If Aledo is going to meet its match in a district game, the Justin Northwest football team may be it when the two pair off this Friday.
Regardless, Northwest will return to the playoffs this year.
Aledo, a program that has won six state titles – five in the last seven years – has been the odds-on-favorite in District 6-5A from the start.
But with Northwest as a new district foe for the Bearcats, the possibility is as strong as ever for a new challenger.
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Both teams come into the game undefeated at 8-0, 5-0 in district play.
So, what will it take for the “upset” to happen?
Northwest head coach Bill Poe said the focus for the Texans is their own execution.
“On both sides of the ball, we need to continue to execute to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “We can’t get wrapped up in who they are.”
Poe said the key is in the trenches.
“Who wins up front will win,” Poe said of the offensive and defensive lines. “If we do well up front we have a great chance.”
Saginaw and Haslet Eaton head coaches, Dane Johnson and Brad Turner respectively, have played both teams, and gave their perspectives on the game.
One fact is already in Northwest’s favor, as Johnson pointed to its home-field advantage.
The coaches both noted experience in big games gives advantage to Aledo.
Turner, who faced Aledo routinely as head coach at Springtown, said the Bearcats have one of the most talented and deep teams he’s seen.
“If anybody’s going to beat them, Aledo has to be playing their C-game,” Turner said, “but the district championship’s on the line, so I don’t think that’s going to happen. If something goofy happens, you usually have one or two guys you lean on, but Aledo has so much talent at every position.”
Turner doesn’t rule out an upset, though. “They’re both well-coached. You never know, and you’ve got to play it. It’s a great opportunity. You’ve got to get over the name on the jersey. There’s a difference in saying you’ve got a chance and believing you’ve got a chance.”
The biggest key, Johnson said, is the play of Northwest’s skilled players.
“The only way (Northwest can win) is if the quarterback and receivers are on. The O-line will give him time,” Johnson said. “If he (QB Prince Mavula) is on and they are catching the ball and making plays, they have a true shot to beat Aledo.
Poe said his skilled position players will be counted upon.
“We need to continue to execute running and catching the football,” Poe said.
“We have the skill players to get the big play when needed. Syrus (Moore) is our big threat and we need to continue to block for him,” Poe added.
Moore has rushed for 1,126 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
Gavin Holmes is the Texans’ top receiver, pulling in 58 catches for 1,236 yards and 13 scores.
“The defensive front of Northwest is big, but I don’t know if they can stop Aledo’s offensive line, but they may be able to slow them down,” Johnson said.
Aledo’s offense will score its share of points (62.3 per game), but if Northwest’s offense is clicking (476 yards and 46.6 points per game), Johnson said it gives Northwest an opportunity to maintain the pace.
“The receivers of Northwest are better than Aledo’s secondary, I believe,” Johnson said of his experience playing both teams.
“The biggest difference is that Aledo has played those big games time in and out,” he said. “But I gained a lot of respect for Northwest on the field. They both have great coaches in Bill Poe and Steve Wood.”
Eaton will play at Saginaw on Friday and host Brewer next week for a chance to earn its own playoff spot.
The Eagles beat up on Azle, 55-34, last week for their first district win.
“We finally put things together. We’re growing up little by little,” Turner said. “If we win the next two games for the last playoff spot – for a first-time varsity program – (that) would be awesome.”
In District 3-6A, there’s still a title to be secured and the seeding of the other three playoff teams.
While Abilene looks to nail down the top spot, Central and Timber Creek will take their 3-1 marks into battle this Friday.
One team will go to 4-1 and the other to 3-2 for second and third place in the standings.
If Fossil Ridge (5-3, 2-2) holds serve and beats Weatherford (2-7, 1-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Keller ISD Stadium, the Panthers will move into a tie as another 3-2 team.
Timber Creek still has Abilene on the schedule next week, and Central will face Haltom in the regular season finales.
Keller is at Abilene on Thursday before finishing with Fossil Ridge next week.
It’s a do-or-die situation for Trophy Club Nelson this week at Flower Mound Marcus in District 5-6A. Nelson, 2-3, is in a three-way tie for fourth with Flower Mound and Euless Trinity.
A loss to Marcus gives the tiebreaker to the Jaguars.