Ready to handle the Herd; Decatur meets Hereford in quarterfinal

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, December 5, 2018
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Moving on

MOVING ON – Decatur head coach Mike Fuller and senior Matteo Carrizales celebrate the Eagles’ victory over Wichita Falls Hirschi in the 4A Division I regional round. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Decatur will get a chance to etch its name into the history books when it meets Hereford in the 4A Division I quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Friday at AT&T Jones Stadium on the campus of Texas Tech University.

With a win, the Eagles would join the squads from 1975 and 1988 as the only teams in school history to make the state semifinal.

“They’re fired up,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller of his team. “They’ve been so dialed in this past month. They are motivated and love each other. They want to keep it going.”

After finishing the regular season 4-6, Decatur knocked off Dumas and Andrews to claim bi-district and area titles. The Eagles then beat Hirschi for the second time this season in the regional round last week.

Decatur has been the underdog in every playoff game thus far.

Full speed ahead

FULL SPEED AHEAD – Decatur running back A.J. Martinez eludes a Hirschi defender during the Eagles’ victory in the regional round. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Eagles’ defense – which surrendered more than 500 yards and 50 points per game during the regular season – has been stout the past three weeks. Decatur held Hirschi all-state running back Daimarqua Foster to 114 yards in the regional round – his lowest total of the season.

In the Eagles’ three playoff games, they have forced eight turnovers and only given up 21 points per game.

“How our defense has played in the playoffs is how they have played in practice all year,” Fuller said. “I think confidence is probably the biggest factor in high school sports – particularly football. The coaches have done a really good job of teaching them what they need to know and [have] tried to simplify it as much as they can.”

Decatur will face another test on the ground against Hereford, as the Whitefaces average 205.8 yards rushing. Senior running back Cody Dixon has racked up 2,075 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Hereford lost senior starting quarterback Dodge Delozier to a torn ACL midway through the year. Fuller said the Whitefaces are not a pass-oriented team but can stretch the field when they need to.

“They’ve got a great running back,” Fuller said. “They run it a lot of different ways. They’re good. They don’t do anything we haven’t seen. But at this point, we’ve seen just about everything you can.”

Surveying the field

SURVEYING THE FIELD – Decatur quarterback Roman Fuller drops back to pass during the Eagles’ win over Dumas in the bi-district round. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Hereford enters the contest 9-4 overall. The Whitefaces finished third in District 3-4A Division I behind Dumas and Canyon.

Decatur comes in at 7-6 overall. Both schools dropped their regular season finale.

Fuller said a key for the Eagles will be neutralizing Hereford’s ground attack.

“We’ve got to stop the run – or slow it down,” Fuller said. “We have to eliminate the big, explosive plays and get a turnover or two.”

Winter weather may be a factor Friday, as the National Weather Service forecasts rain, freezing rain and a wintry mix with a high temperature of 36 degrees for Lubbock. Fuller said Monday that his team was aware of the potential inclement weather.

“We talked about it,” Fuller said. “Whatever the weather is like, we’ll go play in it, unless it starts lightning. We’ll adjust, fight and make it work.”

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