By JUSTIN RAINS
When Cayuga and San Saba meet to open up the Class 1A, Division I football playoffs Friday, it’ll be a classic East versus West matchup.
On the West side will be the Armadillos, who play a slow, methodical, smash-mouth version of football.
For the East will be the Wildcats, who plan on spreading things out and going — fast.
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Joshua’s Owl Stadium (909 South Broadway, Joshua, Texas 76058).
“They’re like Carlisle (who beat Cayuga, 20-13). They’re bigger than Mount Enterprise,” CHS coach Greg Jenkins said. “We think they’re very comparable to Mount, but they’re big and physical like Carlisle was.”
The game marks a return to the postseason for Cayuga, who missed out on the playoffs last year during a down-time for the program.
“Last year was just a bad deal for our football program in general,” Jenkins said. “We were the only sport that didn’t make the playoffs, and it left a bad taste in our mouths.”
The Wildcats have been running on all cylinders for most of this season, buoyed by newcomer Chandler Rigdon at quarterback and a renewed emphasis on defense led by new defensive coordinator Glen Tunstall.
On the year, Cayuga is only giving up 18.4 points per game, which isn’t too far removed from San Saba’s offensive season average of 20.5 points per game.
But, that doesn’t mean the Armadillos aren’t dangerous.
“They’re not trying to trick you. They line up on double-tight bone, and sometimes they’ll run a little split bone,” Jenkins said. “They’re coming right at you and are just trying to whip you at the line of scrimmage.
“I told the kids that, if they get three years, they’re fans are likely to give them a standing ovation. That’s what they do.”
San Saba’s wishbone offense is a completely new look for Cayuga, who’s district is full of nothing but spread teams, and he stressed how important fundamentals would be in stopping the Armadillos.
“We’re putting some different people on the field,” he said. “The bottom line, defensively, is you have to know your assignment, you have to know what your job is and you have to tackle.”
Offensively, the Wildcats are going to go with what got them here, which is an offense with loads of weapons, from Rigdon, to D’onte Jackson to Wesley Rigdon and beyond.
Having that sort of balance and unpredictability will be key for Cayuga this week against a stout San Saba defense, which is allowing less than 20 points per game.
Cayuga, on the other hand, is scoring at a 33.6 points per game pace and averaging close to 400 yards per game.
“If you’re predictable and think that you’re going to run between the tackles on these guys, you’re wrong,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got to mix it up. They’re very good in their interior and they believe in their interior.”
The Wildcat offense will be even stronger with the return of running back D’onte Jackson, who has missed the last two games.
“It’s huge,” Jenkins said of his star running back’s return. “D’onte’s a home run threat anytime he touches the football. He’s got great vision and he moves the change. To get him back is a major boost for our offense.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org