CLASS 5A DIVISION II AREA

Hallsville Bobcats (7-4)

vs.

Lancaster Tigers (8-3)

1:30 p.m. Saturday

TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler

Coaches
  • Hallsville: David Plunk
  • Lancaster: Chris Gilbert
Last week
Next week
  • Winner faces winner between Lucas Lovejoy and Terrell, regional semifinals

Playmakers

Hallsville

 

  • RB/DB Lance Hardman, Sr., 6-0, 190
  • QB Roger McCuller, Sr., 6-0, 185
  • WR Andrew Southard, Sr., 6-2, 195
  • LB James Nelson, Jr., 5-10, 200
  • DL Johnathan Mitchell, Sr., 6-2, 210
  • OL Parker Braun, Sr., 6-3, 280
  • RB Josh Taylor, Soph., 5-10, 170
  • LB Blair Fernandez, Jr., 5-9, 185

 

Lancaster

  • ATH Tyrell Alexander, Sr., 6-2, 180 (committed to Oklahoma State)
  • DB Kenan Ivy, Sr., 5-11, 185 (committed to Baylor)
  • QB Ryan Ross, Sr., 6-0, 160
  • WR Cartrell Thomas, Jr., 5-10, 162
  • WR Omar Manning, Jr., 6-4, 200
  • WR Spencer Gilbert II, Sr., 5-11, 180
Just the facts
  • Hallsville is making its first area round playoff appearance since 2003.
  • Lancaster has reached the postseason seven times since the 2005 season, including a run to the state championship game in 2012.
  • The Bobcats reached the area round by defeating Ennis, the defending Class 5A Division II state champion, with Alec Acuna's 24-yard field goal for a 24-23 win at Van Memorial Stadium.
  • Lancaster has some high-end college talent. Athlete Tyrell Alexander is committed to Oklahoma State and defensive back Kenan Ivy is committed to Baylor.
  • Hallsville also has one identified Division I prospect, offensive lineman Parker Braun. Braun. He's a senior transfer from Florida, alongside his father and first-year Hallsville assistant coach Mike Braun, and is committed to Georgia Tech.
  • The trip to Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium will be 50 miles for Hallsville. Lancaster will travel about 99 miles to the site.
Hallsville linebacker Blair Fernandez (21) anchors a defense that needs to apply pressure on Lancaster quarterback Ryan Ross. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Hallsville's defense against Lancaster's offense.

Lancaster is very explosive. Quarterback Ryan Ross leads the charge with more than 2,500 passing yards in his 11 games. The receivers are headlined by senior Cartrell Thomas and his 772 reception yards.

Hallsville will face four receivers past the 400-yard mark and another two rotational players with more than 200 yards.

All the while, Lancaster does not have a runner with more than 568 yards through 11 games and Ross has run for minus-32 net yards on 28 carries. So, this is obviously a game that starts with the Bobcats' pass rush and pass defense.

Linebackers James Nelson and Blair Fernandez in addition to defensive lineman Johnathan Mitchell can make things uncomfortable for Lancaster by applying consistent pressure on Ross. Virtually everything Lancaster does is routed through its quarterback.

Hallsville possesses a much more balanced offense led by running back Lance Hardman. The back is near 1,000 yards rushing and will probably eclipse that threshold in Saturday's game. Quarterback Roger McCuller also turned in a strong running performance against a tough Ennis defense last week.

Combined, the two players can work the clock and keep Lancaster's offense idle for considerable amounts of time. That's the best away to counter Lancaster aside from making plays on defense.

 

Don't be surprised if: Win or lose, the Bobcats turn in one of their best performances of the season. There are always a few teams that seem to find their stride in the early rounds of the playoffs after marginal regular seasons that make surprisingly deep runs. Hallsville could fit into that category. It jumped from a middle-of-the-road District 15-5A team into a squad capable of taking down the defending state champions in a week's time. There's a lot of confidence that comes from that kind of victory. Lancaster is tasked with not only beating a solid all-around team but a team that, more than ever, feels like it belongs on the big stage.

Hallsville quarterback Roger McCuller. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)