Today's the day. Waskom will face Franklin at 8 p.m. in the Class 3A Division II state championship to close the East Texas football season.

It's tough to predict the game. Both teams are undefeated and make compelling arguments on why they just might be the best team in the state among the classification.

However, the two teams share a single common opponent. The Arp Tigers; a team that actually faced Waskom twice this season.

Franklin handed Arp a 56-7 loss in Week 3 of non-district competition. The Wildcats cruised by the Tigers, 55-23, in District 8-3A Division II play. From there though, Arp went on a seven-game winning streak and battled Waskom to a 35-18 game in the regional round.

ETSN.fm caught up with Arp head coach Dale Irwin, who will be one of several thousand East Texans in attendance tonight at the Houston Texans' NRG Stadium for his thoughts on the two state championship contenders.

 

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Q & A With Arp Head Coach Dale Irwin

  • ETSN.fm: Waskom's primary concern about Franklin is an offense that operates out of multiple formations and has eight running backs that have helped contribute to 6,890 rushing yards through 15 games. What did you see from Franklin in your Week 3 game?
  • Dale Irwin: Their offense is based on deception. They do a lot of hidden ball stuff, kids are crossing, linemen are pulling everywhere and it's hard to get a grasp on what they're trying to get accomplished. Not to mention the fact they've got six or seven kids that can carry the ball any given play and they're all good. They just present challenges because they're not real (balanced), but what they do they do very well. They're very well-polished. That's what makes them so tough. Very disciplined and a challenge to stop offensively for sure.
  • ETSN: Franklin's success running the ball has to be a testament to its offensive line.
  • DI: They're excellent up front. They don't have a lot of kids that go both ways, either. At our level, that makes a huge difference. A lot of those kids are juniors and seniors and they've been in that system for a long time. It just repeats itself over and over and over. Their O-line is very good.
  • ETSN: Waskom's defense has created more than 70 plays for negative yardage through its 15-game schedule. Do you think they have the athleticism and strength to go up against Franklin's offensive line and combinations of backs?
  • DI: I do. They do so many different things and move around so much that it's hard to get a read on. They base out of a certain defense but very rarely are they in base defense. They have people coming from every angle and every direction. I call it the mirror defense because they've got everybody covered up and a man on a man. A lot of times, they out-athlete you. They make good calls and put people in the right spots. I think their quickness and their ability to get off of blocks and get around blocks is going to help them against Franklin. Waskom's speed and Franklin's size, it's going to be interesting to see how all that shakes out.
  • ETSN: Franklin's defense has obviously supplemented the team to get to this point. It has held eight teams to single-digit point totals and has five shutouts. Is there a key to beating them?
  • DI: They're very sound. Technically oriented. They're going to be in the perfect spots and where they need to be. You're going to have to be really, really, really patient against them and drive the football because you're not going to be playing much. You're going to have to be a disciplined outfit, attack and go on long play drives without making mistakes. Franklin is very fundamentally sound.
  • ETSN: How about Waskom, offensively? Do you see any places where they have favorable matchups?
  • DI: I think it's going to be a very evenly matched game. The difference between Waskom this year and last year is that this year they can actually throw the ball. I think that's going to be a key for them offensively versus Franklin, them throwing the ball for completed passes on maybe third-and-medium and third-and-long plays. I think that's something they have the ability to do this year, so that's an added dimension to their offense. Not to mention, the fact they've probably got the best 3A player in their backfield. Mr. Chan Amie. When he decides to put the game on his shoulders, he's awfully tough to stop. We're a testament to that firsthand. But I'd say definitely their ability to throw the football this year will make a difference for them.
  • ETSN: Do you have any interest in who wins this game?
  • DI: I will be down there. You know, we improved a lot late in the year and we felt like we actually had a shot to beat Waskom (in the playoffs). We played Franklin real early. We weren't very good at that point, really beat up, and they're a really good football team. To be honest with you, most years you'll say, 'If we're going to get beat, we want to get beat by the state champs.' So we're in a pretty good spot this year. But Waskom, being in our district, that kind of makes me want to pull for them. But I don't mind Franklin. We've played them several times and had some really good games. We really like both groups, so it's hard for me to say.