Old rivals square off in Texas showdown

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

For Muleshoe and Littlefield, Friday’s Texas Class 2A Division 1 regional football matchup is a little like old times.

After all, the teams were rivals for years in District 2-3A before both moved down a class this season.

Muleshoe (9-2) and Littlefield (10-1) clash at 3 p.m. today at Kimbrough Stadium in Canyon, Texas. The winner advances to next week’s quarterfinals against either Early or Comfort, who meet on Saturday night in Round Rock.

Littlefield coach Bryan Huseman said the Wildcats are familiar with Muleshoe’s personnel, but expect a different team than the one they used to battle.

“Muleshoe’s a lot different team than they have been, especially on offense,” Huseman said. “They’re pretty explosive offensively, and they cause a lot of concerns.”

Senior quarterback Garrett Riley has directed a potent passing attack for the Mules. Huseman said Muleshoe isn’t as big as usual in the line, and speculated that might be the reason Mules coach David Wood opted to open up the attack.

“They’ve done a good job of mixing it up (between run and pass),” Huseman said. “It’s been amazing how Riley’s thrown the ball this year.”

Meantime, the Mules’ stout defense is focused on containing senior tailback Stephen Viljoen, who has 23 touchdowns and about 1,400 yards rushing, and junior slotback O.J. Zapata.

“They do the same things over and over,” Wood said of the Wildcats. “They haven’t really changed anything they’ve done in probably 20 years; they just do (those things) well.

“They know you know what they’re going to do. They’ve got two really good running backs and we’ve got to be able to stop them.”

Huseman said the Wildcats have relied heavily on that tandem.

“They’ve given us a good 1-2 punch as far as running the ball,” he said.

The Mules played a solid all-around game, Wood said, in last week’s 34-14 first-round win over Panhandle.

“We came out and executed the game plan,” he said. “We took them out of what they like to do — we made them pass the ball.”

Littlefield, which beat Slaton 28-17 last week, has lost only to District 3-2A rival Childress this season and finished second to the Bobcats in district play.

The teams have had two common opponents. While both teams defeated Tulia, Muleshoe lost to Idalou while Littlefield defeated the Wildcats.

The game is part of a tripleheader at Kimbrough today. Childress plays Stratford in a 2A Division 2 contest in the opener, while the finale will pit Quanah against Sunday in Class 1A Division 1.