Through three games, the A&M Consolidated football team has found itself standing atop a pile of solid offensive numbers.
Consol ranks 16th overall in all of Class 5A Division II in total rushing yards (718), averaging 239.3 per game and 5.9 per carry. Senior quarterback Brodie Daniel has yet to be sacked, and the Tigers only have eight rushes for loss.
Those figures represent a Tiger offensive line taking care of business in the trenches.
“It makes the play-calling a lot easier knowing that we can run the ball when we want to run the ball and not get forced into passing the ball on those obvious passing downs when the defense is teeing off on us,” Consol assistant coach Sean Witherwax said. “It really is one of those things that works in our favor.”
Consol built the 2021 version of its line around three-year starters right tackle Rhett Larson and left guard Barton Melder. The pair are the only returning starters on Consol’s offensive line, and they are well versed in the Tigers’ desire to build each Friday night performance from the ground up.
“Running the ball opens up the rest of our offense, so if we can go and establish the running game and we can let Keshun [Thomas] go, it makes everyone’s job easier,” Melder said.
Juniors Cody Clough, Daniel Sill and Preston Vaughan comprise of the rest of the Tigers’ offensive front five. Two of them played backup roles on varsity last season and one moved up after a good season on JV last year.
“They’ve been great,” Witherwax said of the junior trio. “Cody Clough works his butt off every day in practice, gets after it, and he leads by example, and everybody else follows with him. That’s kind of unique with two guys that are three-year starters.”
There’s no motto coined by the Consol offensive line, but Larson and Melder agree what the unit’s mentality is: be some hogs. They also know their bit of glory on the field exists in the success of others.
“I tell them all the time, you’re not going to get much love,” Witherwax said. “They’re not going to talk about you on the PA. They’re not going to talk about you in the newspaper, but you’ve got to do your job, and you’ve got to get after it, and you’re the reason why all the good things happen.”
Keeping the quarterback clean has been a key part of Consol’s offensive success. Daniel also has shown his athleticism at times, scrambling for touchdown passes and runs as he helps out the linemen who are trying so hard to help him.
“Brodie, he’s a great playmaker, so the more we can protect him and the less hits he takes, it lets us look forward to be able to win more games with his ability to run and throw the ball,” Melder said. “You never want the pocket to collapse and him to run, but knowing that if we mess up an assignment or we let a linebacker through, he’s not just a sitting duck, and he can go and make something happen.”
The Tigers made things happen on the ground in the second half of their win over Converse Judson last Friday. Tied at 7 at halftime, Consol controlled the final 24 minutes with a relentless running game to pull away with a 28-14 victory. The Tigers ran it 37 times for 179 yards in the second half with Thomas carrying the ball 24 times for 129 yards. Overall, Consol finished with 244 yards on 56 carries. The team surpassed 250 yards before taking two knees to end the game.
“It was a great feeling, especially to see that we ran for 250,” Larson said. “That’s always a good feeling for the O-line. Keshun did his thing.”
Despite the rushing success in each of their first three games, Witherwax said the Tigers are still working to improve their inside run game.
“It seems like we’ve always been able to get the edge and run our sweeps against pretty much everybody we’ve played, but we’re not physical, physical guys,” Witherwax said. “We’re more finesse guys getting to where we need to be, but we’re taking more of a physical mentality to that and able to run the ball inside.”
But inside or outside, the Tigers know their path to winning starts on the ground.
“We proved to everybody that we can run the ball,” Larson said, “and that’s what we need to keep doing.”
NOTES — The Tigers will close their nondistrict schedule at 7 p.m. Friday as they host Willis for Homecoming at Tigerland Stadium. The Wildkats are 1-2 this season but were competitive in losses to Tomball 40-27 and Huntsville 43-30 before etching their first win of the season last week against Houston Bellaire 50-27. Willis sophomore quarterback Derek Lagway, who was offered a scholarship by Texas A&M this summer, leads the Wildkats in rushing with 248 yards.