The Matadors had been waiting for this.
For the last three weeks, starting quarterback Jhalen Mickles was on the sidelines, nursing a hamstring injury.
Friday night at Matador Stadium, Mickles made a glorious return — and it couldn’t have gone any better.
Mickles accounted for five touchdowns in the first half, three passing and two rushing, in leading Seguin to a dominating win over Austin Crockett, 50-0.
The win put Seguin at the top of District 12-5A with a 2-0 mark (2-3 overall), tied for the district lead with Dripping Springs and LBJ.
Mickles was one excited quarterback after the game.
“It feels great, I’m just happy to be back out here with my team,” the Seguin signal caller said. “I had a long recovery, so I’m just happy to be out here again.
“The hamstring is getting better, it felt good all night.”
Mickles threw the ball like he hadn’t missed a play all year, going 12-of-18 in the first half (with three dropped balls), throwing for 234 yards with several long completions down the field.
“It’s all I’ve been practicing on all week long, all summer,” Mickles said, “Just working on my throws and getting the ball out quick.”
Head coach Travis Bush was thankful to have his starting QB back on the field.
“You saw him, it was good,” Bush said. “He made some big time plays. It’s good to see him get back and get in a rhythm, he did a heck of a job for us.
“We’re glad he’s back and stayed healthy through the game — I’m proud of the way he played.”
It started early, after the Matador defense forced a punt on the Cougars first possession, and Seguin’s Dillion Gutierrez set the offense up with a big return to Crockett’s 18-yard-line.
Two plays later, Mickles hit Clark Ullrich with a throw in the flat from the 12-yard-line, Ullrich got two good blocks and waltzed into the end zone untouched for an early 7-0 lead.
“It was a fast screen and rollout,” Ullrich said. “”Patty (tight end Jonathan Patterson) and Tristen (Moreno) got the blocks — and we just let the magic happen.”
Mickles went to work again on the next series, the big play coming with Seguin on the Cougars 28-yard-line. The quarterback dropped back, rolled right out of the pocket to buy more time, and threw toward the pylon to Patterson, who made the grab and was forced out at the two.
Mickles snuck it in from there and Seguin had a 14-0 lead.
Sophomore wide receiver Moreno got involved on Seguin’s next possession, with Mickles first deep throw on the night.
From the Cougars 44-yard-line, Mickles heaved a throw 50 yards into the wind that was just a little short for Moreno, but the receiver made a beautiful adjustment at the goal line, turning his body the opposite way to haul it in and score for the 21-0 lead.
“It was a Z post, I just had to win with my speed and go grab the ball,” Moreno said.
Moreno made the big play on Seguin’s next score. Early in the second quarter, a short punt gave the Mats the ball on the Crockett 35-yard-line. On the first play from scrimmage, Mickles looked for Moreno deep.
Moreno left his feet to make the catch — and was completely leveled by a Crockett defender. He somehow held on to the ball to put the Mats in position at the one.
“Oh man, that was not fun,“ Moreno said of the play. “You’ve just got to hold on to the ball, do whatever you can for your team.”
Moreno and Ullrich could not have been happier to have Mickles back in action.
“He’s become a really good quarterback, he’s making smart reads and is just a great leader,” Ullrich said.
“It’s amazing, we couldn’t ask for anybody better,” Moreno said.
The final score of the first half was a thing of beauty, as Seguin got the ball with just over a minute left at their own 48-yard-line.
On the very first play, Mickles dropped back and heaved a throw down the sideline that appeared to be too far for receiver Dravan McKnight to get to.
But McKnight ran it down perfectly, with the ball traveling some 55 yards in the air, catching it right in stride at about the five-yard-line to score and put Seguin up 38-0.
“They gave us the coverage we wanted, we’ve been repping it all week,” Mickles said. “When I saw it was one-on-one with Dravan, I just took a shot deep and he came up with it.”
The Matador defense, for the second week in a row, showed vast improvement over the first three games of the season, holding the Cougars to just over 100 yards of offense on the night and just 10 first downs.
“We’re very proud of our defense,” Bush said. “We talked about dominating the line of scrimmage all week, did that early and hurt them with some negative plays.”
For the game, Mickles was 15-20 for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Ullrich, McKnight and Moreno caught the three scores, and running back Marques Washington ran the ball 11 times for 91 yards and one touchdown.
The Mats travel on Thursday to Austin to take on Austin Travis (1-1, 1-4 overall) at the Burger Center for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.