You know, 27 years is a long time to wait for anything. But the Stadium Tigers, wearing new uniforms and playing with a new attitude on a brand new field in the Stadium Bowl, were happy to end yet another infamous streak, as they rolled over the Wilson Rams by a score of 34-10 to kickoff the 2010 season for both teams last week at the renovated Stadium Bowl.
The victory ended the Tigers' 26-game losing streak against Wilson that stretched back to the 1983 season.
The Rams kept the game close in the first half, but in the second half the Tigers threw off the memories of years past and claimed their victory with a dominating performance.
There was lots of credit to go around.
"Our outside linebackers did a better job of containing (quarterback) Tre James in the second half, and our offensive line took over the game in the third quarter. That was the difference," said fourth-year Stadium coach Jess Nelson. It had been more than a decade since Stadium had won an opening game.
Wilson wasted little time on their first possession, when quarterback Tre James took off down the left sideline for 49 yards and a touchdown with 10:19 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. It would be the only time Wilson would find the end zone all night.
"We allowed them back in the game by committing too many penalties and turning the ball over several times, you can't do that against a good team like Stadium," said veteran Wilson coach Don Clegg, in his 23rd year.
The Tigers answered in a hurry when Kendall McNeil found a seam in the defense, scooted to daylight and sped down the right sideline for a touchdown from 56 yards out with 8:33 to go in the first to tie it at 7.
Wilson's last points and their final lead came on Mason Portalski's 34-yard field goal with 2:08 to go in the first half, putting the Rams ahead 10-7 at the half.
The big turning point in the game came early in the third quarter, when Stadium's Kendall McNeil went down with some bad cramps and would have to sit out the rest of the game. Enter junior running back John Collins.
" John did an excellent job tonight, I was proud of his effort," Nelson said.
Collins ran for 94 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. In the meantime, the Stadium defense took over the line of scrimmage in the second half, pressuring quarterback James, holding him to minus-four yards rushing in the final 24 minutes.
Stadium took the lead for good early in the third quarter when junior quarterback Tyler Stumph hit J.P. Falk with an 86-yard touchdown strike to put the Tigers ahead 14-10.
"Our offensive line was great all night. We've been focused all summer on this season."
"Our kids are starting to believe in winning both physically and emotionally. They had a tremendous work ethic during the summer," Nelson said.
"The more they win, the more that their confidence level goes up."
"There's a sense of change in the air," said Collins, of his big buddies up front and of the team in general.
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