By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
CANYON, Texas — David Wood knew his Muleshoe football team had its work cut out against Littlefield.
Facing a powerful ground attack that he knew would be tough to stop, Wood hoped the Mules could get into a shootout with the Wildcats in Friday’s Texas Class 2A Division 1 regional playoff game at West Texas A&M’s Kimbrough Stadium.
Things looked promising early when the Mules went 89 yards in nine plays to take the lead on their second possession, but it was downhill from there.
Muleshoe couldn’t contain Littlefield’s duo of junior O.J. Zapata and Stephen Viljoen, and the Wildcats ran away to a 42-7 victory.
Zapata rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while the South African-born Viljoen (pronounced FUL-yoon) added 144 yards and a pair of scores as the Wildcats advanced to a quarterfinal matchup next weekend against either Early or Comfort, who play tonight in Round Rock.
Littlefield punished the Mules’ defense for 493 yards, all on the ground.
“It’s just a matter of the matchups,” Wood said. “It was (Muleshoe’s) finesse against (Littlefield’s) power.
“I was just hoping we could score as many points as they did.”
The Mules (9-3) were able to move the ball in their spread attack behind junior quarterback Garrett Riley, who completed 20-of-39 passes for 239 yards. They just couldn’t get the Wildcats stopped — at least not after forcing a three-and-out on Littlefield’s first series.
“They’ve got a high-powered offense,” Littlefield coach Bryan Huseman said of the Mules. “I thought we executed what we wanted to do real well tonight.”
Senior quarterback Brian Hobratschk didn’t run that often or for that much yardage, but he added two TDs for the Wildcats. His 39-yard run around right end made it 28-7 with nine minutes left in the third quarter and doused any hopes of a Mules comeback.
Viljoen and Zapata simply proved to be hard for the Mules to bring down.
“Both of them are physical runners,” Huseman said. “And our line did a great job. We were able to run to a lot of areas tonight.”
Muleshoe’s touchdown came on a 33-yard pass from Riley to senior Dustin Barker, who was wide open down the left side as Riley rolled to his left. Riley completed 4-of-6 passes on the drive for 80 yards.
Littlefield promptly countered with a six-play, 64-yard march, with Viljoen carrying four times and Zapata twice from his slotback position, including a 19-yard TD run with 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
Littlefield then went 70 and 95 yards for scores on its next two possessions, both ending in Viljoen TDs, to take a stranglehold on the game.
Senior running back Eric Washington caught nine passes for 100 yards and Barker grabbed seven for 96 yards for the Mules.
Wood said he went to a spread offense this year because the Mules didn’t have their usual size or experience in the offensive line.
“Our linemen did an outstanding job in this kind of offense,” he said. “We made a good run at it this year.
“We’ve got a good base (of players) coming back. We just have to build on what we’ve done.