By JUSTIN RAINS
Right out of the gate, the Westwood football team is going to see how well it stacks up against the best District 11-2A, Division I has to offer.
The Panthers open up play against the district’s two favorites to begin their time in Class 2A, with perennial power Franklin first on the docket.
The Panthers travel to Franklin’s Lion Stadium (E. Morgan St., Franklin, Texas 77856) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday.
“We start off with what everybody considers the top-two,” WHS coach Roger Mays said “With Franklin, opening up on the road, they’re supposed to be the cream of the crop. They go deep in the playoffs every year so I think we’ll see where we stand going down there.”
After a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Malakoff right before the team’s bye, the Panthers struggled last Friday in their final non-district tune-up.
Groesbeck topped Westwood, 40-0, admittedly taking some win out of the Panthers’ sails. But, not all of the win, Mays said.
“As a coach, you worry how your kids are going to respond,” he said. “But, we talked about it after the game and kids are resilient. What we did was sit back and look at the positives.”
One of those positives was Westwood’s opening drive, which spanned 15 plays and almost eight minutes.
But, Westwood turned the ball over inside the red zone and was never the same.
Still, Mays and his staff are trying to take the positives from that opening drive, which showed that the Panthers can move the ball in their new offensive system.
“We put that system in during the bye week and I feel like we were very basic (on the first drive),” Mays said. “We picked out our staple plays during that first drive, and it was like clockwork. I’ve got to give credit to the offensive line, Korbin Boles and those guys, they did a great job on that first drive.”
The majority of Groesbeck’s yards last Friday came through the air, as quarterback Colt McCoy threw for almost 300 yards, including a 94-yard touchdown pass to Matt Barnes.
Struggles defending the pass are nothing new for the Panthers, who shouldn’t have that problem Friday against the Lions.
Franklin runs an option-based, wing-t style offense behind two strong running backs. If that sounds familiar for Westwood and its fans, it should. It’s the offense the Panthers ran last year and to start this year.
That gives Mays and his team an advantage that many teams don’t have when preparing for Franklin.
“It’s all a mentality, I think. If your kids have confidence and it’s something they see...you’ve got to get them geared up and get ready,” he said. “They’ve got to stay low like the old saying, ‘Grab grass and growl.’ We’ve got to be very physical up front and try and shut down their run game.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org