By JUSTIN RAINS
To hear Cayuga football coach Greg Jenkins tell it — both after the game and this week — there weren’t a lot of people around Class 1A football that thought the Wildcats could play on the same field as San Saba.
While, in some people’s minds, the Wildcats may have snuck up on the Armadillos Friday in Joshua, that’s no longer going to be the case, Jenkins said.
Instead, his team’s 28-21, overtime victory put teams on notice that Cayuga is a team to be reckoned with. One of those teams now on notice is Lindsay, which the Wildcats face Friday in the area round of the playoffs.
“Our biggest thing this week is realizing that on Friday night we woke a lot of people up,” Jenkins said. “There weren’t a lot of people that thought we’d win that football game. There’s not going to be anymore sneaking up now and they’re a very, very good football team.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Burleson Stadium (100 Elk Dr., Burleson, Texas 76028).
In Lindsay (8-2), the champions of District 7-A, Division I, Jenkins sees a lot of his own team.
The Knights are a balanced team, he said, and can offensively attack in many different ways, much like Cayuga can.
Lindsay will line up in the spread one play, then go to the wing-T for the next, making it hard to predict or prepare for what’s coming next.
That is, unless you’ve played the schedule Cayuga has, when teams have been playing like that all season.
“Our schedule has kind of set up in favor of that. Carlisle earlier in the year did this same type of stuff,” Jenkins said. “Even through district we had some teams that got under center and then would jump to the spread. We don’t really have to game plan all that different.”
Instead of game-planning, defensive success for Cayuga will instead come down to execution, something that the Wildcats’ defense has been doing better and better as the 2012 season has wore on.
The Wildcats gave up less than 20 points per game during the regular season, and allowed less than 215 yards per game.
On offense, Cayuga is averaging close to 400 yards per game, and kept that pace going in the win over San Saba.
Cayuga gained 359 yards against the Armadillos, with 323 of that coming on the ground. The Wildcats attempted only five passes all game.
That’s not to say Cayuga can’t throw the ball. Sophomore quarterback Chandler Rigdon threw for more than 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season.
But, Jenkins and his staff thought that the running game would be effective against the San Saba defense, and they were right.
“I think as a play-caller, you go into the game and have several different plans,” Jenkins said.
Rigdon ran for 225 yards in the win over San Saba, something that Cayuga also planned, with D’onte Jackson coming back from an injury after missing three games.
But, Jackson looked strong in the win, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard run in overtime. That gives Jenkins even more options as a play-caller.
“The thing about our offense is one week we can make the passing game the focal point, the next week it can be D’onte, the next week Wesley (Rigdon), then Chandler,” Jenkins said.
The rushing attack may be the focal point of the Lindsay defense this week, and Jenkins said that the Knights like to put their defensive backs on islands in man coverage, sometimes putting as many as eight defenders in the box to stop the run.
That’s just fine with the Wildcats.
“We try to keep it pretty simple,” Jenkins said. “If you’ve got five or six in the box we think we can run on you. If you man us up outside, we think we can pass on you.
“We think that makes us what we are, because you can’t key on anybody.”
The Thanksgiving holiday adds an extra element of unknown to the matchup, with schools letting out for the holiday at various times throughout the week.
Jenkins said he told his team not to let the holiday be a distraction, but to instead embrace it. He told his players to be thankful to be with their families, and to also be thankful that the football season isn’t over quite yet.
“We told them first thing Monday morning, ‘Be thankful for what this week is and enjoy your family,’” he said. “‘Do everything in your power to allow this week not to be a distraction for you, even from a football standpoint.’ I told them to enjoy their family and take time away from football.”
And as far as it being a distraction for his players?
“It’s thanksgiving in Lindsay, too,” he said with a laugh.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org