GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Sandies return to their final stop of 2018 where the Mart Panthers took them down in the regional round of the playoffs.
This year, they're reloaded with an experienced state champion head coach and a more experienced roster.
Last year, the Sandies were defeated 64-22 by eventual state champions Mart.
The Panthers compiled 548 yards rushing. However, the Panthers did lose leading rusher Shatydrick Bailey and Tyrek Home, along with numerous other decorated athletes to graduation. Returning from that team is quarterback Kyler Martin who is coming off a season-ending injury in 2018.
For Grapeland, their guided by quarterback BJ Lamb, who was primarily a receiving threat the last time these two teams ran into each other.
Lamb is coming off of his best rushing performance of the year in Grapeland's 54-22 victory over Cumby. Along with passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns, Lamb rushed for 116 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries.
“The deeper we go the more opportunities he's going to have to make plays with his legs,” coach Terry Ward said. Didn't run him a whole lot during the season to keep him fresh for these types of opportunities.”
The past three weeks Lamb hadn't surpassed four rushes in a game. Alongside Lamb is sophomore running back Cadarian Wiley. He enjoyed back-to-back 100-yard games before Cumby and has posted six 100-yard performances this season.
Mart and Grapeland have a pair of common opponents in West Hardin and Frost who they both handled convincingly.
Mart's defense is allowing a little more than 11 points per game this season, which has helped them outscore their opponents 399-33 over their past seven contests.
“We're not going into this game feeling defeated,” Ward said. “We're a different team. We're going to be ready to play.”
On the opposite end, the Sandies are averaging 50 points per game over the last three weeks and coach Ward hopes for a similar level of success today.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., Friday, at Eagle Stadium in Fairfield.