jared Howard to Starnes. The key play of the drive was Traveler Roberson converting a third-and-1 run at the May 20 with Blanket still firmly in charge of the momentum after a penalty on the kickoff pinned the visitors on their own 6.
Trailing 36-28 with one minute left in the third period, Blanket went three-and-out on its next possession and punted — one of seven punts forced by the May defense.
May needed just one play to find the end zone again as Jaggars hooked up with Starnes on a 39-yard catch and run as the lead grew to 44-28 following a Justin Howard kick with 30 seconds left in the period.
Again Blanket gave away the ball in four plays on the next drive, and May moved 78 yards in seven plays with a Justin Howard 22-yard touchdown carry increasing the lead to 50-28 with 6:04 remaining.
Jaggars tacked on a 47-yard touchdown run and Chambers scored on an 13-yard jaunt to round out the scoring for May, which visits Gustine next week.
“The start of the second half was not how we wanted things to go, but it was good to face that kind of adversity and fight back from it,” Steele said.
Blanket, meanwhile, will try and snap its two-game skid next week at Blackwell.
“We fought hard and we’re getting better,” Tabor said. “We’re gradually getting to the level where we can play with quality football teams for a longer period. We have to keep conditioning, pushing and getting better, but we’re going to get there by the end of the season.”