LIBERTY CITY -- It’s a new year and the Sabine Cardinals served notice Friday night that having experience back all over the field does matter – quite a bit, actually.

Sabine opened eyes across East Texas, likely, with a 34-3 beatdown of traditional small-school power Carlisle here at James Bamberg Stadium on Friday night. The Cardinals, who bring back almost all of their starters from a year ago, are 1-0, of course, and will host Shelbyville next Friday.

One big reason for Sabine’s win: a monster performance by B.J. Stidham, who was lightning on the field (after the game was delayed by actual lightning). Stidham carved up Carlisle for 302 rushing yards.

Stidham and the Cardinals’ offense got to work early, on their first possession. He ran three of the four runs, slicing the Indian defense. His final was a 37-yard sprint for the season’s first touchdown.

Carlisle took the field and methodically moved. Facing three third-downs, they were finally stopped on downs deep in Cardinal territory.

Again, Stidham took control. He darted 42 yards on his first carry.The Indian defense pulled it together and forced the Cardinals to kick a field goal. But that’s rarely a problem with Fernando Jaimes, who lined up and booted a 34-yard three-pointer to give Sabine a 10-0 lead.

Carlisle, again, assembled a long drive, led by quarterback Carlos Deleon. This time, though, the Cardinal defense forced a punt, ending the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals started at their own 2-yard-line. They moved the ball to midfield where they turned it over on downs. The Indians took advantage of this when Victor Camacho hauled in a 14-yard pass and Jamion Turner grabbed two more. The Cardinal defense held, and forced a long field goal attempt. Aaron Gallegos booted a 41-yarder to cut the lead to 10-3.

The Cardinal offense wasn’t done, pulling out one more first-half score: a 65-yard completion and touchdown from quarterback Landon McKinney to Brannigan Willige for a 17-3 halftime edge.

The second half was dominated by the Cardinal defense, led by Tristen Green, Brent Warren, Clayton Simmons and Bre’den Ford. The Indians were forced to punt on their first possession. Then Stidham went back to work and capped off another drive with a 46-yard touchdown run.

Stopping the Indians again put the Cardinals at midfield. This time, McKinney went to the air and found A.J. Gresham for a 16-yard completion. McKinney then plowed the final 10 yards for a 31-3 lead. The third quarter found the first penalties and turnovers of the game. McKinney tossed an interception to Camacho, but the next play, Deleon threw one deep to Ford to give the Cardinals the ball back as the third quarter ended.

Jaimes added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to end the scoring.

Statistically for the Cardinals, McKinney ended the night with 119 passing yards and the touchdown to Willige, and 62 yards rushing and a touchdown. Gresham had 40 yard receiving and Willige had his 65-yard touchdown. The stars of the night, of course, were Stidham, with the ridiculous 302 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and his offensive line.

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