Henderson Lions (1-0)

vs.

Atlanta Rabbits (1-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Rabbit Stadium, Atlanta

Coaches
  • Henderson: Phil Castles
  • Atlanta: Matt McClure

 

Last week

 

Next week
  • Henderson: at Rusk, Sept. 11
  • Atlanta: at Daingerfield, Sept. 11

 

Playmakers

Henderson

  • WR Trestan Ebner, Jr., 5-11, 175
  • RB/DB La’Kendrick Vanzandt, Jr., 6-1, 185
  • OL Raini Dorman, Jr., 6-2, 245
  • DB Austin Daughtry, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • QB/DB Matthew Childers, Jr., 6-4, 180
  • OL Weston Thomas, Jr., 5-11, 250
  • LB Cadarius Caldwell, Sr., 5-8, 180
  • DL Jaxon Goode, Sr., 6-1, 220
  • DB Justin Rojas, Sr.
  • LB Keaton Hand, Jr., 5-10, 195

Atlanta

  • ATH Jeremy Smith, Sr., 5-11, 160
  • DL Keyuntea Kinney, Sr., 6-0, 230
  • DL Tristan Allen, Jr., 6-3, 205
  • RB Tyrell Phillips, Sr., 5-8, 175
  • WR D’Corey Larry, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • OL Tanner Duke, Sr., 6-1, 270
  • DB Layton Henson, Jr.
  • HB Cade Coulter, Sr., 5-11, 170

 

Just the facts
  • Friday's meeting will be the fourth between the two schools in a 10-year span and the sixth meeting since 1990.
  • The modern series is tied, 3-3-1.
  • Like this year, both teams started last season with Week 1 wins. Atlanta defeated Henderson, 28-24 in last season's meeting -- its first head-to-head win in more than a decade.
  • The Rabbits' win against New Boston snapped New Boston's nine-game regular season winning streak.
  • Henderson trailed Athens, 21-20, early in the third quarter and put up 15 unanswered points to win last week's game.
  • The Rabbits and Lions were East Texas banner carries last season, and both teams lost to the eventual state champion of their respective brackets. Atlanta's run in the Class 4A Division II playoffs came to an end against Gilmer in the Region II championship game. Henderson fell in the Class 4A Division I, Region III title game to Navasota.
  • Atlanta returned 12 starters from the last campaign, including eight on the defensive side.
  • Henderson brought back seven total starters from its deep playoff run.
  • Atlanta has not lost a non-district game since Sept. 21, 2013 -- a seven-game winning streak since.
  • The Lions are seeking their fifth straight non-district win.

 

Henderson running back LaKendrick Vanzandt (left) rushed for 90 yards last week and caught for 86 more yards as part of a two-touchdown night. (Bud Worley, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Henderson's running game versus Atlanta's front seven. It's strength against strength.

Running back La'Kendrick Vanzandt was a big part of Henderson's success last season and is its leading returning offensive weapon alongside receiver Trestan Ebner. Vanzandt led the way last week with 90 rushing yards and 86 receiving yards for two total touchdowns. He's going to have to continue upping those numbers to replace former quarterback Zane Boles, who was as devastating on the ground as through the air. New quarterback Matthew Childers can get it done with his feet as well though. He rushed for two scores and 60 yards on 12 carries. With a couple more role players in the run game, Henderson should be able to look forward to moving the ball all season and keeping defenses on their heels.

The problem Friday, however, is Atlanta makes an argument for having the best defensive line in the area across the Class 4A sphere. Ends Keyuntea Kinney and Tristan Allen had their way in the season-opener and put a lot of pressure on New Boston to work around them. And that allowed the overall Rabbits defense to better guess where their opponent was trying to go with the ball under any given circumstance. Of course, Henderson's offensive line has a chance at a better say with more depth to choose from than New Boston and the team is more well-rounded in general.

There are no easy answers ahead of the meeting.

Don't be surprised if: Henderson rides with Trestan Ebner. It'd be nice to be a two-dimensional offense at all times, but Atlanta's defensive presence up the middle and its pass rush are big challenges to work against. As holder of offers from Kansas and SMU, Ebner gives the Lions one match up advantage against the vaunted Atlanta defense.