While it wasn’t always perfect Thursday, Dripping Springs Tigers senior running back Jake Cox didn’t understate the significance of the team’s 37-30 win over the McCallum Knights.
After all, notching a win under the Thursday or Friday night lights is not guaranteed these days.
But Cox understood more work must be done if the Tigers wish to keep dreams of a third-straight district title alive. It will be put to the test Friday when they host Austin LBJ in what could amount to the defacto 12-5A, Division I title game.
“We have a lot to work on for our biggest game of the season so far,” Cox said. “I think we’re going to come a long way from this week.”
Dripping Springs (5-1, 2-0) overcame inconsistent play en route to securing a hard-fought win over McCallum. That included fending off a furious McCallum rally orchestrated during the final quarter of play.
Tigers head coach Galen Zimmerman credited the Knights and felt if you gave them “a little bit, they’re going to make plays and they’re going to take it.” Zimmerman said he’d like to see his team play a “little bit more cleaner” coming off their bye week.
Dripping Springs relied heavily on an aggressive ground game that racked up 306 of the team’s 413 total yards on the night. Leading the way was quarterback Tanner Prewit, who led the team with 122 yards rushing on 13 carries with a touchdown, followed by Cox, who had 118 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.
Cox said the Tigers focused more on its rushing attack after early passing troubles in the first half. Dripping Springs trailed 7-6 after the first quarter, and were down 14-13 midway through the second frame.
By utilizing its ground game, Cox said the Tigers were able to chip away little by little at a speedy McCallum defense.
Dripping Springs held a 16-14 lead at intermission via a field goal from kicker Coleman Chapman, who finished the game 3-for-3.
The Tigers carried that momentum to start the second half by scoring 14 unanswered points to take a 30-14 advantage heading into the third quarter.
Zimmerman said getting Cox the ball was a key component in the team’s second half game plan.
“He’s (Cox) a tough runner and he’s a physical runner. We wanted to make sure we got him the ball. The better the run game, the better everything is,” Zimmerman said. “Getting him involved is a huge part of what we do.”
McCallum, however, turned to quarterback Cole Davis and running back Deron Gage to get them back into the contest. The duo helped McCallum tally 13 unanswered fourth quarter points, which cut the Tiger lead to 30-27. Davis went 17 for 28 for 157 yards and three scores, while Gage rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers turned to Prewit who put the game away with a 51-yard touchdown run to keep McCallum out of reach.
But Zimmerman said tackling issues would need to be rectified as the season moves along. Avoiding giving up the big play is also something the Tigers will need to work on as well.
“We’ve got to do a better job of wrapping up and hanging on and rallying to the ball,” Zimmerman said. “We’re going to watch film and we’re going to do better.”
While the win wasn’t their best, Cox said he envisions the team improving as they take on LBJ.
“We didn’t come out with our best tonight, but I think it’s good we didn’t let that get us down, and we didn’t lose sight of the goal of being 1-0 this week,” Cox said.