By JUSTIN RAINS
Two years ago, when the Oakwood football team made its first-ever appearance in the six-man football playoffs, the Panthers were ousted in the first round.
Last year, the Panthers won their first round game before falling in the second.
Oakwood will hope that trend of steady improvement continues this week, as the Panthers take on Buckholts in the second round Saturday in Bryan.
“It’s big,” OHS coach Mike Heckathorn said of taking the next step into the regional finals. “We haven’t talked about it a whole lot, we’ve just talked about our opponent...but it is big.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Bryan Allen Academy’s Baker Field (3201 Boonville Road, Bryan, Texas 77802).
In Buckholts, Oakwood will see a rarity in six-man football: A pass-heavy offense. The Badgers average almost 230 yards per game through the air, compared with 165 on the ground.
That worries Heckathorn a bit, after the Panthers gave up 442 total yards — 237 through the air — against Fannidel in the first round.
“We didn’t play very good pass defense last week, but we were able to answer when they scored,” Heckathorn said. “Then, we were able to get some stops late.”
Senior quarterback Nathan Rice leads the Buckholts’ offense, completing almost 60 percent of his passes this season for more than 2,000 yards and 38 touchdowns.
10 different receivers have caught passes this season for the Badgers, but Rice favors Connor Hoffman, Dannie McGill and Levi Braddock. Between the three of them, the trio has caught 75 of the team’s 125 completed passes this season for more than 1,300 yards.
Braddock is the big-play threat, leading the team with a 30 yards per catch average and nine scores.
But, Heckathorn cautioned against discounting the Badgers’ rushing attack, too.
“They’re running game is pretty decent,” he said. “They’re all pretty quick and they run hard. We’ve got to be able to contain that, and if we do we’ll probably be OK.”
But, Oakwood has a potent offense of its own, an offense that averaged almost 400 yards and more than 64 points per game in the regular season.
That offense had a big day in the Panthers’ playoff-opening win, going for 514 yards.
But, unlike the Badgers, Oakwood wants to do it on the ground.
Bryson Randle ran for 190 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Fannindel, while quarterback Damiyne Durham had 133 yards and three scores.
Jacquez Anderson also broke the century-mark on the ground, rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
“That’s what won the game for us,” Heckathorn said.
It may have to once again, because the Panthers may be without Durham, who was injured late in the win over Fannindel.
If he can’t play, freshman David Allen will take his place at quarterback, and Heckathorn expressed confidence in his young signal-caller.
“He’s been working there all week, and I think we can move the football on the ground, provided our offensive line blocks, and they’ve been getting better every week,” Heckathorn said. “If we block, then we’re going to score points.”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org