CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Region II Bi-District Playoff

Gladewater Bears (7-2)

vs.

Tatum Eagles (7-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday
R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, Kilgore

Coaches

  • Gladewater: John Berry
  • Tatum: Craig Barker
Last week

Next week
  • Winner plays winner of Wills Point-Bonham in the Class 4A Division II area round.
Playmakers

Gladewater

  • RB Darnell McKnight, Sr., 5-11, 235 (133 carries, 754 yards, 4 TDs)
  • DB Austin Hawley, Sr., 6-1, 210 (60 tackles, 7 for loss, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, 10 PBUs; committed to Louisiana-Monroe)
  • RB/DB Isaiah Davis, Jr., 5-11, 210 (155 carries, 1,055 yards, 15 TDs; 7 tackes, 1 INT)
  • QB Cameron Callaway, Sr. (32 of 76, 715 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs, 94 carries, 725 yards, 13 TDs)
  • LB Bryston Oliver, Sr., 5-9, 185 (71 tackles, 20 for loss, 7 sacks, 1 safety scored, 1 INT)
  • DL Isiah Tiner, Sr. (61 tackles, 16 for loss, 4 sacks)
  • LB Michael Batchelor, Sr. (78 tackles, 7 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recovery, 4 PBUs, 1 blocked kick)

Tatum

  • DL/LB D’Torian Smith, Sr., 6-3, 226 (committed to Air Force)
  • RB Cedric White, Jr., 5-9, 150 (152 carries, 1,345 yards, 16 TDs, 9 catches, 74 yards)
  • TE Shay Rodgers, Sr., 6-4, 240
  • OL George Blanton, Sr., 6-0, 270
  • DB Malcolm Davis, Sr., 5-10, 150
  • RB LeMarcus Harmon, Sr., 5-10, 200 (148 carries, 911 yards, 14 TDs)
  • DL J.T. Norris, Jr., 5-11, 210
Just the facts
  • Tatum enters the bi-district playoff game as the No. 2 team from District 8-4A Division II.
  • Gladewater tied for second place in District 7-4A Division II, but it is the league's third seed.
  • Tatum has played one more game than Gladewater. The Bears' very first game of the campaign was cancelled in the first half due to a power outage.
  • Gladewater and Tatum have met every year since 2013, twice as district opponents and once in a preseason scrimmage. In the two official games, Gladewater beat Tatum both times by more than 40 points.
  • Tatum and Gladewater share three common opponents -- Atlanta, Chapel Hill and Pittsburg.
  • Gladewater went 3-0 against the common opponents.
  • Tatum went 2-1 against the common opponents, losing to Atlanta by a score of 53-35 on the road in Week 6. Gladewater beat Atlanta at home, 22-7, in Week 9.
  • Friday's game will be Tatum head coach Craig Barker's first postseason contest with the school. He guided Kaufman to the third round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs last year.
  • Gladewater is 4-1 on the road, including a Week 2 win at Kilgore's R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
  • Tatum is 2-2 away from home.
  • Gladewater will travel 15 miles for the game. Tatum will bus 23 miles.
Gladewater running back Isaiah Davis leads the team with 1,015 rushing yards. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Running games versus defensive fronts.

Gladewater and Tatum are both in that first breath when discussing the most physical teams in East Texas.

Tatum executes a run-oriented spread offense with one tight end and an H-back. The end and H-back generally support the run game, but those two players also are in good starting position to run out for short, high-percentage passes.

Gladewater's I-formation offense shares many of the same basic principles.

 

Tatum senior running back LeMarcus Harmon is part of the Eagles' primary one-two punch alongside junior Cedric White. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Tatum has generated 76 percent of its 3,565 total yards on the ground and all but two of its 41 touchdowns have come on run calls.

Eighty-one percent of Gladewater's 3,656 total yards have been obtained in the running game and only five of 44 scores have come on passing plays.

Naturally, both teams' priority on defense will be to stop the run. But the defenses will have to avoid getting boxed into gambling away big plays in the passing game just to cripple the other side's running capabilities.

Gladewater has a three-horseman attack in the form of quarterback Cameron Callaway Jr. and interchangeable backs Darnell McKnight and Isaiah Davis. Each of those players has at least 700 rushing yards with Davis' 1,015 yards being the team's best.

McKnight and Davis rotate between running back and fullback with ease, but several other players can be utilized during the contest to give those guys a break.

The Bears' offense averaged 26 points per game against three common opponents with Tatum -- Atlanta, Chapel Hill and Pittsburg.

Tatum will try to defend Gladewater's big three with a unit spearheaded by hybrid defensive end and linebacker D'Torian Smith, an Air Force commitment. The defense as a whole averaged 21 points surrendered against the three shared opponents.

The Eagles' backfield is led by running backs Cedric White and LeMarcus Harmon. They have generated 2,256 rushing yards. That's 63.2 percent of Tatum's total offensive output.

Linebacker Michael Batchelor (31) and end Draka Ransom (8) catch Atlanta quarterback Layton Henson for a 7-yard sack the two teams' game Oct. 21. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

Gladewater's defensive players combined to record 87 tackles for negative yardage in the regular season, a great indication of penetration against opposing offensive lines. Linebacker Bryson Oliver put up 20 of those tackles for loss and defensive lineman Isiah Tiner added another 16 takedowns behind the line of scrimmage.

Tatum averaged 34.6 points on offense against its three shared opponents with Gladewater. The Bears' defense held that group of three to an average of 7.3 points per game.

 

Don't be surprised if: Friday's game is determined on Gladewater fourth downs.

The Bears are not very hesitant to try for the next set of downs on fourth-and-short. It often times pays off because most opposing defensive players aren't well-versed in how they fit into closing the available running lanes.

Tatum isn't one of those teams. Its defense spent all of fall camp working against an offense with many of the same running principles, and it has an Air Force commitment as part of its defensive front to boot.

Does that make the Bears more hesitant to go for the first down on fourth-and-short? If so, how many drives will they abandon in comparison to facing a less run-oriented Texas high school defense?

Hitting the sticks has paid off for Gladewater far more than hurting it through the years under head coach John Berry, however. Perhaps the game will simply be won or lost for Tatum when the Bears have fourth-and-short to make.

Gladewater running back Darnell McKnight. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)