After back-to-back road wins in weeks one and two, the Weatherford Kangaroos (2-0) return for their home opener Friday, a non-district matchup with the Birdville Hawks (1-0) at 7:30 p.m.
For Weatherford, which fell to Birdville, 56-26 in 2018, this week’s contest should serve as a good litmus test for where the team is at, Head Coach Billy Mathis said.
“It’s gonna be a tough test,” Mathis said.
“Birdville is as good as anybody in the state. And that’s what we need to see, where we’re at. We need to go play teams like Birdville that are state title contenders.”
Shutting down the tandem of Hawks’ quarterback Stone Earle and running back Laderrious Mixon, who contributed a combined eight touchdowns (all 20-plus yards) against the Roos last season, stands as an integral part of that test for Weatherford, Mathis said.
“Birdville is very patient with what they do,” Mathis said.
“Their running back Laderrious Mixon and the quarterback, Stone Earle are very good. Mixon runs the ball as well as anybody in the state. Their O-line is as good as anybody in the state, and Mixon is very patient. He gets up in behind the line, keeps his legs moving and he [consistently] seems to find a little crease, and when he does, he hits it lightning fast.
“They don’t throw the ball a ton, but Earle’s very accurate when they do.”
As such, Weatherford’s run defense stands to play a major role in Friday’s game, Mathis said.
“That’s the most important thing,” Mathis said.
“We’ve got to stop their run game and not allow them to run north and south, but make them run from sideline to sideline. We’ve got to stop Mixon. First play of the game [last year] he scored a touchdown right up the middle. We know we’ve got to stop him, win on third downs and get them off the field. We can’t let them go get three, four yards at a time.
“We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage. That’s the key to this game, both offensively and defensively.”
On paper, the Roos’ own offense held its own against the Hawks last season, accruing 374 yards while holding the edge in first downs, 22-18.
However, Weatherford was pass heavy, with quarterback Ken Seals attempting 51 throws as the run game stalled (57 team rushing yards).
Mathis stressed that while the Roos adapt to what opposing offenses do during each game, his own squad is looking to attack Birdville with a more balanced approach this time around.
“We always try to go out with a balanced attack,” Mathis said.
“We threw the ball 51 times last season [in that game]. We want to run the football. We go with the feel of the game, how things are going, what we’re having success with, but the game plan is to be balanced.”
Mathis added that Weatherford’s offense needs to make the most of its opportunities Friday, saying that Birdville’s defense, anchored by strong players both up front and in the backend, do not make many mistakes.
“Their defense flies around,” Mathis said.
“They run a 3-4 style of defense. They’ve got a giant nose guard. They’re very well coached and don’t blow many coverages.”
At the same time, the Roos enter Friday’s game under different circumstances from 2018, when the team entered the contest (on the road) sitting at .500.
Now 2-0 and this time hosting Birdville, Mathis said Weatherford’s players are in a collective great mindset heading into Friday.
“Being 2-0 is great momentum for us,” Mathis said.
“Having our first home game, our kids are excited. Our fans have been unbelievable. We’re excited.”