Two undefeated teams will take the field at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hewitt’s Panther Stadium for the TAPPS 6-Man, Division III state finals, but only one will leave having achieved a perfect season.
The Weatherford Christian School Lions (12-0) and Baytown Christian Academy Bulldogs (13-0) have never faced each other before, although the teams share a number of similarities.
For one, both squads have made a habit lighting up scoreboards in 2018.
WCS has won eight contests by at least a 40-point margin, compared to 12 such games by Baytown.
The Lions also own a season-long point differential of 713-238 (average of 59-20 per game), compared to the Bulldogs’ 801-119 (average of 62-9 per game).
Defensively both teams have excelled, successfully slowing down opposing attacks in a league often associated with shootouts.
The Lions have held two opponents scoreless, while limiting another three teams to single-digit points this season.
The Bulldogs for their part have pitched a staggering six shutouts, in addition to holding two other opponents to single-digit scoring.
While WCS’ numbers have been consistently strong on both sides of the ball, Baytown owns at least a slight advantage in all the above-mentioned categories.
However, that has not dampened the confidence of the Lions ahead of their final game of the season, WCS Head Football Coach Stephen Cox said.
“We had a practice on Saturday where we were watching a lot of film, and the guys were really upbeat and ready to get out and prove a point that they’re ready,” Cox said.
“They wanted to go full pads [Monday] so they could be hit and work on some [things]. That’s a good sign. They’re really excited. We know we’re the underdogs going in. I don’t think the spread is too [big] a differential, but there’s a lot of people saying we’re gonna get 45-ed.
“But they’re really excited and up for the challenge. We haven’t been seen a lot by a lot of people down south, and that district is really tough, but we’re ready to go.”
Heading into the contest, WCS’ biggest strengths arguably come in the form of a potent ground game which has churned out over 4,000 yards, as well as an opportunistic defense responsible for 15 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries, four blocked field goals and 15.5 sacks.
The tandem of Lions’ seniors, quarterback Jackson Floyd and running back Manning Marsh, have combined for 5,003 of the team’s 5,382 total yards of offense, while drawing opposing defenses toward the line of scrimmage.
Wide receiver/defensive back Jarrett Foland has proven a strong two-way player for WCS, hauling in 18 receptions for 463 yards and 11 scores, while notching seven picks and four fumble recoveries on defense.
If the Bulldogs decide to key in on Floyd and Marsh, Foland will almost certainly get an opportunity to break a big play on the outside for the Lions offensively.
Cox said one of the biggest obstacles WCS will face against Baytown is the latter’s quickness on the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s hard to get the outside edge on them,” Cox said.
“They’re really quick, they fire the gaps and try to disrupt the play, so if you’re not blocking well, it’s gonna be a long day.
Cox added that the Bulldogs possess similarly dangerous speed on offense as well.
“They’re really fast, and have some good running backs that are really slippery and hard to tackle,” Cox said.
“Their quarterback is pretty good too. He can throw the ball or take off and run it. He’s fast also.”
The Lions, while ultimately coming out on top, struggled to contain Irving Faustina Academy’s offense a week ago, surrendering 66 points, including 44 in the first half.
That being said, while WCS’ 73-66 win over the Falcons was anything but guaranteed deep into the fourth quarter, the win proved the Lions’ resiliency in the face of postseason elimination.
It is difficult to measure Baytown’s response to similar circumstances, mainly because the Bulldogs have not played a close game (two score deficit or less) all season.
In fact, Baytown’s closest win came in the form of a 53-28 victory over Austin’s Veritas Academy in week five.
After winning two regular season games and being eliminated in the state semifinals a year ago, WCS now stands four quarters away from potentially hoisting a state championship trophy.
The triumph will likely not come easy against a team like Baytown.
However, WCS has spent the entirety of the 2018 season deconstructing preconceptions about the team’s potential.
The Lions just need to do it one more time.