History has not been kind to first-year football coaches at Strayhorn, but that didn’t seem to matter to Jim Tom Copeland on September 18.
Despite a second-half rally from the opposing Ashland Blue Devils, Copeland’s Mustangs used a dominant first half performance to secure his first career coaching victory in a 36-24 triumph.
Copeland’s win was also significant for the fact that he earned his first win quicker than any other first year football coach in Strayhorn’s program history, as the Mustangs improved to 1-2 on the season.
Strayhorn got on the board quickly in the opening quarter as senior Jalen Skipper scored off a four-play, 50-yard drive on the opening possession of the contest. His short carry into the end zone gave the Mustangs a 6-0 advantage with 10:33 left in the first quarter.
After Ashland came up empty on its first possession, Lamarion Tolbert got the Mustangs into the end zone once again on another short carry to the right side. Drew Dunlap followed with a successful two-point conversion attempt to make it a 14-0 lead for Strayhorn.
Ashland would turn the ball over on its next possession, gifting the Mustangs good field position at the 25-yard line as the first quarter drew to a close. Less than a minute into the second, Skipper scored from three yards out and Dunlap followed with another two-point conversion, pushing the lead to 22-0.
With just over nine minutes left in the first half, Skipper took advantage of another Ashland miscue, returning an interception 54 yards the other way for a Strayhorn touchdown and extending the lead to 30-0.
Skipper’s big night hit an emphatic conclusion with 3:56 remaining in the first half, as the senior speedster took a carry 78 yards down the Ashland sideline for what would be the Mustangs’ final touchdown and a 36-0 halftime lead.
Though it was clear the Mustangs could have racked up more points in the second half, Strayhorn opted to hit the brakes and allow its underclassmen to earn some valuable playing time instead. The Blue Devils took full advantage of this and scored three second half touchdowns with successful two-point conversions.
Despite the added boost for the Blue Devils in the second half, the victory was never in doubt for Copeland’s club. Skipper exploded for 127 yards on the ground, followed by 63 from Tolbert. Dunlap and Jovan Balderrama combined for three tackles apiece to lead the Mustangs’ defense.
Dunlap, T.J. Dickerson and Hayden Allsup also finished with three sacks, with Dickerson also earning a fumble recovery.