By JUSTIN RAINS
When the Cayuga football team left the field after Friday’s 20-16 loss to Italy, a chance at the District 6-A title may have left the field with them.
But, the playoffs are still a very real possibility for the Wildcats (5-3, 2-1), who welcome in rival Cross Roads (1-7, 0-4) for the final home game of 2012 at Scarborough Stadium (Hwy. 287, Bethel, Texas 75832). Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Between the renewal of the rivalry and senior night, CHS coach Greg Jenkins isn’t worried about any lingering effects of the Italy loss.
“Our kids always get ready to play Cross Roads,” he said. “It’s been a good week of practice for us coming off of a heart-breaking loss. They haven’t batted an eye this week. They know the task at hand is to win this week.”
While the Wildcats can’t outright clinch a playoff spot with a win this week, it’ll go along way toward the task. Wins in the final two games over the Bobcats and then Dallas Gateway in the season finale would wrap-up the No. 2 seed for Cayuga.
“We’ve got to win it,” Jenkins said. “Win the next two and you’re in, that’s basically what we’ve told them.”
For the second-straight week, the Wildcats will be without running back D’onte Jackson, who Jenkins classified as “out indefinitely.”
It’s a big loss for the Wildcats, who will miss Jackson’s almost 800 yards on the ground. It also means a bigger workload for other players.
Wesley Rigdon shouldered some of that load against Italy, rushing 12 times for 91 yards, and Jenkins spoke very highly of his first-year player.
“He runs hard and does everything that he needs to do,” he said.
Rigdon is also the team’s — and area’s — leading receiver. His brother, quarterback Chandler, also had a big night, rushing for 129 yards.
Jenkins said everybody will have to step up to fill the void left by Jackson, but that his coaching staff is trying not to ask too much of the team.
He said they’re simply telling players, “Just do what we’re asking you to do.”
Cross Roads brings a slightly complicated spread offense with them, based in a lot of pre-snap movement that is meant to confuse defenses.
“They do a lot of stuff out of the spread, including some stuff we haven’t seen this year,” Jenkins said. “They’re not simple, they give you every look. Offensively, we think they do a good job.”
Because of that, Jenkins said he and defensive coordinator Glen Tunstall have been trying to keep things simple this week in preparing.
If that can happen with the Wildcats talented defense, and the offense can get a rhythm, he thinks Cayuga can be dangerous.
“Get lined up where you’re supposed to line up and attack,” he said. “We’re a deep playoff team defensively, we’ve just got to get some consistency on offense.”
GRAPELAND at Shelbyville
The playoffs start now for the Grapeland football team.
Despite the Sandies 2-6 record, wins in their final two games would put them into the postseason. The first come Friday, when they travel to Shelbyville’s Dragon Stadium (Shelbyville School Yard Road, Shelbyville, Texas 75973) to take on the Dragons (2-6, 1-2) at 7:30 p.m.
If Grapeland can win Friday, then it would only need a win over West Sabine to clinch a second-straight playoff spot.
The Dragons enter the game off of their first district win of the year, a 27-6 defeat of Cushing. Grapeland’s only district win is also over Cushing, a 19-2 triumph.
The Sandies enter the game coming off of a 36-12 loss to state-ranked Alto. In the game, Grapeland gave up 326 yards on the ground to the Yellowjackets.
Shelbyville presents a balanced attack, averaging 279 yards per game (145 rush/134 pass) led by running back Dillon Brown (147 carries-746 yards) and quarterback James Bradford (84-175 for 1,064 yards).
OAKWOOD at Chester
Oakwood is another local squad that can lock-up a playoff spot with a win Friday, and it doing so secure what should be a district title game for next week.
The Panthers (5-2, 2-0) travel to Chester, who is expected to be able to field a team this week despite not being able to last week. Chester was forced to forfeit their game against Apple Springs, dropping the Yellow Jackets to 0-6 on the year.
It was the second forfeit of the season for Chester, who didn’t play from Sept. 28 (the date of the first forfeit) and Oct. 19’s district opener.
Oakwood is coming off of a big win against High Island, 56-8, last Saturday.
In the win, Oakwood held the Cardinals to 103 total yards, while gaining 352 of its own in a mercy-rule shortened contest.
With a win — and an Apple Springs win over High Island — Oakwood would host Apple Springs in the season finale for the district title.
Kick-off Friday is set for 7:30 p.m. in Chester (stadium information unavailable).
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org