SPORTS HEADLINES

Football: Ready for new test – Eagles face Wylie in opening round

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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Flying High

FLYING HIGH – Decatur’s Beau Bedford and Wilson Hicks celebrate a touchdown during the Eagles’ win over Sanger Friday. The Eagles enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For the first time in four years, the Decatur Eagles will face someone other than Stephenville in the opening round of the playoffs.

But the task is no easier, catching longtime nemesis and perennial 4A power Abilene Wylie.

The two square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Graham.

Decatur, the third seed out District 4-4A Division I, comes into the postseason on a three-game winning streak. Decatur drubbed Sanger 65-21 last week to close the regular season.

Wylie lost to Stephenville in its regular season finale.

On paper, the Eagles own the edge offensively. Decatur averaged 66.3 points in their final three games, while the Bulldogs’ opponents averaged 21.6 points per game this season.

Much of Decatur’s offensive explosion to end the year can be attributed to the emergence of junior quarterback Wilson Hicks. Against Sanger, Hicks had seven touchdowns in the first half alone, completing 69 percent of his passes for 342 yards.

“It’s a combination of everything,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller. “Our receivers are getting better and the last three games, what’s helped the passing game is we have run the ball better. Three weeks ago, we made a commitment to using our quarterback in the run game more.”

Hicks has rushed for 189 yards in the past three games, despite only tallying 108 yards on the ground in Decatur’s first seven contests. As a team, the Eagles have rushed for 680 yards in their wins over Gainesville, Burkburnett and Sanger.

With defenses not able to stack the box and key on the run, Decatur has unleashed its entire arsenal of plays in its spread, hurry-up offense – something Fuller intends to use against a stout Wylie team.

“Our best weapon is always our speed and our tempo,” Fuller said. “That neutralizes a lot of the pass rush. It can sometimes wear down an opponent – if not physically then mentally.”

Defensively all eyes for Decatur will be on Abilene quarterback Sam King and running back Carson Grant. Although King missed some time this season due to a knee injury, he has returned and, along with Grant, given Wylie a dynamic 1-2 punch.

“They have one particular player who’s the focal point of their offense,” Fuller said. “They move him around in the backfield and put him everywhere. Recognizing formations and what they do out of it is going to be critical.”

Before their loss to Stephenville, the Bulldogs gave up six and seven points in wins over Big Spring and Snyder. Although Wylie finished the season 6-3, the Bulldogs are just one year removed from losing to Carthage in the 4A championship game.

Wylie rolled through its playoff schedule last year, knocking off Hirschi, Pampa, Argyle, Levelland and Kennedale before bowing out in the title game.

“They’re just really good,” Fuller said. “They’re a perennial playoff power.”

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