After a disappointing showing against Hillsboro in Week 2, Cape Central climbed back aboard the winning train in Week 3, as the Tigers were able to go into hostel territory in Poplar Bluff and defeat the Mules Friday 14-7.
Behind the speedy legs of Sophomore running back Zai’Aire Thomas, who was nearly shutout by Hillsboro the week prior, they managed to prevail and get back over the .500 mark for the season. Thomas accounted for both touchdowns for Cape Central.
Things were decidedly tame in the first half though from an offensive perspective, as neither team was able to find the end zone, or even the uprights. Credit to both defenses for keeping things fully in check and holding the scoreless draw through the first 24 minutes of play.
The second half would create some headline fodder though, as Tigers quarterback Morgan Diamond found Thomas at the start of the third quarter on a screen pass that he would take 32 yards to the end zone and give Cape Central a lead 7-0 after a successful TJ Mackins PAT.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Thomas would take a handoff from Diamond, and the Poplar Bluff defense seemed to lose sight of the 5-ft-2 inch running back. Thomas squeezed through a hole that a mouse would hardly fit through and rumbled his way to the end zone to score from 25-yards out to give Cape Central a 14-0 lead after Mackins’ extra point.
The Tiger’s defense remained stout and steadfast until the latter part of the final quarter when Poplar Bluff quarterback Jay Edmundson found receiver Romeoh Wontor down the sideline from 44-yards out that cut the Cape Central lead in half to 14-7.
And to add to the drama, the Tigers offense failed to pick up a first down on the very next series, and the Mules’ offense found themselves right back on the field with momentum on their side.
Following a 43-yard pass completion by Edmundson to wide receiver Jeridon Young, the Cape Central defense would thwart any chance at a potential comeback, as Tiger defensive back Raymond Jackson batted down a pass in the end zone to give Cape Central the heart-pounding win.
“It was definitely a defensive game,” Tigers head coach Kent Gibbs said after the win. “I felt at times in the first half we moved the ball really well but just didn’t finish what we started. We missed a field goal and on another red-zone opportunity at the end of the first half felt we should’ve been up at least 10-0 but the inability to score in those times had me concerned.”
Thomas led the Cape Central offense, scoring both touchdowns and recording 118 yards on the ground on 19 carries. Freshman Keyshawn Boyd spelled Thomas some at running back and carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards.
Diamond completed seven of eight pass attempts for 82 yards and a touchdown and Thomas led in receiving with three receptions for 68 yards and added a touchdown.
“You have to give Poplar Bluff credit,” Gibbs said. “I thought they showed great poise and determination and execution and never gave up in their comeback attempt. But on the other end, our defense stepped up and made a great play in the endzone to seal the win.”
“We have to play much better offensively next Friday against a very good Park Hills (Central) team if we want to make it two wins in a row,” Gibbs said about the undefeated Rebels. “They’re playing some really good football and we must match their intensity.”
The Tigers (2-1) host Park Hills Central (3-0) at Tiger Stadium next Friday at 7 p.m. at Cape Central High School.