Dunham sophomore quarterback Mike Williams made big play after big play Friday night, but the Tigers defense set the tone before he even took the first snap.

Fueled by the motto of “GTA,” Dunham’s defense produced four critical turnovers to cruise to a 40-14 nondistrict victory against Ascension Catholic on its home field.

“Grand Theft Auto,” said Dunham coach Neil Weiner. “We wanna steal the ball. We wanna get it back. We called out ‘GTA’ about five or six times tonight.”

On the first drive of the game, the Tigers (2-0) stuffed Ascension (1-1) on fourth-and-inches to give their offense the ball at the ACHS 35-yard line. Williams scrambled to move the Tigers into the red zone and capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Abel Duhon that put Dunham up 7-0 early in the first quarter.

The Tigers came up with their first interception of the game on the next drive, but its offense stagnated.

Senior receiver Kaleb Winchester gave Ascension Catholic a bit life with some shifty running on the following possession, but the Bulldogs failed to move the chains and punted.

Freshman receiver Derek Stingley fooled the coverage team with a fake reverse and brought the punt back for a 75-yard touchdown. Dunham missed the extra point.

“Special teams was so big,” Weiner said. “We really try to put a lot of attention on it, and for our kids to see it come to fruition was really good.”

The Tigers struck back with a long kick return of their own and took over near midfield, but Dunham’s defense clamped down and forced a punt yet again. On a fourth-and-11 at the Ascension Catholic 36-yard line, Williams evaded would-be tacklers and heaved a touchdown pass to junior running back Tony Huey.

“(Williams) drives me. He drives the team,” Huey said. “He’s a leader who keeps us going. He’s the key to our offense this year.”

After ACHS recovered a fumble two drives later, Winchester cut the deficit to 19-7 with a 28-yard touchdown scamper.

Dunham opened the second half with a methodical scoring drive behind strong running from Williams, Huey and freshman running back Traylan Mouton, who plunged into the end zone from 12 yards out to make it 26-7.

After the ensuing kickoff stopped rolling just before it went out of bounds, Ascension took over at its own 4-yard line. The Bulldogs needed a big play, but they ended up creating one for the Tigers, who recovered a poor snap in the end zone to extend their lead to 33-7.

“We told our guys it was really important to come out and get a stop and a score to start the second half,” said Ascension coach Drey Trosclair. “But we ended up giving a score and got deep in our own territory on the kickoff. We had a mishap down there, and that turned into another 6 for those guys.”

The Bulldogs continued to feed the ball to Winchester, who brought them into the red zone. But Dunham’s defense came up big yet again with an interception in the end zone.

Later in the fourth quarter, Stingley picked off a pass on the goal line and would have returned it all the way if not for a shoe-string tackle 30 yards from the goal line. Ascension Catholic quarterback Javon Yarbrough brought the final margin to 40-14 with a rushing touchdown with 1:37 remaining in the game.

Williams amassed 230 all-purpose yards to go with three scoring strikes. The Tigers’ three-headed rushing attack piled up 178 yards before the backups came in.

Dunham’s defense gave up only 275 yards and 11 first downs, but its four takeaways made the biggest difference Friday night.

“Our defense brought a lot of pressure, so were fired up to go back on offense and score,” Huey said. “We had the momentum. We were beating them on defense, so we were really energized going back on offense.”