FORT STOCKTON — The Big Spring Steers stunned a lot of people Friday with a 49-0 shellacking of the Fort Stockton Panthers. The big victory snapped a 12-game losing streak for BSHS and doubtless instilled confidence in Head Coach Phillip Ritchey and his squad.
Tobyn Tannehill, the sophomore sibling of the Miami Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill, went 11-of-14 passing and racked up 239 yards as well as rushed for 36 yards in his first varsity start.
The first seven Steer possessions were all driven down the field for touchdowns — all with Tannehill at the helm.
“I surprised myself,” Tannehill said after the performance. “I wasn't sure how I would do at the varsity level.”
WR Devin Roberson was Tannehill's prime target, as he picked up 149 receiving yards and carried the ball twice for 25 yards on the ground, accounting for three TDs as well as kicked all seven extra points for the Steers. RB Michael Oliva recorded 111 yards on 11 carries and found his way into the end zone twice.
The Steer defense stymied the Panthers throughout the evening, earning the shutout. The offensive line effectively cordoned Tannehill off, giving him time to make smart plays.
“The offensive line was great,” Tannehill added. “They have been working hard everyday.”
On the first Big Spring possession of the game, Oliva scored a touchdown on a 39-yard carry.
It would set the tone for the evening, as Tannehill and company made it look easy — a departure from last year's anemic offense, which totaled less than 1700 yards the entire 2011 season.
Following Oliva was Roberson, who ran in a 10-yard touchdown to give the Steers an early 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Ty'Ral Menefield brought home a 63-yard pass from Tannehill in the second quarter to increase the Steers' lead to 21. Ryan Pollard scored on a one-yard pass. Oliva contributed with an 11-yard run for a touchdown and Roberson breached the plane for his second time of the evening after a 33-yard reception, giving Big Spring a dominating, 42 point lead headed into halftime.
The Tannehill/Roberson tandem connected again early in the third quarter after a 22-yard pass increased the Steers lead to 49-0 before Ritchey began using backup Tate Kennedy at the QB position and Jahari Vanover as a running back.
The Steers wouldn't score again, but it prevented starters from being unnecessarily injured and others on the roster picked up valuable experience.
Ritchey was pleased to see the past — most notably, last year's 0-10 season — get buried with his team's breakout performance.
“It's been way too long coming,” Ritchey said after the win. “I am just happy for the kids. It has been extremely hard to overcome last year. We wanted to start the turnaround with Fort Stockton — they beat us last year, so it was a big game for us and I am proud of the way we played tonight. We wanted to come out here and get started right.”
Ritchey also acknowledged Tannehill's commanding performance as a major contribution the much-needed victory.
“(Tannehill) met and exceeded expectations,” Ritchey added. “I think he only made one bad pass and he came to me and talked to me about it.
Anytime you have a quarterback who admits his mistakes, that's a good thing. He showed a lot of maturity. There is no question he has big future in football. The sky is the limit.”
Ritchey also credited the defense, which as expected, was strong thanks to numerous returning players with varsity experience.
“They played the way we thought they would,” Ritchey said. “We are going to have ups and downs. It's a tough district. We won't always score on seven-of-seven possessions. There will be games when they have to carry us.”
Big Spring is now 1-0 on the season and it appears the albatross has been lifted off of Ritchey's shoulders.
The Steers will face Midland Christian next at Memorial Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Midland Christian could prove to be an even bigger test of Big Spring's mettle, as the Mustangs took home a state title last year.