Fresh off its Hamilton County Championship victory in which Hico dominated for three quarters then held on in the fourth, the Tigers face another test Friday, this time from a fellow member of the ranks of the unbeaten.
Palmer visits Tiger Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and like Hico, already has two convincing victories and a narrow win to its credit. Palmer, a 2A Division I team picked to make the playoffs by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, has defeated Kemp 29-0, Boyd 21-20 and Fort Worth Southwest Christian 46-29.
“Athletically, I think they’ll be the best group we’ve seen yet,” warns Hico head coach Keith Wood. “Defensively, their guys get off the ball and run to the ball faster than any team we’ve played. They repeatedly beat Boyd off the football, and they did the same thing to Southwest Christian.”
Palmer reached the playoffs with a 6-5 mark last year. One of those wins was a 27-21 home victory over Hico.
Back from that club are experienced quarterback Ty Mitchell and explosive runner Jason Burgett and speedy receiver Jake Anglin.
“They want those three guys to have their hands on the football,” Wood said. “The running back is shifty, the receiver is fast and the quarterback can beat you with his feet. If he drops back and doesn’t like what he sees right away, he’ll take off.”
Hico has proven to be explosive offensively as well, especially on the ground. The Tigers have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three games, including 292 against Hamilton last week. Duane Hyles had 91 yards against Hamilton, and Cade Hitzfeld had 88, including a 67-yard scoring burst to go with a 27-yard touchdown catch.
It was the second time Duane Hyles led the team in rushing. His brother Blake Hyles earned that honor against Rio Vista the week prior.
Wood said Hico’s offensive line will need its best night of the season for those numbers to continue Friday.
“We have to get those suckers blocked and we have to maintain those blocks, because they’re quick enough to get to the ball if you don’t maintain your block to the whistle.”
Defensively, he said it will be all about containment.
“We have to contain their speed and explosiveness,” he said. “We have to make them march the ball down the field and not give up several big plays.”
Hico has been 4-0 just once in Wood’s previous five years, a mark the Tigers would revisit with a win Friday.
“I don’t think about that stuff,” he said. “We’re just trying to get better each week and find a way to win one game at a time.”