High school football: Flour Bluff defensive line key in state semifinal run

Quinton Martinez
Corpus Christi Caller Times

Until last week, the most memorable play in Flour Bluff football history was probably Kolton Mims' last-second touchdown pass to William Mendiola to stun Leander and send the Hornets to the regional final in 2012.

But that play may have some company now. Jacob Rose and Dylan Shaw made sure of that.

The two combined for a sack on fourth-and-goal to seal Flour Bluff's first regional championship with a 13-7 win against Veterans Memorial at Hornet Stadium.

The win propelled the Hornets to their first state semifinal, where Flour Bluff (12-2) will take on Katy Paetow at 7 p.m. Friday at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.

The celebration after the sack was so rambunctious that Flour Bluff actually received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but the Hornets gladly gave up field position on the final snap of the game after securing the historic win.

After eight dominant quarters against rival Veterans Memorial in 2021, helping hold the Eagles to 14 combined points in two games, it was fitting the defensive front came up with the clinching play.

"They play off each other," said Flour Bluff defensive coordinator Clynt Elwood. "As we are rolling guys in and out and making our substitutions, they all know they are a part to the puzzle. They are all willing to get on and off the field for each other. Because they have that bond we are able to keep fresh legs in there and they fight really well together."

Much of the Hornets success against Veterans Memorial can be traced back to having enormous pressure in the backfield on Eagles quarterbacks Elijah Durrette and Aiden Hinojosa.

In the first matchup Flour Bluff forced two safeties to break open the game and secure the program's sixth straight playoff appearance with a 39-7 win against the then state-ranked Eagles. A loss would have meant the Hornets would have needed help during an open date in Week 11 to make the postseason.

The Hornets had their backs up against the wall midway through the season after consecutive losses to Victoria East and Gregory-Portland. With the game on the line against Moody, the Hornets put offensive linemen Johnny Dickson and Dylan Shaw in on defense and came up with a fourth-down stop to hold off the Trojans.

With a playoff spot in the balance, Steinbruck and the Hornets coaching staff made Dickson, a Virginia Tech commit, an even bigger part of the defensive game plan in the first game against Veterans Memorial and he delivered.

High school football playoffs:Veterans Memorial vs. Flour Bluff

Veterans Memorial's Aiden Hinojosa is tackled by Flour Bluff, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, at Hornet Stadium. Flour Bluff won, 13-7.

"We didn't want to play Johnny on that side of the ball, but we got to a point where we had to win," Steinbruck said. "That game, we questioned whether Johnny could do it, and he just amazed me how a guy that big (6-foot-3, 282 pounds) can play 150 snaps the other night. It is amazing that he can do it and do it well.

"We tried it when we played Vets six weeks ago, and he did such a good job we let him play a ton of snaps on both sides of the ball. We started doing (it) with Dylan Shaw, another D-I prospect on the offensive line. We're looking for ways to help our team win and those guys have really helped us."

Shaw and Dickson have added to the rotation up front and Elwood said the entire unit's unselfishness and mentality of putting the team first has made it easy to have a steady rotation to keep legs fresh on key downs.

"All of our guys, even though most play predominantly on one side, they are all Hornets before they are linebackers, running backs, offensive linemen," Elwood said. "We work that all year long, where we have our crossover guys come back and forth in case we need it in any game they are ready for it."

Jacob Rose and his twin Daniel join Carlos Riojas, Dickson and Shaw rotating up front for the Hornets. The rotation took a hit when Gabe Varela, the normal starter at defensive tackle for Flour Bluff, was injured in the regional semifinals against Gregory-Portland.

"(The rotation) doesn't just keep us fresh, but it also gets morale up with bigger guys there to help out," senior Jacob Rose said. "It helps the team all around because they are great athletes and they do what they do for the team."

Texas high school football:Flour Bluff grads highlight Hornets coaching staff in run to state semifinals

Flour Bluff's Gabriel Varela tackles Eagle Pass Winn's Hector Saldaña during the playoff game on Friday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. The Hornets defeated the Mavericks 47-7.

The Rose brothers are big bodies in their own right as Jacob is 6-3 and Daniel is 6-5, and when opposing lines also have to contend with Shaw (6-4) and Dickson, the challenge is even more difficult.

"Daniel and Jacob have been in our program since the seventh grade," Steinbruck said. "They bring a great work ethic and attitude in practice every day. They have a great attitude because we are going to rotate guys to keep them fresh. They never question or worry about that and when they are on the field they are trying to do whatever they can to help the football team." 

Jacob Rose, who finished with six tackles and three sacks in the regional final win, said he enjoys getting a "twin tackle" with his brother and that the chemistry is what takes the defensive line to another level.

"We all grew up playing together," Rose said. "We've been playing together for years and we have that team chemistry down to a T and that sets us apart from other teams."

After the coaching staff made the choice to put the game on one play — fourth-and-goal from the 6 — Jacob Rose said the entire defense just had one thought: make a play.

"Just make a play and be the most dominant ones out there," Rose said. "The mentality was just make a play.

"I thought it was amazing. It was just the best feeling in high school you could have — especially to make history for the school — it is the greatest feeling in the world."

Quinton Martinez covers all things sports in South Texas. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe