In a district that four teams with a combined record of 16-4 call home, winning the district opener becomes even more important.
When that opening round game comes against another of those four teams, it’s amplified even more.
That’s the task facing Cayuga Friday, when the Wildcats (5-0, 0-0) welcome in the Riesel Indians (4-1, 0-0) for the District 8-A (Div. I) opener.
“I don’t think we can put enough importance on this game this week,” Cayuga coach Greg Jenkins said. “No. 1 because it’s district, No. 2 because it’s got playoff implications.
“Riesel’s a good football team. They’ll be as prepared as any team we play this year. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game, or they’re going to spoil some things.”
Along with CHS and the Indians, Kerens (4-1, 0-0) and Mart (3-2, 0-0) also call the district home.
Both Kerens and Mart have spent the majority of the season ranked in the Associated Press’s top-10, while Cayuga has continually received enough votes to land in the top-20.
But, only three teams make the playoffs.
Also on the line for Cayuga is a 19-game winning streak and a home winning streak that dates back to 2006.
While some coaches might worry about their teams looking ahead to games like Mart and Kerens, Jenkins said he isn’t worried about that for one reason:
A veteran presence.
“They know. A lot of kids, you might can fool them, but these kids have played for a state championship,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he and his staff took things back to basics during the team’s bye week, opting for a heavier conditioning load to ease some stress and allow some banged up players to heal.
“We tried to heal up,” he said. “We played five weeks in a row against smashmouth (teams). We were beat up. We had some nagging injuries, some guys that had leg problems. We needed the bye week to get healthy.”
While the bye week allowed for most players to get healthy, Jenkins said the Wildcats still aren’t sure if they’ll have the services of leading wide receiver Chris Turner, who tweaked his ankle in practice this week.
Jenkins said Cayuga has held Turner out of practice this week, but his status for Friday’s game is day-to-day.
Standing in the way of Cayuga’s march toward another state title is Riesel, a playoff team from a year ago.
While they may lack some of the raw talent of other teams in the district, Jenkins said the Indians more than make up for it with their effort and the complexity of their offensive schemes.
“They go under center and smash it at you. Then, they’ll come out of the next huddle and be in spread,” he said. “Most of the time we’ve come out and teams are coming out of the wing-t and power-I and coming right at us. They put their kids in a position to be successful.
“Scheme wise, they’re the most complicated we’ve seen dating back to last year.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Scarborough Stadium in Bethel, and before the game, Fox Sports Southwest’s Road Tour will be in town with an interactive village for fans.
Sports Editor Justin Rains may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 903-729-0281, ext. 242.