By Chris Boothe
One round of the playoffs is in the books, and a handful of area teams are one step closer to that elusive State Championship. This week features a lot of new faces that aren’t familiar to some of the area squads. Either way, new or old, each new matchup brings on an added level of difficulty. Here is a look at this weeks matchups.
Grapeland Sandies (7-4, 3-2) vs. Cumby Trojans (7-4, 4-0)
Friday, November 24, 7:00 pm
Panther Stadium, Mabank, TX
For the first time since 2008, the Grapeland Sandies have survived to see the second round of the playoffs. It was a complete team effort, as twice the Sandies overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat the Evadale Rebels in heart-stopping fashion. Now, the Sandies will look to reach the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but standing in their way is a Cumby Trojan squad that finished first in district 9-2A-DII, and is fresh off a 40-0 blanking of Hubbard in their Bi-District showdown.
Cumby is a team that is very different on each side of the ball. Offensively, the Trojans are prolific. Cumby enters Friday’s game averaging 37 points per game, including four games of 50 or more points. On the other side of the ball, the Trojans seem to struggle. A lot. Cumby gives up an average of 30.4 points a game, and in each of their four losses, gave up an average of 41.3 points.
Much like the Evadale team the Sandies faced a week ago, the Trojans do their damage on the ground, averaging 323 yards per game. That ground attack is led by a dynamic duo in the backfield. Senior running back Tylan Brown and sophomore quarterback Cameron Scott lead the charge for the Trojans. Brown narrowly holds the team lead in yardage with 1464 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns this year. Scott is right behind him with 1446 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Don’t look for too many other ball carriers, as only one other Trojan has over 100 yards rushing on the season. Also, don’t look for Scott to air it out too much, as he has attempted 100 passes this year, completing just 37 for 657 yards with five touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Lovelady Lions (7-4, 4-1) vs. Bogata Rivercrest Rebels (11-0, 5-0)
Saturday, November 25, 7:30 pm
Bruce Field, Athens, TX
Lovelady survived their opening showdown, topping nearby Alto in thrilling 22-20 fashion. Next up for the Lions is a Rivercrest Rebel team that is yet to lose this season. Rivercrest handled their business in the first round of the playoffs, taking down Hawkins by a modest score of 57-13. This is a historic season for the Rebels, as their win over Hawkins was their first playoff win in school history.
To say Rivercrest is explosive offensively would be an understatement. The Rebels are averaging 48 points a game this season. In six game alone the Rebels have topped the 50-point mark with a high total of 60 this season. A large part of that offensive success goes to quarterback Lucah Strickland. Strickland is a load to bring down at 6’3” and 195 pounds.
Not only as a runner, but as a passer Strickland has been a handful to stop throughout the season. One of his favorite targets this season is a big one in senior Jayden Townes. The 6’3” wideout has big play ability and has proven it time and time again this season. Devon Womack in the backfield is another option in an offense that puts up big numbers on the ground.
Centerville Tigers (8-3, 4-1) vs. Big Sandy Wildcats (10-1, 5-0)
Friday, November 24, 7:30 pm
Panther Stadium, Bullard, TX
Everything fell into place for the Centerville Tigers playoff opening win over the Joaquin Rams. Both offensively and defensively, the Tigers put their stamp on the game, going on to take that contest 20-10. Their next opponent will not be any easier, as the Tigers will face a Big Sandy Wildcat team that is riding a nine-game winning streak, including a 49-14 playoff opening win over Honey Grove.
Since their 61-40 loss to Alto in week two of the regular season, the Wildcats have been downright dominant. Big Sandy has won nine straight, and won by an average score of 48-12 during that span. A lot of that success comes due to one of east Texas’ most dominant running backs. Khameron Pippins, junior, is fourth in east Texas with 1505 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Those numbers are just through nine games of action this year. Pippins isn’t the only weapon in that backfield either, as Seth Burk, senior, adds 1107 yards and 18 touchdowns to the mix.
The Wildcats aren’t strictly a running team as senior quarterback Brayden Jewell has completed 69 of 105 passes this year for 1534 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Wildcats are loaded with playmakers defensively as Josiah Johnson (4 interceptions), Erick McFall (121 tackles – 16 TFL), and Isiah Brown (5 forced fumbles), are just a few of the heavy hitters that line up defensively for Big Sandy. Big Sandy boasts a luxury that most 2A schools don’t and that is depth that allows a lot of one-way players.
Madisonville Mustangs (10-1, 4-0) vs. Lorena Leopards (5-6 3-2)
Friday, November 24, 6:30 pm
Merrill Green Stadium, Bryan, TX
The Madisonville Mustangs wasted no time getting settled into the playoffs. The Mustangs scored early and often on their way to a 42-20 win over Hardin Jefferson in their Bi-District Championship. Next up for the Mustangs is a Lorena Leopards team that is a familiar foe. In week five of the regular season, the Mustangs held on for a wild 39-36 win over the Leopards. Now there will be a little more on the line, as the winner moves on to the Regional Championship, while the loser will go home.
In their first meeting Madisonville jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Leopards before things began to get real interesting. Lorena would actualy outscore Madisonville 29-19 in the second half of that game, but the early deficit would be too much to overcome.
Lorena was very balanced in the losing effort, as sophomore quarterback Bradley Lima threw for 205 yards and a touchdown, while junior AJ Bell rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Madisonville on the other hand grinded their way to victory with 567 yards rushing as a team. Cornelius Merchant led the way with 162 yards and three touchdowns. Merchant was one of three Mustangs with at least 80 yards rushing the ball.
For Lorena, it isn’t a case of one outstanding player leading the way, but several different players stepping up on a given week. There is no 1000-yard rusher for the Leopards, but they six players with over 100 yards rushing, and seven players with a touchdown on the ground. The same goes for their passing attack with six players touting double-digit receptions, five of which have a touchdown.