Northeast Tarrant

Mustangs gear up for biggest test so far

Grapevine quarterback Alan Bowman (12) will go up against his toughest challenge of district thus far when the Mustangs take on Richland.
Grapevine quarterback Alan Bowman (12) will go up against his toughest challenge of district thus far when the Mustangs take on Richland. Special to the Star-Telegram

When Randy Jackson took the Grapevine job in 2014, he hoped his program would be playing in games like that the one that approaches.

The hype surrounding the District 8-5A showdown when Grapevine (6-0, 3-0) travels to Richland (6-0, 3-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Birdville Fine Arts & Athletics Complex will be intense. That comes with the territory when programs experience success and have to deal with the ancillary byproducts that come with it.

“We’re grateful to be able to be a part of these games because it shows where we are,” Jackson said. “We’ve spent the last four weeks really working on us and the things we’ve needed to do to be better. Now, you have two 6-0 teams who are going to play at a high level. There’s going to be a lot of media and there should be a great crowd.”

Both teams have been impressive offensively and mirror each other. The Mustangs (2,703) and Rebels (2,487) are separated by 216 total offensive yards. Grapevine quarterback Alan Bowman has thrown for 1,456 yards and 22 touchdowns. Zach Carnes and David Clayton have combined for nearly 800 yards. Richland quarterback Trae Self has thrown for 1,544 yards and 25 scores. Grapevine has scored 326 points (54.3 PPG). Richland has scored 320 (53.3).

That’s how close this is.

There’s no question the Rebels have enjoyed the drop to Class 5A from 6A. It changed the fortunes for a program that struggled in 6A and couldn’t win important games to get into the playoffs.

Although Grapevine’s defense has surrendered only 57 points this year – only seven in its first three district games against Fort Worth Polytechnic, Fort Worth Dunbar and Fort Worth Carter-Riverside – the Rebels will create the greatest test and stress this unit. Rebels receivers Landon Le and Rashee Rice have combined for nearly 800 yards.

“When you watch them, you can just tell that they are playing with confidence,” Jackson said. “A player like Self knows exactly what he wants to do with the football. He has great skill people. We know we’re going to have to play at our best.”

The back of Grapevine’s schedule may actually do this program a favor. The Mustangs play Colleyville Heritage on Oct. 21 and then close with Birdville on Nov. 4. Grapevine, Richland, Colleyville Heritage and Birdville are the district’s projected playoff teams.

“It’s good to have this kind of schedule because that’s what you want to do and what you need if you hope to go to the playoffs,” Jackson said. “Our kids have done a good job of keeping everything in perspective. They know they haven’t done anything yet. The scary thing is that we really haven’t played a full four quarters since the opener [against Azle]. We’re going to play four quarters Friday.”

Colleyville Heritage (4-2, 3-0 8-5A): With the health of this team restored, the Panthers will move closer toward clinching a playoff berth against Fort Worth Poly (1-6, 0-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mustang-Panther Stadium. This should be a game where head coach Joe Willis can play a lot of people. Colleyville Heritage finished with 495 yards of total offense and scored a defensive touchdown on Gervon Thothian’s 58-yard interception return in the 51-17 victory over Birdville.