High School Football

It’s win or stay home for Arlington powers Martin, Lamar

Arlington Martin and running back Juma Otoviano must defeat Arlington Lamar to keep their playoff streak alive.
Arlington Martin and running back Juma Otoviano must defeat Arlington Lamar to keep their playoff streak alive. Special to the Star-Telegram

The bad news about Thursday’s titanic tilt between Arlington Martin and Arlington Lamar is a deserving team will be left out of the postseason.

It’s no injustice. Just the way it is.

The good — great, really — news is the game represents one reprieve from the political mudslinging mumbo jumbo of the presidential election season.

The Warriors and Vikings are set to slug it out Thursday night for the final playoff berth out of District 4-6A in what promises to be the best thing since perhaps the Dukes of Hazzard.

“Week 11, Vikes and Warriors for a playoff spot,” Martin coach Bob Wager reflected. “Much better than anything on TV.”

So, to heck with CNN. We’re switching over to KTXA/Ch. 21 at 7 p.m. for a live Cravens Field broadcast of what might be the best thing since Whataburger.

Maybe.

This is the type of game coaches across Texas use to motivate players through the hard work and drudgery of workouts in the off-season and two-a-days. The winner will join district champion Mansfield, Arlington Bowie and Arlington High in the UIL playoffs. The loser packs it in for the off-season.

The Martin Warriors (5-4, 4-2 4-6A) are trying to extend their playoff streak to 11 consecutive seasons. The Lamar Vikings (5-4, 3-3) are riding a streak of seven straight postseason appearances.

Both teams have been in playoff mode for much of the district season trying to get to this point.

Martin, after starting district 1-2, enters having been in “playoff urgency” for a month, but also with three consecutive victories over Sam Houston, North Crowley and Arlington. The Vikings enter as losers of three of their past four, the exception being last week’s big victory over Fort Worth Paschal in which quarterback Chance Fuller passed for six touchdowns.

“We’ve haven’t really talked about” each week being a playoff game, said Martin running back Juma Otoviano, a junior who has rushed for 910 yards and 17 TDs. “We more so caught on to it and realized the situation we were in. We wanted to better it and get to where we wanted to get to.

“It’s been driving us for the past few weeks.”

Both teams have been properly prepared for such a game with good nondistrict schedules and highly competitive district matchups.

Rest assured, the one left out is a better football team than many from other districts that make the postseason.

“I’ve seen just about everyone play in our district,” said former Lamar coach Eddy Peach, winner of 311 games at Lamar from 1970-2009. “It’s a really good district. I think some teams have really come along, but going in, realistically, you felt like there were five teams that were really good football teams, good programs that stood a chance to make the playoffs. And that’s what it’s come down to.”

Something will give between the two. Martin is the district’s top-scoring offense while Lamar features the top defense in 4-6A.

It stands to reason that the winner will be a tough out in the playoffs considering the seasoning they’ve already received, and Thursday will be a playoff atmosphere.

“Probably different people have different answers to that,” Peach said. “I really don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference. Most importantly is if you’re healthy and how well your team is playing.

“It’s important to be playing well. The way your schedule fell, you may be struggling with wins and losses, but you’re playing well. There may be times when you make the playoffs and you’re winning, but you may not be playing well.”

Peach recalled the 2000 season when his Lamar team lost in a blowout to DeSoto in the final regular-season game — “They put it to us.” That Vikings team entered the playoffs with a 6-4 mark, but won four more in the postseason before a running out of magic in the state semifinals.

Martin and Lamar can’t afford to look ahead, of course.

This week really is the only one that matters.

“We have to go out there and do what we can do and play to the best of our ability,” said Octoviano, “and that’s getting after it from the very start, stepping on the gas and not stopping.”

The team that wins will advance and start over. The next biggest game awaits.

Cougars have Faith

Keyshawn Wyatt, a senior running back at Grapevine Faith who leads the Dallas-Fort Worth area in rushing (2,298 yards, 31 TDs), will visit Houston on Nov. 12, Faith coach Kris Hogan said. The Cougars are the first FBS school to show serious interest in Wyatt, who is 5-foot-5 and 170 pounds. He has offers from William Penn in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Southern Nazarene in Bethany, Okla.

Players of the Week

Bryan Cottingim of Fort Worth Young Men’s Leadership Academy is the dfwVarsity offensive Player of the Week for Week 10, and Fort Worth Arlington Heights defensive back James Thompson is the defensive Player of the Week. A total of 22,824 votes were cast.

Reach John Henry at jfhenry1970@gmail.com. Twitter: @John_F_Henry

Martin running back Juma Otoviano earned MVP honors in the game that was selected to be part of the US Marines Great American Rivalry Series with 225 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. Now the Warriors' focus turns toward securing a playoff

Lamar opened District 4-6A play with a convincing 51-3 win over Sam Houston.

There is another powerhouse team in town: The Bearcat Regiment band, 200 members strong. Their hard work and precision pays off, especially on Friday nights.

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