By Antonio Morales
Riding into the state quarterfinals on an 11-game winning streak, the Canadian Wildcats will now face a team that hasn’t tasted defeat since 2012. In fact, the Cisco Loboes haven’t surrendered a contest since last season’s 27-20 area round loss to the Wildcats.
An inexperienced Wildcat group entered last year’s matchup as seven point underdogs, but were able to beat those odds. This season’s Wildcats enter Saturday’s showdown as a nine point underdogs to the 13-0 Loboes. While there are reasons why Cisco is favored in the matchup, the Wildcats are by far the most talented team the Loboes have had to prep for.
Cisco’s 13 opponents have a combined record of 82-66 and only three of their past eight foes have a winning record. The Wildcats and Loboes both fared well against similar opponents. Hawley, Spearman and Abernathy all suffered defeats to the pair of quarterfinalists. Canadian knocked off Abernathy in their turf 34-6, while the Loboes bested the Antelopes in last week’s regional round 41-14 on a neutral field. The Loboes crushed Hawley 64-12 on the road, while the Wildcats eased by the Bearcats 49-20 in the second round of the playoffs. Cisco opened their playoff run by torching Spearman 37-6, weeks after the Cats blasted the Lynx 40-12 in Spearman during district play.
Last weekend’s physical battle with Sonora should give the Wildcat defense a boost, as they’re set to take an even more efficient run game. While the Loboes don’t stand as tall as the Broncos, they feature a more versatile rushing attack with plenty of viable options.
“Cisco is more balanced,” said Wildcat head coach Chris Koetting. “Cisco was pretty one-dimensional in that they couldn’t throw it really well.”
Cisco’s ability to rely on their passing game makes their rushing attack even tougher to prepare for. Senior quarterback Kolton Kent has the arm strength to throw downfield and that allows the Loboes to feature a dangerous play-action scheme.
“They can really throw it, they just usually choose not to,” said Koetting. “Our goal is to stop the run first because if we don’t then they’ll never throw it.”
Cisco will depend on their run game in hopes of keeping the Wildcats’ loaded offense off the field. They rushed for 285 yards against the Antelopes, as senior running back Mason Reed led the way with 112 yards on 18 carries. Landen Lewis picked up 71 yards on the ground and Kent contributed 51 rushing yards on 15 quarterback keepers.
“They have a bunch of different guys that can hurt you,” said Koetting.
Canadian’s offense also has a bunch of different players with playmaking abilities and each and everyone of them must be in top form to challenge Cisco’s athletic defense. The Loboes held Abernathy to 216 total yards and have only surrendered more than 19 points once in 13 contests.
“They’re very sound on defense,” said Koetting. “They don’t throw a bunch of different looks at you. They’re just very fast and know where to be to make plays.”
Koetting says the best thing to take from last year’s victory over Cisco is the importance of playing at a high tempo.
“We wore them out,” said Koetting. “We need to play fast and execute the way we have been.”
Another key for Canadian will be their ability to bounce back on the ground, after Wildcat rushers were held to 46 yards against Sonora.
“Our run game has to be so much better,” said running back Chance Cook. “They spread the field and only leave five in the box so the run will be wide open.”
Cook and the Wildcats expect the Loboes to zone in on their passing attack, so they’re counting on their production from the backfield to make the difference.
The state quarterfinal matchup is scheduled for Monday at 4 pm in People’s Bank Stadium in Wolfforth. Those that can’t make the trip can listen to the game via KEYE-FM’s live radio coverage. A link to the live stream can be found at canadianisd.net
Map to stadium: