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Panthers still in hunt, to host Tigers
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–With two big games left to play, the Mabank Panthers are still in the hunt for a District 15-4A playoff berth.
The Panthers host the Lancaster Tigers this Friday in the first of those two major contests.
Lancaster comes into Friday’s game at 4-4 on the season and 3-1 in district play, following last Friday night’s 35-32 loss to 4-1 West Mesquite, while Mabank is 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in district after falling to 3-1 Forney, 49-35.
In the final game of the season Nov. 7, the Panthers travel to West Mesquite. Both Lancaster and West Mesquite are considered the two most physically talented teams in the district.
“Can we beat Lancaster and West Mesquite? Absolutely,” Mabank coach Jimmy Cantrell said Monday.
“We’ve seen the best team in the district (in Forney), and we had our chances to beat them,” Cantrell added. “I think Forney’s offensive line is the most disciplined and structured.
“I would think (Mabank senior) Kolton (Browning) is the best quarterback, but (Forney QB Blake Branton) would be the second notch, and they have the best running back (Peter Smith),” Cantrell said.
“I figured we would score points on Forney, and we did,” he added. “The big question was whether we could contain their running back.
“It wasn’t that the defense played poorly – they flew around,” Cantrell said. “We’ve got a young defense, with eight coming back, and they were going against a senior-led offense. We’re still almost there.”
Cantrell pointed to Forney’s second touchdown of the third quarter as a key play in the contest.
After Forney picked off Browning’s first pass of the second half to tie the contest at 28, the Panthers moved quickly downfield to score on Browning’s five-yard run and take a 35-28 lead.
Forney moved upfield behind Smith and Branton. On fourth-and-goal, Branton kept the ball and scored, although it was a very close play at the goal line.
“I think where they hurt us was in fourth down conversions,” Cantrell said. “They had three of them, and the biggest one was at the goal line. That was the go-ahead touchdown.”
Browning hit 23-of-38 pass attempts for 273 yards and two touchdowns against Forney, with one interception. He added 46 yards rushing on 19 carries to lead the Panthers.
Brandon Rasco was the leading receiver, with 13 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and he also threw back to Browning for the Panthers’ first touchdown, a 59-yard flea-flicker.
“We’ve got a pretty good football team, but in reality, we’ve got to be pretty near perfect to beat these people, because we’re giving up so much in numbers and speed,” Cantrell said. “I think we’re clicking, but we’re just not getting the breaks.”
The Panthers still control their own destiny going into Friday’s home game against Lancaster.
Mabank has a history of playing well against the Tigers. The last time Mabank was in 4A, their final football game was a 42-41 loss to Lancaster in double overtime.
Unlike Forney, Lancaster’s offense isn’t the strength of the team, although they do give opponents many different looks.
“They play wishbone, spread and I formation, and they have three quarterbacks,” Cantrell said. “One is a runner and the other is a passer, and they have a third guy they bring in at times.
“All their running backs have speed,” he added. “If they get frustrated in one thing, they switch to another.
“The strong part of the team is their defense,” Cantrell said. “They’re returning all 11 starters, and they’ve been tough to score on for everybody.”
The key for the Panthers will be to remain patient on offense and not give up turnovers, Cantrell said.
Going into the next-to-last week of the season, the 15-4A race tightened up considerably when Terrell notched its first win last Friday by beating 0-5 Mesquite Poteet.
Terrell will host Forney Friday in a battle of Kaufman County neighbors, while Poteet goes on the road to face Red Oak. Wins by both Terrell and Poteet would tighten the district race even more, as West Mesquite is idle this week.
“We’re not playing spoiler. We’ve got a chance for the playoffs,” Cantrell pointed out. “There’s a lot of ifs and ands still out there.
“I feel that we are playing about as good as we can play,” he added. “We just have to get better each week.”

Bulldogs to host Wills Point Friday
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–Conditioning, field position and big plays all were keys for the Eustace Bulldogs in their big win over the hosting Kemp Yellowjackets last Friday night.
Now 4-4 on the season and 2-1 in District 14-3A play, the Bulldogs face another critical test at home this Friday night when they host the district’s only winless team, the Wills Point Tigers.
Despite Wills Point’s 0-8 record, Eustace head coach Doug Wendel said the Tigers “scare us to death.”
“They have speed, they’re big – physically, they could beat anybody in our district,” Wendel said Monday.
Last Friday night, the Tigers ran up nearly 300 yards of offense and 21 points in a shoot-out against the league-leading Van Vandals, and didn’t commit a single penalty.
However, the Tigers mustered only 88 yards of offense in the second half. Van forced three Tiger punts and put together three lengthy scoring drives after Wills Point closed within a touchdown at 28-21.
The Tigers also coughed up four turnovers, but the Vandals were able only to cash in the first one, when sophomore quarterback Trent Jurica was sacked and fumbled at the Wills Point 24.
“(Jurica) does a good job,” Wendel said. “They allow him to get rid of the ball quick. I think next year, you’ll see him running the ball more.”
In the season finale Nov. 7, Eustace will travel to Van for the last football game to be played at venerable Van Memorial Stadium.
If Eustace can win at home Friday, that Nov. 7 matchup in Van could be a district championship contest, but the Bulldogs can’t look past Wills Point, Wendel said.
“It won’t be hard for us (to be ready),” he said. “We’ve got a lot to play for – it’s the last home game, and the seniors’ last home game.”
Van is 3-0, but visits Canton Friday in what has been a long-standing grudge match, with a lot riding on the outcome.
Canton and Eustace each have one loss. If Canton can defeat Van and Eustace beats Wills Point, all three teams will go into the season finale with a single loss.
Canton will play at Kemp Nov. 7. If Canton loses to Van and Kemp defeats Mineola Friday, that would mean both teams would come into the last game with two losses, and the district’s third-place playoff berth would likely go to the winner, with Eustace and Van deciding first and second place.
“Kemp has a good team,” Wendel said. “Their defensive line gave us all we wanted.”
Field position, thanks to good work by Zach Keeling on kickoffs and punts, made the difference, and Keeling also had two pass breakups and a sack.
“His (Keeling’s) stats weren’t flashy, but he made some critical plays,” Wendel said.
“I think there were two things that were key elements (in the win over Kemp),” he said. “We either converted or executed big plays more than they did (and) anytime you score 30 unanswered points or 17 in the fourth quarter, I think our conditioning was the difference.”
Wendel said he expects every game to be decided in the last five minutes, and the Kemp contest wasn’t any different.
“That game was a lot closer than the score indicated,” he said.
Eustace needs to get a fast start against the Tigers Friday, Wendel said.
Defensively, the Tigers have size in the front seven and athletic cornerbacks, and they have good overall team speed, he said.
From a talent standpoint, Wills Point is at the top of the heap, Wendel said. “They just haven’t put it all together yet,” he added.

’Jackets to visit ’Jackets
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–The Kemp Yellowjackets will be battling to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot when they travel to Mineola Friday night for a key District 14-3A matchup with the Mineola Yellowjackets.
Both teams come into Friday’s contest with 1-2 district records, so the loser probably will be out of the playoff picture with three losses and only one game to play.
Kemp fell to Eustace 37-15 Friday night to drop to 3-5 on the season, while Mineola is 4-4 after falling to Canton 30-23 Friday night.
If Kemp can defeat Mineola Friday, the ’Jackets still have a shot at the district’s third-place playoff berth when Canton comes to Yellowjacket Stadium for the season finale Nov. 7, no matter who wins the Canton-Van contest this Friday.
If Canton upsets Van and Eustace beats Wills Point, then Van and Eustace will each have one loss going into their Nov. 7 matchup in Van, and both Kemp and Canton will have two losses when they meet in Kemp.
None of that will matter, though, if Kemp doesn’t beat Mineola, so Friday’s road game is already a playoff contest as far as Kemp is concerned.
Both Mineola and Eustace concentrate on the run, so it will be a slight advantage for Kemp to face the same kind of offense two weeks in a row, Kemp head coach Greg Anderson said Monday.
“I don’t think they (Mineola) have as many weapons as Eustace,” Anderson said. “Defensively is where they stand out. That’s evident in them holding Eustace to six points.”
Mineola’s attack is not an option-based offense like Eustace, Anderson said.
“They run a traditional I offense (and) come right at you,” he said. “The old philosophy of ball control and play good defense.
“They’re very sound in what they do defensively, although there are some areas we may be able to attack,” Anderson added. “We’re going to have to take some shots downfield just to get those defensive backs to loosen up a little.”
One hopes the Kemp receivers will be over the seriously bad case of stonefingers they suffered against Eustace.
“We dropped 10 balls and three of them would have been TDs, with two of those coming on the same drive,” Anderson said. “That hurt us, when your quarterback is throwing that well, and you just can’t hang on to the ball.”
Overall, the Eustace game was pretty much what everybody expected – close and hard-fought to the end, he said.
Eustace put the contest away when Trevan Johnson motored up the sideline for a 91-yard touchdown.
“We had 10 men on the field when Trevan took that toss outside,” Anderson said. “Our cornerback on that side had gotten banged up, and word didn’t get to his backup.
“With (Johnson’s) speed, once he turned the corner, it was going to be hard for anybody to catch him,” Anderson added.
Since Mineola is so run-oriented, the ’Jackets want to get an early lead and force them to throw the ball, something Mineola has not shown an ability to do this season.
“We’ve got to play good first down and second down defense, and force them into third and long, which we did Friday night,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t do a good job on third down run defense.”
Eliminating turnovers and penalties is a given, since field position will likely play a key role in the game, he added.
“We’ve got to be able to move the ball, and keep them on a long field,” Anderson said.


Upcoming games


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

Nov. 7
MHS @ West Mesquite*
KHS vs Canton*
EHS @ Van*
(end regular season)

*district contest

Nov. 3-4
Bidistrict playoffs

Nov. 6-8
Area playoffs

*district contest

Boys Basketball

Nov. 11
EHS vs Brownsboro (scr)

Nov. 15
EHS @ Lovejoy (scr)

Girls Basketball

Nov. 8
MHS @ Frisco Liberty (scr)
KHS @ Kaufman (scr)

Nov. 11
MHS vs Kerens
KHS @ P.Westwood

Nov. 13-15
MHS-Lady Panther Inv.

Nov. 14
MHS vs Wills Point
KHSvs Palmer

Cross Country

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

Nov. 8
Regional meet
(Vandergiff Park, Arlington)

Nov. 15
State meet
Old Settler’s Park
(Round Rock)


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