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Kemp-Eustace matchup likely nail-biter
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–It’s become a storied rivalry over the past few years, but this Friday’s matchup between the hosting Kemp Yellowjackets and the Eustace Bulldogs has more than the usual riding on the outcome.
It’s not a surprise that both head coaches expect Friday’s game to come down to the last play.
After all, the last four matchups – two won by Kemp, two won by Eustace – have been decided by a total of 21 points, with the 2005 contest in Eustace going to double overtime before Kemp secured a 34-28 victory.
Both teams come into Friday’s contest at 1-1 in District 14-3A play following big wins last Friday night. Eustace knocked off the visiting Canton Eagles, 35-26, while the ’Jackets traveled to Wills Point and dominated the winless Tigers, 33-20.
Arguably, Eustace had the bigger win last Friday night, as the Eagles were a consensus pre-season pick as the district favorite.
On the other hand, Kemp’s win was their first district football victory since the 2006 loop opener at Eustace, and the first time they have beaten someone other than Eustace in district play since at least 2004.
At 3-4, the ’Jackets have already notched more wins this season than the last two years put together.
Special teams play proved to be the key for the ’Jackets at Wills Point, as Kemp blocked three Tiger punts.
As a rule, it’s very difficult for a team to survive a blocked punt, but three blocked punts is just impossible to overcome.
“I was pleased the defense played as well as they did to force them (the Tigers) into punting situations,” Kemp head coach Greg Anderson said Monday.
“For some reason, a lot of spread teams punt from that formation,” Anderson said. Spread teams usually use wide splits between the offensive linemen to “spread” the defense out, but in punting situations, those wide splits give defenders room to rush.
“We worked on it in practice, and the kids executed well,” Anderson said. “I can’t say enough about our special teams. We actually blocked four kicks, one a point-after attempt, and Bryan (Fivecoat) kicked two field goals, one a 42-yarder.
“We didn’t give up the big play,” Anderson added. “That was our philosophy going in, to make them take it 75 yards and not give up a big play.”
Offensively, the ’Jackets did what they needed to do, methodically move the ball downfield and chew up the clock, and capitalize on scoring opportunities, he said.
“It all starts up front with the offensive line,” Anderson pointed out.
Eustace head coach Doug Wendel said Monday the key to the Bulldogs’ victory over Canton was the team’s response after suffering a narrow 7-6 loss at Mineola in the district opener.
“Trevan (Johnson) had a bad game against Mineola, but he came out and had the best game of his career Friday,” Wendel said. “That says something about his character.”
In addition to gaining 168 yards on 13 carries (that’s right at 13 yards per touch), Johnson also burned the Eagles twice on halfback passes for touchdowns, both to senior Zach Keeling.
“We had some great individual efforts,” Wendel said. “Keeling had an interception in the end zone, and Justin Calhoun came up with a timely sack.
“I think the difference in the game was that our offensive line dominated,” he added. “I’m very please with the line’s play, although there’s still some improvement to be made.”
Both coaches said they expect a close, hard-fought contest this Friday night.
“In my short time here, I’ve found that both schools bring out their best games, in every sport,” Wendel said, pointing to last year’s two district boys basketball games, which were both decided by a total of two points.
Anderson said the fact the Bulldogs have been able to stay in close games and be in a position to win, despite their relative youth and inexperience, says a lot about the quality of the Eustace coaching staff.
“The scary part for us is their offense, and the way they run the option,” Anderson said. “Their quarterback (Chris Compton) does a great job running the option, and their fullback (Shawn Baldwin) is probably as physical a running back as we’ve seen all year.
“Their No. 4 (Johnson) and the Keeling kid find ways to make big plays,” Anderson added. “Offensively, they’re very similar to us, in that you can’t key on one person.”
“I think (Anderson) does a good job getting the ball to his playmakers,” Wendel said. “They come in with a lot of emotion and confidence, and they’re highly motivated.
“Their defense is much improved,” Wendel pointed out. “I’m impressed with the way their defensive line gets off the ball.
“I love (Josh) Carr,” Wendel added. “I think he’s a good fullback and a great linebacker. With their athletic ability at the slot position and receiver, you have to play the whole field, and that allows Carr to get his yards.”
“I think talent-wise both of us are about equal,” Anderson said. “Without a doubt, it’ll come down to who does a better job executing and on special teams.”
Anderson said Kemp and Eustace, along with Canton and Mineola, are all 1-1, and all four teams play each other Friday night.
“There will be a little bit of separation after this week, so it’s a big game,” Anderson said. “(A win) will certainly give one of us a leg up going into the last two games, and whoever doesn’t win is back against the wall, knowing they’ll have to win the last two.”
Kemp will travel to Mineola Oct. 31 and return home to host Canton in the regular-season finale, while Eustace will host Wills Point Oct. 31 and travel to league-leading Van in the final game.
“The winner will be 2-1 with two games left to play,” Wendel said. “With their offense, they’re going to move the ball on Canton and Mineola.”
The final score also may wind up being a factor in the district race, as both coaches said they wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see that tie-breaker determine playoff seedings, because it’s more than likely at least a couple of teams will be tied at the end of the season.
“Both teams have a history of playing nail-biters,” Anderson said. “I don’t see any reason why it won’t be the same this year.”

