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Palestine Hopes to Avenge Last Year’s Season-Opening OT Loss to Waco La Vega

Palestine’s Ben Luckett. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Palestine Wildcats

vs.

Waco La Vega Pirates

7:30 p.m. Friday

Pirate Stadium, Waco

Coaches
  • Palestine: Lance Angel
  • Waco La Vega: Willie Williams

 

Last season
  • Waco La Vega def. Palestine 24-23 in OT

 

Next week
  • Palestine: vs. Jacksonville, Sept. 5
  • Hallsville: at Hutto, Sept. 6

 

Playmakers

Palestine

  • DL/LB Jarrell Owens, Sr., 6-3, 245 (committed to TCU)
  • OL Brian Thlang, Sr., 6-2, 285 (committed to ULM)
  • RB Ben Luckett, Sr., 6-0, 195
  • QB Fabian “Gee” Clark, Jr., 6-0, 165
  • OL Eric Gonzales, Sr., 6-0, 295
  • LB Chris Weaver, Jr., 5-9, 175
  • LB Brian Gummelt, Sr., 5-9, 175

 

Waco La Vega

  • ATH Javon Arnett, Sr., 5-9, 160
  • RB Ayorinde Gibson, Sr., 5-11, 185
  • QB Parrish Cobb, Soph., 6-1, 175
  • WR Brandon Benson, Soph., 6-2, 180
  • WR Marquavion Maladdie, Sr.
  • RB/LB Ray’nard Smith, Sr., 5-7, 163
  • OL Guadalupe Munos, Sr.

 

Just the facts
  • This is the third meeting in the last three years for Palestine and Waco La Vega. Palestine lost in the bi-district round of the 2011 playoffs and dropped the 2012 season opener.
  • Palestine has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, but the Wildcats have not won a playoff game since 2006.
  • The Wildcats averaged 36.4 points per game last season, while holding opponents to an average of 24.3.
  • Three of Palestine’s four losses last season were by a combined five points, including one-point losses to La Vega and District 19-3A foe Fairfield.
  • Palestine has three players with at least on FBS offer — Owens, Thlang and Luckett.
  • Waco La Vega has been one of the most successful 3A programs of late, compiling a 67-22 record since 2006.
  • The Pirates’ offense scored 37.9 points per game on average in 2012, while the defense allowed 22.4.
  • La Vega has just five starters back from last year, including just one on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Palestine’s Brian Thlang. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Key matchup: Palestine running game vs. Waco La Vega rush defense. The Wildcats put one of the best rushing offenses on the field a season ago, and Coach Angel is hoping to see more of the same in 2013. The Wildcats lost running back Darrius Stephens to graduation, but return Luckett, Owens and Clark to the fold. Palestine also has one of the top offensive lines in the area with Thlang and Gonzales leading the way. An offensive line providing running lanes for backs the caliber of Luckett and Owens, who may be used in short-yardage and goal-line situations, can be a dangerous combination for opposing defenses.

Palestine’s Fabian “Gee” Clark. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

It’s up to a depleted defensive unit to get the job done for La Vega. The Pirates are replacing 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball, so it’s hard to know what to expect in the season opener. If La Vega wants to keep things competitive, stopping the run must be priority No. 1. Palestine would prefer to control the game’s tempo by grinding out first down after first down on the ground, but if La Vega can get solid penetration into the backfield that might force the Wildcats out of their comfort zone.

Don’t be surprised if: Palestine takes advantage of the inexperienced La Vega defense. The Wildcats have the horses both up front and in the backfield to turn the game in their favor, and matched up against a defense full of newcomers, Palestine could really take control of things early. The Wildcats saw their 2011 season end and 2012 season begin with losses to La Vega, so don’t think Palestine will be without added motivation for this one.

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