Unfortunately, I only have to preview two playoff games this week.
Tom Moore and Center Point both fell short in their bi-district round contests last Friday. The Warriors lost to Tidehaven, 41-16, and the Pirates suffered a 55-24 defeat to Thorndale.
Neither loss, though, should diminish the two programs’ accomplishments this season. The Warriors toiled to change the perception of Ingram football, finishing second in their district to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. And here’s some more good news: The majority of their key contributors this season were underclassmen. In other words, Ingram should be pretty good at football for many years under coach Duane Kroeker.
The Pirates, on the other hand, also exceeded expectations. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football predicted them to finish last in their district. They responded to that prognosis by finishing third in the District 14-2A Div. I standings, beating their rival Harper for the first time in several years and securing their third consecutive playoff berth.
And that’s why the Kerrville Daily Times wants to formally congratulate both schools on experiencing two great seasons. Hopefully, this year’s triumphs motivates all players to work even harder this offseason.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to Saturday’s slate of game.
Both Tivy and Our Lady of the Hills advanced to the next round of the playoffs last Friday. The Antlers did so in dramatic fashion, rallying from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to sneak past Bastrop, 63-62 in double overtime, a victory that will forever be used to advise fans never to leave a sporting event too early. The Antlers play a spunky Southside Team tonight at 6 p.m. at Alamo Stadium
The Hawks’ playoff win last Friday required less dramatics. OLH blitzed Covenant Christian, 73-56, to set up a playoff contest against Watauga Harvest Christian today at 1 p.m. in Zephyr.
I know all of you spent your Thanksgiving dinner fretting over Saturday’s games. (If you didn’t, then I have no idea why you are reading this column). Well, to all of you rooting for Tivy and OLH tonight, I come bearing good news: Both squads enter their playoff games with a good chance to advance. Of course, if they want to win, they are going to have to do a lot of good things and avoid doing bad things, such as — and this is a totally random example — turning the ball over on your first two offensive possessions.
Without further ado, here is the rundown on Saturday’s games.
Area round opponent: Southside
Location: 6 p.m. at Alamo Stadium
One thing you need to know
The biggest thing you need to know about this game is that Southside is good. Really good. This isn’t your dad’s or even your granddad’s Cardinals.
Southside’s 56-7 win over Mercedes last Friday in the bi-district round was its first playoff win in program history, so the school isn’t really accustomed to winning. But that’s changing with this crop of Cardinals. They are well-coached, showing multiple formations on offense. They are aggressive on defense. They pursue the football and enjoy blitzing on almost every single down
So yeah, they are a good team. The Antlers are going to have to execute at a high level for 48 minutes ifthey want to prevail on Saturday.
Fortunately for Antler fans, Tivy’s coaches believe their players enjoyed a productive week of practice. Tivy defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman raved about Southside’s offense during a chat on Friday, but he also gushed about his players’ preparation heading into tonight’s game.
“I feel like the kids have been really focused this week,” Hickman said. “I think Thanksgiving practice was as good a practice as we’ve had all year. It’s just going to be up to us focusing on the game, making plays and being ready for anything they throw at us throughout the game.
“I feel like the kids had done a great job all week. They had great focus.”
Here’s a few things those same kids can do to make sure their week ends with a win.
Keys to victory
1. Finds ways to limit Southside’s playmakers
The Cardinals have three offensive players who will be problematic for Tivy’s defense. Southside running back Perfecto Doria has collected 1,008 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 158 carries this season. Southside has several different formations with the purpose of creating matchup advantages in Doria’s favor.
His teammate Michael Hernandez has given opposing secondaries’ nightmares this season, hauling in 57 receptions for 1,134 yards and 16 touchdown.
But it’s quarterback Alejandro Escamilla who makes this offense hum. He’s dictated the Cardinals’ offense with ruthless efficiency this season, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,255 yards, 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He is averaging 12 yards per attempt and is averaging a touchdown pass per every 7.5 attempts. One of his favorite plays to run is the play-action, chucking the ball deep to Hernandez.
