The playoffs began a week early for Juma Otoviano and Sorrell Brown.
Before the Martin juniors could prepare for a 6A Division 1 bi-district matchup against Keller Timber Creek on Friday at UT Arlington’s Maverick Stadium, the Warriors first had to earn a place in the postseason.
It came down to a regular season finale against crosstown rival Lamar. The scenario was straightforward: Win and you’re in, lose and you go home. Otoviano and Brown’s big nights made sure that Martin was in for the 11th consecutive season — dating to coach Bob Wager’s first season at the helm. Martin won the Nov. 3 contest 41-33.
“The intensity at practice picked up a lot,” Otoviano, Martin’s starting running back, said of the days leading up to the finale. “We knew we had to go out there and do it again to get into the playoffs.”
The win against Lamar represented the fourth straight for the Warriors after a 2-4 start. Martin opened district with a 1-2 mark but by the end had a 5-2 record in 4-6A, good for second place behind district champion Mansfield.
“That’s a difficult hole to dig yourself out of,” Wager said. “And with that comes a lot of noise and a lot of distractions. And the great thing about adversity is you get to find out where everybody stands. So I’m awfully proud of our kids and our staff for finding a way to continue to battle.”
Against Lamar, Otoviano battled for 247 yards rushing and touchdowns of five and 71 yards. He finished the regular season with 1,157 yards and 19 TDs. Brown, a receiver, caught six passes for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. He led the squad with 568 yards receiving.
“We just capitalized every time we got the ball,” Brown said of the Lamar game. “We capitalized and made plays and special teams helped us out a lot. We made the right plays at the right time.”
In addition to his herculean rushing effort, Otoviano also contributed to the offensive onslaught against Lamar in another way: He attempted and completed two passes for 38 yards. Otoviano credited the offensive line for helping the Warriors find success on the ground early and then later through the air.
“Our blocking was tremendous both on the inside and outside,” Otoviano said. “We were able to get some runs, and then eventually it opened up big plays on the outside the receivers made.”
Brown said Otoviano’s rushing ability forces the defense to commit to stopping the run. And once a defense starts thinking about the run, Brown and his fellow receivers can take advantage of one-on-one opportunities down the field.
Brown is “able to go up, catch balls and make people miss, and that’s the same thing with all our receivers,” Otoviano said. “They all go up and grab the ball and make plays whenever their number is called.”
Martin rose to the occasion against Lamar. But the next game, against Timber Creek, represented an even bigger occasion: the playoffs. Otoviano remembered what the postseason was like as a sophomore: “It’s wild,” he said. “It’s a great environment. I think we all enjoy that competition because we work for it.”
Bowie kicked off the bi-district round Thursday by nipping Keller Central 20-17. Though the score was close, Bowie totaled 361 yards to Central’s 115. Quarterback Donoven Davenport passed for 271 yards, a touchdown and was intercepted twice, and Branden Ellis led the rushing with 46 yards on 14 carries. Ty DeArman had 82 yards receiving on just three catches, and Kobe Daniels had 73 on six.
The Volunteers advance to the area round, where they’ll meet Midland — a team that racked up 73 points in its bi-district match against El Paso El Dorado but also surrendered 52.
Martin lost to Keller Timber Creek 54-51 in a wild, back-and-forth bi-district game Friday.
Seguin lost to Lancaster 56-14 in the bi-district round, and Arlington lost to Abilene 65-36.
The only Arlington team to make it past bi-district, Lamar toppled San Angelo Central in five matches on Nov. 4. The Lady Vikings advanced to the Region I quarterfinals, where they lost in three to El Paso Coronado on Nov. 8. Lamar finished its season 16-13.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74