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Playoff Jockeying Begins

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Week Eight Preview

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Despite all the dire warnings and predictions of a ruined 2020 football season, here we are in Week Eight and we’re still playing football. Some teams have been hit hard by COVID-19 – like the Elkhart Elks – while others have dodged the proverbial bullet.

It’s now time to see who has it and who doesn’t as area teams begin jockeying for position. A win for some teams this week and their postseason aspirations are secure.

Normangee Panthers (7-0, 2-0) vs. Grapeland Sandies (6-1, 2-0) – There are only two undefeated teams in District 11-2A DI, and after Friday, there will only be one. This game also goes to show you, preseason predictions can be misleading.

Grapeland was picked to finish third in district while Normangee was expected to miss the playoffs and finish fifth. The top two preseason picks – Alto and Groveton – are in last place in the district, both with 0-2 records.

It will be Homecoming for Grapeland this week so you can expect the Sandies bring their “A” game. The offense will continue to run through BJ Lamb, Cadarian Wiley and Keizion Ashford with a healthy dose of Lekerian Smith and Riley Murchison thrown in for good measure. Don’t be surprised if Michael Dancer and Omarian Wiley have their numbers called more often as teams are starting to see what the Grapeland offensive juggernaut can do on any given play.

Defensively, Cooper Sheridan, William McClendon and Colton Franklin will have to contain Mason Hardy and Izaha Jones. The wide bodies up front will be key to stopping the Normangee run game while the Grapeland secondary will need to do a better job in coverage, along with wrapping up on tackles.

Crockett Bulldogs (5-2, 3-0) – BYE          

Lovelady Lions (2-4, 1-1) vs. West Sabine Tigers (3-4, 2-1) – The Lions will make the long drive to Pineland on Friday to take on a West Sabine team that is better than expected.

Lovelady is coming off of a lopsided win against Colmesneil that showcased the running abilities of Lataviouce Easterling, Slade Murray and Eric Anderson. Expect more of the same against the Tigers.

West Sabine, on the other hand, likes to throw the ball and played Tenaha fairly tough. The Lions will need to contain QB Quintin Smith if they hope to have success. Smith can be pressured, but once he gets outside of the pocket, the Lions will have to bring him down.

Elkhart Elks (0-7, 0-3) – Quarantined

Palestine Wildcats (4-3, 2-1) vs. Henderson Lions (2-3, 1-1) – Palestine is hoping to keep their two- game winning streak in District 9-4A DI alive this week as they take on the Henderson Lions.

The Wildcats have shown an explosive offense so far this year in district play and should be able to take down the Lions who are not performing up to their high standards this season.

Westwood Panthers (3-3, 1-1) vs. Diboll Lumberjacks (3-3, 3-0) – The Panthers are very much in the playoff hunt and a win against the Lumberjacks would go a long way to helping them return to the postseason for the first time in a long time.

Strong performances from Coy Elton and Kylance Parrish could push the Jacks into making some mistakes on defense.

Diboll’s record doesn’t indicate just how good they still are. The Lumberjacks still have a rushing attack led by Jeremiah Gums that other teams would envy. Also, they’re just now rounding into form after an early season bout with COVID-19.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.    

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