It’s always a special affair when Mansfield ISD football programs face one another, but perhaps none has been quite as special as when Lake Ridge and Summit tangle Saturday at noon at Newsom Stadium. Both teams are 8-0. Both teams are state-ranked. The winner will be crowned the champion of one of the most difficult 5A districts in the state. This one is big.
“A bunch of those kids know each other very well through middle school or indirectly just through previous years’ games or basketball games or whatever,” Summit coach Travis Pride said. “There’s been some chatting back and forth. It’s been brewing for several weeks.”
The Jaguars survived last week’s test with Lancaster (which was moved to Saturday by lightning on Friday), shutting out the Tigers and limiting their talented offense to less than 70 yards of total offense.
“I told our defense and coaches that you’d have to look back through many years of history to find a game in which Lancaster finished with zero on the scoreboard,” Pride said. “It was a great testament to our team.”
The defensive performance caught the attention of Lake Ridge.
“Any time you can shut out a team like Lancaster, that’s a great defensive performance,” Eagles coach Kirk Thor said. “Summit is a good defensive team and they’re good offensively as well. That was a very impressive victory for them.”
Lake Ridge quarterback Jett Duffy is tasked with leading his high-octane offense against that Jaguars defense this week, and maintains he respects but doesn’t fear Summit.
“I was surprised Lancaster wasn’t able to put up any points [on the Summit defense], but it doesn’t really scare me,” Duffy said. “I feel like our offense can dominate in all aspects of the game. We can beat you with the run or beat you with the pass. So, I’m not really afraid of anything, and I definitely don’t think the rest of the offense is.”
As big as the game is for both teams, coaches are trying to downplay the hype.
“There’s certainly a lot of potential distraction this week as there is any week,” Thor said. “It really just comes down to how our kids practice and play. All that other stuff is exciting for a game of football, but remember, we’ve still got a bunch of high school kids going to school and trying to make sure they can graduate and do well and have fun playing football. Sometimes I think we can blow everything out of context. It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Ask Duffy, and he’ll tell you the team is buying what Thor is selling.
“We’re a pretty steady team,” he said. “We don’t get up and down. Part of that has to do with our philosophy of winning every day and being 1-0 every day like we’re taught.”
Similarly, Pride knows part of his job this week will be to rein in the excitement of his players – something he’s had to do a few times recently.
“I think the kids even played Saturday [against Lancaster] with just too much excitement and too much anticipation and putting some unnecessary pressure and stress on themselves to perform,” he said. “I think that cost us a little bit last year. However you crack it, they’re still young kids. The coaching staff will try to do the best job we can to kind of keep that old-school philosophy that it’s the next game. Do it the same way we’ve been doing it.”
While the players and coaches may be saying the right things, there’s little doubt the student bodies will fan the flames of this anticipated matchup, up to and beyond kickoff.
“I expect a good crowd and a lot of electricity,” Thor said. “The student bodies are excited for both schools and I think it will be a great atmosphere – a fun high school football atmosphere.”