Four days before his team’s biggest game of the season, Hal Wasson tried his hardest to avoid the clichés. He tried.
“It’s the biggest the game, because it’s the next game,” the Southlake Carroll coach said Monday.
But even Wasson admitted his players aren’t wearing blinders entering Friday’s game against Euless Trinity, which will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium in Southlake. Both powerhouses are undefeated, and, like clockwork, perfect in district play.
“Trinity has been a marked program and we’ve been a marked program,” Wasson said. “I think that’s a positive thing. It’s a banner of success and tradition.”
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Friday will be the fourth meeting between the schools, but the first in the regular season.
February’s UIL realignment loaded District 7-6A with both the Dragons and the Trojans, who attend class less than 12 miles apart but have met in just a trio of memorable playoff games.
The most recent was in November, in the Class 5A Division I regional round at AT&T Stadium. Trinity won 42-38 in a thriller that included more than 1,000 yards of offense. A late fumble by Carroll helped the Trojans seal the victory.
They played the opposite game in 2012. Three field goals from Drew Brown and a 1-yard touchdown run fueled Carroll’s 16-7 victory.
But the game that made a legend of the matchup was the 5A area round in 2006. Nearly 50,000 people poured into Texas Stadium to watch Carroll edge Trinity 22-21 for the Dragons’ 44th consecutive victory. Both teams had won state titles the year before, and Carroll, led by quarterback Riley Dodge, went on to win the 5A Division I championship.
This year offers the usual scouting reports for both teams: Carroll can throw it. Trinity can run it.
Carroll spreads out its offense, often with four- or five-receiver sets and almost always runs out of the shotgun. Trinity packs the line of scrimmage, leveraging its size and speedy skill players for a powerful rushing attack.
“We know we can’t match their size. We can’t,” Wasson said. “You can’t simulate it in practice, because we know going into the game they’re going to get bigger than us.”
Trinity has opted for ball control through seven games, rushing for 2,501 yards. Only one of its four nondistrict wins was by more than nine points — 24-7 over Lancaster. But in district, the Trojans have given up three points in three games. Hurst L.D. Bell made a field goal with two seconds left last week.
But against Bell, Trinity had seven penalties for 80 yards and fumbled twice on one drive.
“We’re trying to surge forward, because it’s that time of season” coach Trinity Steve Lineweaver said. “This time last year, we kind of cleaned it up.”
Carroll has been balanced offensively, rushing for more yards (1,517) than passing (1,354). Junior running back Lil’Jordan Humphrey, at 6-foot-5, has rushed for 771 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Dragons have been challenged in close wins over Austin Westlake (17-14), Tulsa (Okla.) Union (42-41) and Coppell (28-24). Wasson said he’s seen growth in quarterback Ryan Agnew from last year’s playoff loss through tight games this season.
“You learn your most through adversity,” Wasson said. “We always talk around here that winners are learners. I think he knows — like the coaches know — that at the end of the day, the team that plays the best on that night overall is going to win.”
Friday’s game will feature plenty of future FBS talent.
For Carroll, Humphrey holds offers from Ole Miss and Washington, according to Rivals.com. Senior safety Andy Chelf is a Purdue commitment. Agnew has offers from Houston, Navy, UNLV, Texas State and others.
Trinity offensive guard Patrick Vahe is a consensus four-star recruit committed to Texas. Junior defensive lineman Chris Daniels said last week that TCU, Western Michigan and Southern California have offered.
Carroll athletic director Kevin Ozee said he’s expecting a sellout Friday. As of Tuesday afternoon, tickets were still available, either at the Dragon Stadium will-call office or through the Carroll athletics website.
Early will-call sales close at noon Friday. Online sales close four hours later.
Dragon Stadium’s capacity is 12,500. That includes auxiliary bleachers in the east end zone for the Carroll band and spirit squads, Ozee said. Standing room-only tickets in the west end zone could be made available if needed.