It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Yes, Christmas is right around the corner, and Thanksgiving even nearer, but football Texas high school playoffs are here today.
First up on what many Wildcat fans hope to be a delicious smorgasbord are the Anson Tigers (5-5) in a bid for a bi-district championship.
If Anson sounds familiar, Canadian fans will remember them as the blip on the 2015 radar, when the No. 1 Wildcats blasted the Tigers 56-7 for the region championship. The one-sided feast lasted only three quarters before winter weather gave the Tigers a chance to concede, and the Wildcats went on to win their fourth state championship.
It’s the only time the two teams have squared off. Don’t expect the 2018 edition to end much differently.
The Wildcats have won 15 bi-district championships in a row and 19-consecutive playoff openers, stretching back to 1998. In those 15 bi-district championships, the Wildcats have crushed their opponents on average, 44-13. Since introducing a fourth playoff slot per district in 2015, the Wildcats have won the bi-district championship on average, 62-7.
It will be tough for this year’s iteration of Anson to change that trend.
The 0.500 Tigers are allowing 36 points per game, including season highs of 63 and 61 to perennial powers No. 4 Cisco (10-0) and 2A-DI Stamford (8-2). That’s not good news when facing the vaunted Air Canadian attack, averaging 46 points, and 62 points scored in two of their last three games.
The Tigers only hope will be spurred by an offense led by junior quarterback Drew Hagler (#3).
Hagler has already thrown for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. His favorite targets are Issak Fernandez (#22) and Daniel Davis (#88), each with 700 yards receiving. Fernandez boasts seven touchdowns, while Davis claims four.
“They are really good at throwing the ball,” said Head Coach Chris Koetting. “I would almost be willing to say they are the best throwing team we’ve played against this year. They had 400 yards of offense against Cisco. I’m not kidding; they can throw and catch. They know what they’re doing too. They’re exactly like us.”
That’s not to say the Tigers can’t move the ball on the ground either. Running back Elijah Moser (#1) has already eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing, and 22 touchdowns. Hagler himself is no stranger to scrambling with 1,000 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns
The Tigers average 459 yards of offense per game, but the Wildcats have allowed only a single team to surpass 350 yards this season—TAPPS No. 11 Grapevine Faith (8-1).
Hagler and crew will have to negotiate around free safety Jack Koetting (123 tkls, 12 TFLs, INT) and linebacker Cutter Kelton (126 tkl, 15 TFLs, sack).
“The key is gonna be not giving up big plays,” said Koetting. “Spearman, they hurt us a little bit on that Friday, we just gotta keep them from throwing over our head and play great pass defense. That’s gonna be important, just getting those stops, getting the ball back to our offense, and going from there.”
Kickoff is set for 7 pm tonight, at Charlie Johnston Field in Fairpark Stadium, in Childress. You can listen to the game live via the Canadian Sports Network app and follow live updates and photos via The Canadian Record’s social media network.
Editor’s note: We jumped the gun on last year’s bi-district streak. We inadvertently included 2010 in the count—a year where the Wildcats received a bye in the opening round. The current bi-district winning streak as it stands includes 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. We apologize for the error.