“He’s just ridiculously accurate,” Hickman said. “Probably the most accurate kid we have faced all year. We have to put pressure on him in throwing situations to where he’s not just in a drop-back situation and can set his feet and make a good throw. We need to make him throw on the run and move around.”
2. Throw the ball to Tivy’s receivers.
It’s been proven time and time again: good things tend to happen when the Antlers decide to throw the ball downfield to their receivers.
If you don’t believe me, here is a look at the stats of Tivy’s top four receivers.
Josh Vela: 48 receptions, 728 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15.2 yards per reception.
Brooks McCoy: 43 receptions, 624 yards, six touchdowns and 14.5 yards per reception
Jasen Zirkel: 43 receptions, 494 yards, two touchdowns and 11.5 yards per reception
Colten Drake: 32 receptions, 394 yards, four touchdowns aand 12.3 yards per reception.
In other words, all four receivers are averaging a first down every time they catch the football. Tonight, they are likely to face a lot of man coverage. When all four receivers are on the field, there are good odds that at least one is going to be open.
Prediction: Tivy 49, Southside 42
Once again, after doing research, I really like this Southside team. But I think I have detected a Cardinal weakness on the squad. They have six players who play on both offense and defense. I believe that the Antlers’ fast-tempo offense will eventually exhaust the Cardinals in the fourth quarter.
Extra Point: Tivy team send off
Tivy team mom and event planner extraordinaire, Tory Risinger, texted me earlier this week, asking if I could include information on today’s Tivy team sendoff in the paper. I figured I’d oblige her request. So here’s what you need to know:
The Tivy parents have organized a bus send off at Margarita City at 1:15 p.m. today. The football team will leave the field house at 1:30 p.m., and will likely be fired up when they look up from their seats on the bus and see fans at Margarita City cheering them to victory.
“It means a lot to know this town really cares about the work we have put in,” Drake said. “It’s going to be exciting to see the send off.”
TAPPS 6M DII-2 quarterfinal opponent: Watauga Harvest Christian
Location: 1 p.m. at Zephyr
One Thing you need to know
Last summer, the OLH gained a huge addition to its football program: Hawks’ athletic director Chris Ramirez asked Brent Bode to help coach his defense.
The hire has continued to pay dividends. Bode possesses an impressive football pedigree, winning a state championship at Liberty Hill in high school and enjoying a one-year career at Sam Houston State.
He oversaw the Hawks’ offseason workouts, helping the players make significant strides in the weight room. He watches films with his players, offering little ways they can improve. And his charismatic personality has galvanized the Hawks during games.
“It has worked well for both of us,” Bode said. “He likes it because it’s just been him and coach (Joe) Martinez for the last seven years. It’s been good to get another set of eyes.”
There have been a myriad of reasons for OLH’s success. Senior quarterback Hunter Taylor has been terrific during his senior season, owning the luxury of passing to several dynamic receivers in James Ibarra and Luke Martinez — to name a few. And for the first time in the Ramirez era, OLH has enough players to form a scout team. That’s help better prepare them during the week for Friday night games.
And they gained a new assistant coach. It’s a huge reason why the Hawks are still playing football in late November.
“Coach Martinez and coach Bode have done an outstanding job coaching defense,” Ramirez said. “I trust them to make the adjustments and the game plan. It’s been a welcome relief on my end not to be so hands-on with defense. … Coach Bode is young, energetic and really passionate. He really takes pride coaching football. Having him has been a tremendous blessing. It’s really made a difference”
Keys to a victory:
Slow down Harvest Christian’s passing attack
OLH hasn’t had any issues moving the football this season. But they might have their hands full Harvest Christian’s offense. Chris Ramirez complimented Harvest Christian’s passing attack, saying the Saints possess an accurate quarterback and two athletic receivers. The Hawks are going to have to pressure him, making him throw quicker than he would like.
Prediction: OLH 56, Harvest Christian 50