BRYAN – The Palestine Wildcats (6-5) hopes to continue their historic run tonight against the Hargrave Falcons (11-0).
The first feat was returning to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Second, their first playoff win in 13 years. Now, another historical marker in taking down the undefeated Hargrave Falcons.
The Wildcats have not advanced past the area round of the playoffs since 2004 with their 52-14 victory over the Huffman Hargrave Falcons.
History is on the line for both squads tonight. Hargrave is looking to continue to build upon its single-season win record and to win multiple playoff games for the first time since the 2011 season.
“We've stayed grounded,” coach Lance Angel said. “Anytime you can get over that hump of winning that first playoff game it's a big deal. Especially knowing Waxahachie Life had been in the playoffs the past couple years.”
The Wildcats face another playoff-experienced team tonight in Hargrave, who has made the playoffs four out of their past five seasons.
Carthage ended their playoff run the past two seasons after playoffs alluded the Falcons in 2016.
The Falcons have enjoyed a compelling 11-0 season, thus far, after totaling just 10 wins their past two seasons. It's in large part due to a loaded senior class that includes running back AJ San Miguel, quarterback Justin Shivley and wide receiver Peyton Shivley.
Miguel totaled three rushing touchdowns in their 49-6 win over Furr in bi-district, while Shivley added in two touchdowns through the air. Pierson totaled 126 receiving yards on the night.
However, what makes the Wildcats dangerous has been their ability to deploy a more balanced offensive attack the past few weeks. Even with the highlight plays provided by Jeremiah Davis, Quinton Cook and Marquis Thompson, quarterback Christian Hutchinson has been a key cog in leading Palestine's renovated offense.
“We've taken a young man that's been in spread offenses all his life and asked him to make this change,” Angel said. “He accepted that. He's grown with it and has done an outstanding job. I'm proud of the job he's done and what he's accomplished.”
Hutchinson has passed for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns through 11 games this season. Coach Angel's playcalling will continue to be tested tonight against an opportunistic Falcons defense.
Along with their offense averaging 47 points a game, Hargrave's defense allows just 13 points a game. In their dismantling of Furr last week, Luke Thomas returned an interception 60 yards for a score. It marked their seventh defensive touchdown of the season.
In five of their 11 games, the Falcons held their opponents under 10 points. Palestine has been held under double digits once all season.
“The best thing about playing the schedule we've played is it exposes you,” Angel said. “You have to learn from ball games like that when you play great people. It's a big reason we are where we are. If we'd blown through our schedule I'm not sure we find out some of the things we had to find out.”
One of the biggest pieces to be moved was JK Lockett's transition to cornerback. It showed last week when he came away with four interceptions and a forced fumble. After the game, he sent a warning of “don't throw my way.”
“It's a great skill when the balls in the air to go get it,” Angel said. “When the ball is in the air JK thinks they're throwing to him. It's a great mentality to have.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Merill Green Stadium in Bryan, TX.