Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie and Alvarado coach Jeff Dixon echoed almost identical statements when talking about what is arguably the biggest Class 3A game in the area this season.
The two teams square off on Friday night in Alvarado with the winner most likely grabbing the District 7-3A title. But the one thing that will be decided for sure is the winner will clinch a playoff berth at 2-0, since the district has just five teams and each team plays four 7-3A games.
Something else has to give on Friday. Alvarado enters the contest at 6-1 on the season including 3-0 at home, while Stephenville finds itself at 5-1 overall and 2-0 on the road.
"It's a huge game, the biggest game we he played up to this point," Gillespie said. "We played a tough nondistrict schedule, but when we were playing those folks, there were no implications -- just great games. We faced a good Glen Rose team last week and were fortunate to get out with a win."
The last time the two teams squared off was 2006 when they were in the same 4A district and it was Dixon's second year at Alvarado. Stephenville won, 26-15, when Yellow Jackets' quarterback Kody Spano put the game away with a late 63-yard scoring run.
"They took it to us pretty good last time we played and the kids know how they beat us," Dixon said. "They have a great program and were trying to get out program to their level. It's a good indicator of where we are as a team this year. We have a lot of respect for them, but we know what's at stake Friday. It's going to be a great atmosphere for sure."
Both coaches agreed the key to Friday's games would come down to turnovers and which team could control the ball on offense.
"A huge key for us is to be good on defense and fly to the football," Gillespie said. "They are a ground and pound team and they execute what they do offensively very well. Coach Dixon and his staff do a great job and we can't let them control the clock and keep the ball. We have to get the ball in our offenses hands as much as possible. We have to just take it one play at a time. We have to execute on special teams and not turn the ball over."
Dixon has faith in his defense that hasn't given up more than 14 points all season, and more than 21 points in a game the past two seasons, but the coach knows keeping his offense on the field is critical this week.
"We have to get first downs and try to keep the ball," Dixon said. "There offense is explosive and they score a lot of points per game. With the caliber of their offense keeping them on the sidelines is critical. We have to execute on special teams and we can't have any mistakes or make stupid penalties. We have to play well in all phases."
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