If results from last season serve as any indication, the battle between Hico and Itasca tonight could go a long ways in determining the playoff qualifiers from District 11-2A.
Results from action this season certainly backs up that theory. Hico (6-1, 2-0) enters the match-up on a six-game win streak. Itasca (6-1, 1-1) just had a six-game streak snapped by defending district champ Grandview.
The Wampus Cats fell behind early and couldn't catch up against GHS in a 26-6 defeat last week. Grandview raced out to a 19-0 lead in the first half.
With the exception of that loss, Itasca has rolled through its 2007 slate, outscoring its first six foes by the count of 206-54.
“I think they're very athletic,” Hico Head Coach Wade Williams said concerning Itasca. “What scares me is that they match-up better against us than they do against Grandview. Grandview had the overall team speed to stay up with them, and I don't know if we do. It's going to be a very tough ball game for us.”
Hico has posted similar numbers since being knocked around by Hamilton in the season opener. Over the course of its current six-game tear, the Tigers have outscored their victims 213-54.
Both defenses have surrendered more than 20 points only once - both in their lone defeat.
Offensively, Hico rides the hot hand of sophomore quarterback Westin Williams, who was 88.2-percent passing last week, completing 15 of 17 attempts for 206 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers mauled winless Maypearl, 49-18.
Hico upset Itasca 12-8 in a defensive struggle on the road in 2006.
“Last year we couldn't score real quick, so the game plan was to work the clock and give them very few opportunities. We were able to keep the ball for the whole third quarter. We would like to be able to do that again, but that's just not going to happen with the style of offense that we play and that they play,” Williams said.
Hico will be without starting strong safety Jeremy Barnette, so Williams will be forced to play defense in addition to his duties at quarterback.
“That's not something we like to do, but we don't really have a choice,” said Williams.
If not for their win over Itasca in 2006, the Tigers would not have even been in the playoff discussion. Itasca defeated Dublin, which in turn handed Hico a district loss. The three teams tied for second place in 11-2A, and it was Hico and Itasca that got the playoff nod thanks to tie-breakers.
With Dublin looking to improve its district mark to 2-1 against Maypearl tonight, and the Lions' only 11-2A loss coming to Grandview, things are shaping up for a similar race this season.
“It's big,” Williams said of tonight's battle. “If you're Hico or Dublin or Itasca, it's all about head-to-head play.”
Kickoff at Tigers Stadium in Hico is set for 7:30 p.m.
Brad Keith is the sports editor for the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.