Panthers to visit Forney
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–A dominating home victory over Mesquite Poteet last Friday gives the Mabank Panthers some momentum heading into the last three District 15-4A games.
“They’re all going to be huge and they’re all going to be dogfights,” Mabank head coach Jimmy Cantrell said Monday.
“We’ve got all the contenders left,” he added. “There are five teams fighting for four (playoff) spots right now, and the district championship is still out there.”
Now 4-3 on the season and 2-1 in loop play, the Panthers will travel to Forney Friday for a key matchup against the 6-1 Jackrabbits.
Forney is also 2-1 in district play after handing the 3-1 West Mesquite Wranglers their first loop loss, 28-20, last Friday night.
“We’re pretty healthy right now, knock on wood,” Cantrell said, rapping on his desk. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we’ve got a chance against anybody.”
Lancaster (3-0) handed Forney its only loss, 17-10, in Forney Oct. 10.
“They’re probably the best offense, as far as balance and scheme, we’ve seen thus far,” Cantrell said. “Their quarterback (Blake Branton) is really good, and their running back (Peter Smith) averages around seven or eight yards per carry.
“Their offensive line is the best we’ve seen,” he added. “It’s a tough offense to stop.”
The Jackrabbits mostly use a spread formation, although they’ve been known to line up in an I formation or a two-back set.
“They’re fairly balanced, but they’re about the run, and they’re pretty dangerous,” Cantrell said.
“Defensively, they use an even front,” Cantrell said. “I think we’ll present them with some problems. I don’t think they’ve seen anybody throw the ball like we do.”
In Mabank’s 32-7 win over the visiting Pirates last week, lefty senior quarterback Kolton Browning hit 25-of-41 pass attempts for 357 yards and two touchdowns, with no picks.
That’s not bad, considering Browning missed practice Monday and Tuesday with illness, and didn’t practice much Wednesday, Cantrell said.
“The keys will be our offense not turning the ball over, and Kolton has to come up big,” he added. “On defense, we need to try and limit their big plays as best we can. I think we match up pretty well with them.
“Our ballclub is peaking right now,” Cantrell said. “If we can continue not turning the ball over, we’ve got a pretty good chance.”


Upcoming games


Oct. 24
MHS @ Forney*

Oct. 31
MHS vs Lancaster*
KHS @ Mineola*
EHS vs Wills Point*

*district contest

Oct. 24
MHS @ Forney*

Oct. 28
MHS @ Terrell*
KHS vs Van*
EHS vs Mineola*

*district contest
Cross Country

Oct. 27
District 14-3A meet

Nov. 1
District 15-4A meet
(Samuel Farms, Mesquite)


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