Heidi Dutcher/WD Sports

The Brock Eagles play the Denver City Mustangs in a Class 3A, D-I area playoff game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.

Both the Brock Eagles (9-2) and Denver City Mustangs (10-1) enter Thursday's Class 3A, D-I area playoff game riding a six-game win streak, but only one will leave the confines of Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium with their run intact. 

Despite a short week, Brock Head Coach Chad Worrell said his team’s intensity and focus in practice has been top-notch in the days leading up tonight’s game. 

“When you play on Thursday, you’re really cutting from three to two work days,” Worrell said.

“But, it’s the playoffs and the kids here know what to expect. We saw that last week in our preparation getting ready for Clyde. It’s been the same thing this week.”

That focus will undoubtedly come in handy versus a Denver City squad which, like Brock, has dominated much of its competition this year, especially in the back half of the season.

Through 11 games, the Mustangs have averaged 43 points per game (473 points total) while surrendering only 13 points per game (141 points total).

Those offensive numbers jump to  (an average) 54 points points scored per game looking strictly at the team’s six-game win streak (the defensive numbers remained essentially the same during that same span, with the Mustangs giving up an average 14 points per game over their last six contests).

In all, Denver City has scored 40-plus points eight times this season, while holding four opponents to single-digit scoring (including two shutouts).

In terms of those above-mentioned offensive numbers, Worrell credited a well-balanced approach for helping foster success.

“They’re very balanced,” Worrell said.

“They have two rushers, the quarterback [Mario Sanchez] and running back Aaron Mendoza who are both right at 1,000 yards. The quarterback is a dual threat who has thrown for 1,400 yards. He’s responsible for over 2,400 yards of offense for them. 

“Their offensive line is big and physical, and they do a great job of getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands.”

With that said, the Eagles’ defense has done well stifling opponents throughout 2019, allowing only 108 total points this season (an average of 10 points per game) through 11 contests.

Considering the array of viable offensive weapons Denver City possesses, remaining disciplined in  terms of assignments and not allowing chunk plays stand as major keys for success Thursday, Worrell said.

“Just limit their big plays,” Worrell said.

“In passing situations, we have to watch for sprint outs and play action passes,  get pressure on the quarterback and not let him have all day to throw. And then we have to defend against the pick plays. Making sure we’re aware of that and covering those guys is huge.

“They present some problems for us that we haven’t seen with the size of their skill guys, who are big and physical. With a dual threat quarterback, it’s always a huge challenge. So we just have to make sure we play assignment football and tackle when we get to the ball.” 

Conversely, Brock’s own offense, which relies heavily on an effective ground game, must also play sound assignment football against a Denver City defensive unit which likes to stack the box, Worrell said.

“They run a 3-3 stack against the power stuff, which we make use of a lot, so that turns into an eight-man box. They’re really big and physical up front, their middle linebacker is comparable to a kid from Boyd who’s 230 pounds. They have outside backers who can run really well. 

“We’re gonna have to sit up on our blocks. The backs will need to do a great job of blocking for each other help keep the chains moving.”

Brock and Denver City last played each other during the 2015 season, when the Eagles routed the Mustangs, 71-14 in an area playoff game.

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