Atlanta Will Test Bullard’s Defense In Saturday’s Bi-District Meeting
CLASS 4A DIVISION II BI-DISTRICT
Atlanta Rabbits (6-4)
Bullard Panthers (7-3)
2 p.m. Saturday
Bobcat Stadium, Hallsville
- Atlanta: Matt McClure
- Bullard: Shannon Wilson
- Atlanta: def. Spring Hill, 62-25
- Bullard: def. Canton, 34-14
- Winner faces winner between Coldspring-Oakhurst and Groesbeck, area round
- QB/ATH Jeremy Smith, Sr., 5-11, 160 (29-50, 461 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs, 57 carries, 702 yards, 11 TDs)
- QB/S Layton Henson, Jr., 6-2, 180 (42-95, 625 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs)
- DL Keyuntea Kinney, Sr., 6-0, 230
- DL Tristan Allen, Jr., 6-3, 205
- RB Tyrell Phillips, Sr., 5-8, 175 (192 carries, 1,681 yards, 22 TDs)
- OL Tanner Duke, Sr., 6-1, 270
- WR/TE Major Tennison, Jr., 6-6, 240 (24 catches, 541 yards, 7 TDs; committed to Texas)
- QB Cleet Bowman, Soph., 6-0, 185 (50-91, 1,000 yards, 14 TDs, 1 INT)
- RB/LB Brooks Parham, Jr., 5-11, 215 (125 carries, 522 yards, 10 TDs)
- WR/DB Nic Costas, Soph., 5-10, 145 (25 catches, 388 yards, 4 TDs)
- LB Mikah Hughes, Sr., 6-2, 210 (committed to Harvard)
- WR/DB Tre Crayton, Jr., 5-10, 185
- DB Joey Padrucco, Jr., 5-11, 160
Just the facts
- Atlanta enters Saturday's playoff game as the No. 3 seed from District 6-4A Division II. However, with a 4-1 district record, it won a minority share of the league championship.
- Bullard is the No. 2 representative from District 5-4A Division II. It finished one game behind defending state champion Gilmer in the final standings.
- The Panthers earned this meeting by defeating Canton last week. That game determined which team finished in second place within the district.
- The Rabbits reached the regional championship round last season, but they have had to rebuild their offense since then. They're now more of a running team than a passing one.
- Bullard has two college football prospects. Senior linebacker Mikah Hughes is committed to Harvard and junior tight end Major Tennison is committed to Texas.
- An Atlanta win would give the Rabbits their first three-game winning streak of the season.
- Bullard has not reached the area round since 2011.
- Hallsville's Bobcat Stadium is a 64-mile trip for the Panthers and a 62-mile trip for Atlanta.
Key matchup: Atlanta's run-oriented offense against Bullard's defensive front.
Former quarterback Chase Musgrove torched most of the Rabbits' opponents through the air last season. That seems like a decade ago.
Head coach Matt McClure and the Atlanta staff made the necessary adjustments in the offseason to circumvent the loss of Musgrove to Panola College baseball and has earned roughly 75 percent of their yardage this season on the ground.
Senior running back Tyrell Phillips put up 1,681 rushing yards and 22 touchdown in the regular season to lead the way. He's the fifth-leading East Texas rusher and ranks first among Class 4A players.
Rabbits athlete Jeremy Smith has another 702 ground yards on a mere 57 carries.
Bullard has its work cut out for it, but it might possess the most athletic defense within the Region II bracket. Especially up top.
This is a big game for the Panthers defensive front, headlined by linebacker and Harvard commitment Mikah Hughes. If they can bog down Atlanta's running game, the Rabbits will have to get out of their comfort zone and throw against a secondary that recorded three interceptions and six more pass breakups just last week.
Don't be surprised if: Saturday's game moves fast. Atlanta prefers to run and Bullard combines an adequate running game with high-percentage passes between Cleet Bowman and an athletic group of receivers featuring Texas tight end commitment Major Tennison. The clock is going to move quickly, so there won't be a lot of time to gain a multi-possession lead or rally back into the game without an offensive meltdown on the other side. You've most likely got yourself a ticket to a nail biter.