Hico is past the bi-district round for the first time in 10 years, but the Tigers don't plan on stopping in this week's area-round playoff.
Hico faces Honey Grove in the area round of the 1A Division I playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Ferris. The winner gets Italy or Valley View in next week's regional semifinals.
The Tigers are fresh off a 46-8 thrashing of Kerens in the bi-district round, while Honey Grove had a bye as the champion of District 6. Hico was also a district champ, splitting the District 5 title with Goldthwaite and San Saba, but was seeded second in the playoffs because of tiebreakers.
The big story for Hico has been its defense. The Tigers surrendered just two total touchdowns to Goldthwaite and Kerens, and Kerens didn't score until late with Hico's first-team defense resting on the sideline.
"We're probably playing the best we have defensively since I've been the head coach here," said Hico's Keith Wood. "Our defensive coaching staff has really put together good game plans. We don't really change what we do, we just alter our personnel a little to adjust to who we play. We're going to stay in what we do because it's what we know; but we may have a few different kids in against the spread than we would against the power running teams we've been seeing."
That means a few personnel moves could be made this week as the Tigers go from facing pack-it-in Kerens to spread-it-out Honey Grove.
"They like to spread you out then run the (zone-read option) with their quarterback and running back," said Wood. "You know it's coming, but they're both very talented, so it's still tough to stop."
Honey Grove has to be one of the very few schools in Texas to have a tie on its record. Overtime was not used to break a 16-16 season-opening tie against Leonard, and the Warriors have been dominant ever since with nine straight wins by an average of 35.8 points. They average 42.3 points on the season and surrender just 12, and earned one top 10 vote in the final Associated Press poll.
"They're definitely talented, but you should have to face talent at this time of the year," said Wood. "You can't go very far in the playoffs and not expect to see good teams, because they're all good at this point."
Honey Grove is likely saying the same thing about a Hico team that has won six of its last seven with the only loss coming to San Saba by a touchdown.
"It's going to come down to avoiding mistakes and tackling well on defense," Wood said. "If we tackle in the open field and get guys running to the ball like we've had the last two weeks, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win the ball game."