SPORTS HEADLINES

Game of the Week for Friday, September 28, 2018

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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Full Speed Ahead

FULL SPEED AHEAD – Paradise’s Jack Ishmael runs the ball in a game against Henrietta earlier this season. Messenger photo by Kelly Basting

Paradise at Whitesboro

7:30 p.m.
Bearcat Stadium
Harris Line: Whitesboro by 28

Off to their best start since 2011, the Paradise Panthers will now face their toughest test of the season when they travel to Whitesboro for the District 4-3A Division I opener Friday night.

Paradise is coming off a 47-13 drubbing of Callisburg last week and enters the showdown with the Bearcats sporting a 3-1 overall record.

“We’re entering district play the way we kind of hoped,” said Paradise coach Joe Koch. “We’re improving. We do have a little bit of momentum, but we also understand that Whitesboro is another animal. They are a really good football team.”

Ranked 16th in 3A Division I in the Harris Ratings, Whitesboro boasts one of 3A’s stingiest defenses. Opponents are averaging just 12.3 points against Whitesboro, and Koch knows scoring opportunities will be at a premium.

“We’re going to have to be consistent on offense – no dropped passes and no unforced errors,” Koch said. “We can’t stop ourselves with a foolish penalty.

“You don’t see many big plays scored on them. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

The Panthers’ 47-point outburst against Callisburg was the most Paradise has scored since beating Boyd 52-7 in the 2016 regular season finale.

Koch attributed the increase in offensive production to junior quarterback Jace Essig getting more comfortable in the Panthers’ scheme. Essig posted his best passing numbers last week, going 8-of-11 for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

“You can see him developing. His confidence is going up,” Koch said. “I think we had around 300 yards rushing and 200 passing. That’s the balance we’d like to have.”

Defensively, Paradise will be without starting middle linebacker Trey Valentine. The Panthers lost Valentine to a torn ACL two weeks ago in a 33-21 loss to Jacksboro. Without Valentine, Paradise will be tasked with slowing down Whitesboro and senior quarterback Scout Sanders.

The Bearcats are averaging 32.5 points.

Koch said with Valentine out, Paradise has been forced to alter its defensive scheme, and is now using two linebackers instead of one.

“You can’t really replace him,” Koch said. “We’ve had to tweak our defense. It’s the game of football. Obviously, we feel horrible for Trey. Losing him was big, but we’re adjusting.”

A win would push the Panthers to 4-1 for the first time since 2011. It would also be the first time Paradise has won its district opener since 2015.

“We’ll have to play better than we have all year to compete with these guys,” Koch said. “We’re going to go in there and give it our best shot. If we could steal a win and play exceptionally well, it would be unbelievable – but we’re not going to put the cart in front of the horse.”

BEST OF THE REST

Northwest at Fort Worth Southwest
7:30 p.m.
Farrington Field

The Northwest Texans kick off District 4-5A Division II on the road Friday against Fort Worth Southwest.

Northwest and Southwest enter the contest with identical 2-2 records. The Texans are coming off a 14-7 win over Sherman. The Raiders fell to Weatherford 28-11 last week.

Southwest is averaging 25.5 points. Northwest is scoring 26.8 points per game.

The Texans were projected by many, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, to win 5-4A II.

Harris Line: Northwest by 21

Decatur at Glen Rose
7:30 p.m.
Tiger Stadium

Decatur will look to end non-district play on the right note Friday when they take on Glen Rose.

The Tigers are the ninth ranked team in 4A Division II, according to Harris Ratings. They sport a 3-1 record.

Decatur has lost its last two games, falling to Graham 59-35 Thursday. The Eagles have surrendered more than 500 yards of total offense in each game this season.

Offensively, senior Beau Bedford has eclipsed 100 yards receiving the past three games for Decatur. After Friday’s game against Glen Rose, the Eagles will get a week off before hosting Wichita Falls Hirschi Oct. 12.

Harris Line: Glen Rose by 19

Gainesville at Bridgeport
7:30 p.m.
Bull Memorial Stadium

Bridgeport will try to get to 4-1 for the first time since 2010 when they welcome in Gainesville Friday for homecoming.

The Bulls have won three in a row since falling to Pilot Point in the regular season opener. They are averaging 23.5 points.

The Leopards come into the game at 1-3. Gainesville’s defense has struggled at times this year, as opponents are averaging 34.5 points.

It is the final non-district game for both schools. Bridgeport gets a bye next week before traveling to Krum for the District 3-4A Division II opener Oct. 12.

Harris Line: Bridgeport by 2

Leaping Grab

LEAPING GRAB – Boyd’s Nick Taylor (44) reaches to make a catch during a game against Howe last week. Messenger photo by Kelly Basting

Boyd at Ponder
7:30 p.m.
Ponder Field

After throttling Howe 33-7 last week, Boyd will travel to Ponder Friday for the District 4-3A Division I opener.

The Yellowjackets lost last year’s meeting with the Lions 26-20. Ponder and Boyd are both 2-2 this season.

Offensively, the Yellowjackets have been explosive. Boyd scored on several big plays against Howe and is averaging 27.5 points.

Ponder fell to Howe 21-18 in the regular season opener.

Harris Line: Boyd by 21

Alvord at Petrolia
7 p.m.
Pirate Stadium

Alvord will try to avenge last season’s 28-8 loss when they head north to meet Petrolia Friday.

The Bulldogs fended off Pantego Christian 30-28 last week to improve to 2-2 overall. The Pirates are still searching for their first win.

Opponents are averaging 30 points against Alvord, but Petrolia has had issues scoring this year. The Pirates are averaging just 16.3 points per game.

Harris Line: Alvord by 17

Tom Bean at Chico
7:30 p.m.
Dragon Field

After four consecutive road games, Chico will return home for the first time this season Friday when they host Tom Bean.

The Dragons are on a two-game losing streak, falling to Era and Blue Ridge the past two weeks. They are 2-2 on the season.

The Tomcats enter the game at 3-1.

Harris Line: Tom Bean by 13

Haslet Legacy at Victory Christian
7 p.m.
Patriot Field

The Victory Christian Patriots will hit the field for the first time in two weeks when they host Haslet Legacy Friday.

Victory Christian’s game last week against Lucas JV was canceled due to rain. The Patriots are 1-2 this season. Haslet Legacy is 0-2.

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