By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Two area teams are set to begin play this weekend in the Texas high school football playoffs.
In Class 2A Division I, Muleshoe (8-2) squares off against Panhandle (8-2) in a 4 p.m. (MST) start today at Dick Bivins Stadium in Amarillo. On Saturday, Bovina (7-3) travels to Panhandle for a 6:30 p.m. (MST) first-round rematch from last season against Quanah (6-4) in the Class 1A Division 1 playoffs.
Muleshoe and Panhandle match two of the area’s stoutest defenses. Mules coach David Wood said his team hopes to force the Panthers to have to go to the air, taking them out of their comfort zone.
Meantime, the Muleshoe attack runs through junior quarterback Garrett Riley and senior running back Eric Washington.
“He’s real excited,” Wood said of Riley. “It’s his first playoff game, and he’s up to the challenge.”
Washington has been a complete player for Muleshoe, and a surprise this season, Wood said. He has 1,060 yards combined rushing and receiving.
“He was a kid that was always a program player,” Wood said. “He didn’t come into his own until his senior year.”
Bovina, which rolled over Springlake-Earth 42-7 last week, hopes to avenge its first-round 19-8 loss to Quanah last season at Dick Bivins. The Indians went on to reach the quarterfinal round, where they lost to eventual state champion Stratford.
Bovina coach Hector Guevara said this year’s Bovina squad moves the ball better and has more experience than last year’s team.
“We’re a blue collar team, like the Boston Red Sox,” Guevara said. “We work hard and we don’t have a stud athlete that stands out, but the kids keep grinding.”
That blue collar attitude is evident in the Mustangs’ game plan to stifle Quanah senior running back Matthew Hill.
“Defensively, we have to stop their running game, and contain him,” Guevara said. “He’s real fast and a good athlete. All he needs is a little crease.”
Bovina will try to put as many obstacles in Hill’s way as possible, such as bringing its cornerbacks up and having the defensive ends contain Heel before he hits the line of scrimmage.
On offense, the Mustangs plan to stick to their running game, try to grab first downs and eat up the clock.
“We’ll try to gain three yards,” Guevara said, “and leave (them) in a cloud of dust.”