By Dave Wagner
Coming off its first postseason football victory in 13 years, Farwell may have the Sunray Bobcats right where they want them in tonight’s 5 p.m. (CST) Class 1A area round game at Amarillo’s Dick Bivins Stadium.
The Steers surprised a lot of people last week by whipping Wheeler 25-6 in a bi-district clash. Against Sunray, one state ratings service has them as 14-point underdogs.
Farwell’s players and coaches would certainly beg to differ.
“They’ve probably played a little tougher schedule than we have,” Farwell coach Jacob Thompson said. “But we’ve been in a pretty good rhythm the last three weeks. Maybe we’re catching everything just right — the kids have been real relaxed in practice this week, and they still act like they’re having fun.”
Junior running back Rowdy Mitchell is confident the Steers can advance in a matchup of 9-1 squads, but added that Sunray is a team to be reckoned with.
“We’re going to have to step it up to beat these guys,” said Mitchell, who scored two touchdowns, caused a fumble and was in on eight tackles against Wheeler. “Our whole defense will have to step up. I think Sunray’s one of the top five teams in the playoffs right now.
“We’re very excited about being in the playoffs. We’re ready to play, for sure.”
The teams have faced two common opponents. While managing just a 14-7 win over Wheeler, the Bobcats pounded out a 44-14 win over Farwell’s District 3-1A rival, Nazareth — the only team to put a blemish on the Steers’ record (36-19).
Farwell has enjoyed relatively good health most of the season, although a knee injury has slowed junior running back-linebacker Hugo Vazquez since early in the campaign.
Mitchell also pointed out that senior running back-linebacker Cale Stevenson and sophomore running back-defensive back Logan McFarland have missed the entire season due to injury. “If we’d had those two guys, we’d have been a lot better,” he said.
Mitchell said he hopes the Steers can play with intensity similar to their 46-7 playoff-clinching rout of rival Bovina two weeks ago, a game in which senior quarterback Jason Johnson completed 9 of 10 first-half passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re going to have to play with emotion, like we did against Bovina,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to have to have Jason step up and play another game like he had (that night).”
The Bobcats are paced by junior quarterback Nick Martin, who has thrown and run for more than 1,000 yards this season, and senior tailback Daniel Acosta, who has piled up more than 1,200 yards on the ground.
“They’re similar to us, except that they run out of different sets than we do,” Thompson said. “They run first, pass second.”
At the same time, he said, Sunray will try to spread defenses with some four-wide receiver sets and “give Martin the option to run or pass.”
The survivor faces the winner of tonight’s Anton-McCamey contest, scheduled for Seminole, in a third-round game. That clash will likely be played on Friday, with the site and time to be determined.
Farwell (9-1) vs. Sunray (9-1)
What: Texas Class 1A area round
When: 5 p.m. (CST) today at Dick Bivins Stadium, Amarillo
Last week: Farwell won a playoff game for the first time in 13 years in dispatching Wheeler 25-6 at Amarillo. Meantime, the Bobcats had a first-round playoff bye.
Last meeting: n/a.
Sunray players to watch: Nick Martin, Jr., QB; Daniel Acosta, Sr., TB.
Keys to the game: Both teams rely heavily on the ground game. Whichever side can impose its will on the other will have the upper hand.
Quotable: “I think a lot of their kids are new starters (this year). They got beat in the first round last year, so they really don’t have any more playoff experience than we do.” — Farwell coach Jacob Thompson