The Springtown Porcupines (12-1) have faced not only increasingly tough opponents through the first three rounds of postseason competition, knocking off a 5-5 Hereford team in bi-district, a 7-3 Clint squad in area and 11-1 Andrews unit in the regional semifinals, but also long bus rides which have totaled no less than 282 miles round trip in any round.
In fact, Springtown will have traveled roughly 1,940 playoff miles after its bout with the Dumas Demons (13-0) later this week.
While the potential for such long trips to have an adverse impact on the field is present, Porcupines’ Head Coach Brian Hulett said his team’s past experience playing far away opponents, coupled with great focus on his players’ part has largely nullified such a concern.
“For me personally at two different schools, Eastland and here, it’s been experience,” Hulett said.
“I’ve done this time or two, so it’s been a combination of getting to tinker with the schedules, stops and where and when you eat, when you walkthrough, and matching it up with what our kids like and what works best with us.
“This is the ninth time we’ve matched up with a Panhandle or a far west team. That’s not just this year, but going back to 2011, so we’ve had those experiences and having played at all those places like Midland, Odessa and Synder.
“After we made the first trip in bi-district, we’ve sort of stayed on the same schedule. The last thing is, I told our kids from the very start, ‘This isn’t a field trip, it’s a business trip. You can go on field trips and vacations the rest of your life, but go take care of business with this one and go earn another one.’ Our kids have done a wonderful job of that.”
While Springtown has won each of its first three playoff games by double digits (a combined margin of 164-42), Hulett said his team did not take any of those three opponents lightly, just as the Porcupines understand they cannot underestimate a Dumas’ squad which knocked off Decatur (Springtown’s lone loss this season) last week.
“You don’t go in there thinking you’re gonna beat someone 48-7, 53-15 or 63-20,” Hulett said.
“You go in there expecting every game to be a one possession, one play game. You’ve gotta prepare for that 48 minutes. If you play well enough, create enough havoc or cause enough turnovers and the game gets that way, it gets that way.
“But you don’t expect that at all ever, and this week isn’t any different.”
Dumas’ first three playoff contests have played out in a notably different manner than Springtown’s, with the Demons coming away with a trio of relatively low-scoring, one-possession games against Wichita Falls Hirschi (22-17), Seminole (23-15) and Decatur (38-35).
With the Porcupines’ offense having put up an average 55 points per game during that same span, Hulett said while the Demons’ close playoff scores have had more to do with the team’s style of play than anything else, getting up by multiple scores early against Dumas could potentially go a long way in keeping the latter off balance.
“Their scores are just because of their style of play, it’s not that they’ve played down to opponents,” Hulett said.
“They have a tough-nosed defense, and run the ball first. They’re not a flex bone, power team that’s just gonna milk the clock, but they do like to control the tempo of the game.
“But I would like to see how they perform, what they’re made of being down multiple scores. I think that’s a goal of any team that’s playing someone that wants to control the clock, knock them off what they do best.”
Much of that ball control, offensive success by Dumas has to do with a top notch offensive line, Hulett said.
“It starts up front with their O-line,” Hulett said.
“If you were to ask who their best player was, I’d probably say their O-line as a whole. Of course they’ve got a good quarterback, good running back, fast receivers too.”
That offensive line, coupled with tailback Jacob Mares (28 rushes for 203 yards) and quarterback Spencer Williams (21 rushes for 125 yards) helped power Dumas to 543 yards of total offense in a whopping 80 offensive snaps against Decatur last week.
The matchup between that unit and a ballhawking Springtown defense which held Andrews to a measly 38 rushing yards while forcing five turnovers in the regional semifinals should prove an enticing one.
Conversely, the Porcupines’ own offense has had no trouble laying it on heavy on the scoreboard, in a quick fashion at that.
Through the first three weeks of playoffs, Springtown has scored seven first-quarter touchdowns, nine second-quarter touchdowns, seven third-quarter touchdowns and two fourth-quarter touchdowns (many of the team’s starters have been pulled at that point each week).
The Porcupines have also displayed great offensive balance in each of those contests, owning pass-rush yardage totals of 279-213, 214-230 and 149-256, respectively.
With that, Hulett stressed the Demons possess a stout defensive front which can stuff the run as well as defensive backfield players who can cover the perimeter.
“Defensively it starts up front, they’ve got two, 210-pound inside linebackers, and safeties who can run the alley,” Hulett said.
However, Springtown’s head coach added that Dumas’ greatest strength lies in their cohesion as a unit.
“They’ve got zero bad players,” Hulett said.
“But I think more than individuals, it’s the sum of the whole with them. It’s their mentality, physicality, their toughness and effort that makes them so tough.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium.