[By Stephen Amason, Special to ETSN.fm]

The Grapeland Sandies keep rolling through the district, and have all the right tools make a deep run in the playoffs.

Grapeland (7-1, 4-0) earned a 26-20 win over Lovelady last week, proving that it is the team to beat in District 12-2A Division II.

Sandies head football coach Wayne Mahaffey said his players are hard-workers, they come ready for practice, and that he’s happy with how his football team is playing right now.

Grapeland has played eight games so far and its defense has managed to pitch three shutouts this season, allowing an average of just 8.8 points a game.

Mahaffey said his kids’ mental and physical toughness are a couple of reasons why th defense has excelled. He added that having youth isn’t always a bad thing, and that his players are fast and very athletic.

“We’ve got some good linebackers and we are very strong up front defensively,” Mahaffey said. “These kids work hard every day at practice and they’re prepared come gameday.”

One of those linebackers is senior Joshua Ackley, who leads the team in tackles with 90 tackles (11 for a loss). Ackley also carries the ball on the offensive side of the ball and is the Sandies’ leading rusher with 664 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.

“He’s a really good kid, and he’s our leader on defense,” Mahaffey said of Ackley. “He’s a strong kid, wants to run through you. We’ve had him out at wide receiver for us most of the time but he’s been a really good running back for us this year.”

Grapeland averages 37.5 points per game, which gives the Sandies an average winning margin of 28 points.

Their powerful offense is led by senior quarterback Rick Frauenberger, who has had a stellar career as the Sandies’ signal caller. He’s thrown for an 8,799 passing yards and 96 touchdowns over his career at Grapeland. This season, he’s passed for 1,821 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

“He’s just an amazing kid and has meant a lot to this team,” Mahaffey said of Frauenberger. “He’s a great leader and comes prepared every day, he’s been joy to coach.”

Grapeland gets a bye this week, but Mahaffey mentioned his kids are staying sharp and staying focused this week.

“It’s good to get a break, go back over some things, and work on some fundamentals and get better at things that can help us out for the rest of the season,” Mahaffey said.