Captain Shreve head football coach Richard Lary went into the locker room at Lee Hedges Stadium at halftime Saturday and had a simple request — someone make a play on defense.
Linebacker Corey Thomas was the one who answered the call.
Thomas delivered a momentum-shifting 89-yard interception return for a touchdown with 8:36 to play in the third quarter, setting the tone for Captain Shreve’s 37-12 season-opening victory.
“My defensive linemen yelled, ‘Screen,'” Thomas said. “I looked to my left and saw the receiver coming. I’m coming to the receiver and one of my linemen tipped it and I caught it.”
On a sticky afternoon where Shreve used 11 ballcarriers on offense, Thomas’ run may have been the most impressive.
Once he cradled the ball, Thomas worked his way out of a crowd and up the left sideline for a touchdown that highlighted a 21-point third quarter.
“We may have to move him,” Lary quipped. “Give Green Oaks all the credit. They had us on the ropes. They had us going down there about to take the lead. I challenged them at halftime, who’s going to be the leader of this football team? Corey and that whole bunch of defensive guys stepped up.”
The Shreve defense did a better job this season in limiting Green Oaks’ do-it-all quarterback Tre’Davious White last season. The Gators (1-0) limited White to 54 rushing yards on 17 carries while allowing him to throw for 172 yards.
White had a hand in each of Green Oaks’ touchdowns — a 4-yard first-quarter run and a 25-yard pass to Andrew Shaw that put the Giants up 12-9 at the half.
“I give the credit to coach (Bryan) Sepulvado and those guys on defense,” Lary said. “They practice that all week. When he scrambled, running to him and cutting down green grass. They did a great job of limiting the big play from the quarterback.”
Playing both ways took a toll on White, who fought leg cramps in the second half.
Shreve’s stable of running backs also began to wear down the Giants (0-1), whose best second-half scoring threat came to an end when Thomas took the tipped pass and rumbled down the field.
“The heat had a little more of an impact than I think it would have had it been at night,” first-year Giants head coach Spencer Heard said. “We can’t blame it on that. They got a big play early in the third quarter and we didn’t respond. We should have responded. We have to learn to stay mentally tough and overcome adversity.”
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.