Class 3A Division II

Region II Championship

Gunter Tigers (12-1)

Vs.

Waskom Wildcats (12-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Van Memorial Stadium, Van

 

Coaches
  • Gunter: Jake Fieszel
  • Waskom: Whitney Keeling

 

Road to regional final

Gunter

  • Bi-district: def. Edgewood, 55-8
  • Area: def. Arp, 35-28
  • Regional semifinal: def. S&S Consolidated, 48-9

 

Waskom

  • Bi-district: def. Linden-Kildare, 48-26
  • Area: def. Leonard, 52-32
  • Regional semifinal: def. Howe, 71-21

 

Next week
  • Winner plays Cisco-Sonora winner, state semifinals

 

Playmakers

Gunter

  • QB Austen Gressett, Sr. (117 of 193, 1,577 yards, 18 TDs, 3 INTs)
  • RB/S Garrett Hunter, Sr., 6-0, 180 (1,722 yards, 23 TDs)
  • WR Kevin Teems, Sr., 5-9, 165 (26 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs)

 

Waskom

  • RB/DB Kevin Johnson, Sr., 5-10, 160
  • RB June Bug Johnson, Sr., 5-7, 135
  • QB Trace Carter, Sr., 6-3, 175
  • FB Dillon Benton, Sr., 5-10, 170
  • LB Mike Reason, Jr., 5-9, 170
  • DB Eric Stephens, Jr., 5-6, 140
  • LB Chan Amie, Jr., 5-11, 160
  • OL Kyle Adams, Sr., 6-4, 285
  • OL John Lumpkin, Sr., 6-0, 205
  • DB Keilon Johnson, Jr., 5-8, 140
Just the facts
  • Waskom is making its second straight trip to the regional finals. It won last year's regional championship game against Corrigan-Camden by two points and fell to Refugio in the state semifinals with largely the same Wildcats roster it has now.
  • Gunter last made a regional finals appearance in 2010, but it has not missed the playoffs since. The school has had plenty of postseason experience to prime it for the run.
  • The Tigers will be Waskom's third straight opponent from District 5-3A Division II.
  • Waskom defeated Leonard in the area round and Howe last week, but Gunter also ran through those teams in the regular season unscathed en route to the district title.
  • Gunter knocked out Waskom's district mate, Arp with a 35-28 win. Waskom defeated Arp, 34-24, on Oct. 10.
  • Between Arp, Howe and Leonard, Waskom outscored the three opponents by an 80-point margin. Gunter beat the trio by 56 points.
  • Waskom's offense averages nearly 52 points per game and its defense allows 20.5 points per night.
  • Gunter averages 39 points on offense and gives up 15 points per game defensively.
  • Waskom set a new season high for points with 71 last week against Howe. Gunter's high was 55 points against Edgewood in the bi-district round.
  • Gunter will travel 118 miles to Van Memorial Stadium. Waskom's trip will be 95 miles.

 

Waskom fulback Dillon Benton, who scored three touchdowns against Howe, high-steps over Howe's Anthony Hawthorne in last week's regional semifinal win. (Jim Jackson, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Waskom's defense versus Gunter's offense. Between a fairly mobile quarterback, two standout running backs and a quick fullback, the Wildcats have more explosive offensive weapons than the Tigers. Breaking through Gunter's defensive average of 15 points should not be a difficult task.

The question is, can Waskom slow down the Tigers' multi-faceted offense?

Running back Garrett Hunter carries a heavy load in Gunter's variations of the I-formation offense. He has 1,722 yards and 23 touchdowns. Hunter is not a speed burner, but he does a good job of shaking tacklers for extra yardage and he is decisive when the ball gets put in his hands.

Quarterback Austen Gressett has 1,577 yards through the air and a six-to-one touchdown to interception ratio. That helps take pressure off the running game and will force Waskom to respect both phases of the offense.

The real key is the Tigers' offensive line. It's enormous for the Class 3A level and appears to be very athletic for the position group.

Waskom will counter on defense with a nicely sized defensive line. It will give up some weight to Gunter, however, and needs to play at its top level. The Wildcats are fairly stacked at linebacker and its defensive backs rotation is supplemented by its offensive stars.

Don't be surprised if: Waskom's offense gets held back by Gunter's game plan. It's a safe to say the Wildcats have an athletic advantage. The Tigers can get around it with by staying on offense and keeping the ball out of guys like Junebug Johnson and Kevin Johnson's hands.

Expect Gunter to try to establish the running game immediately and attempt to nickel and dime the Waskom defense down the field to burn time. If the Tigers struggle against the defensive front, they're going to have to contest with a very good secondary.

Every Wildcats stop should concern Gunter. Back on offense, Waskom has literally run away from everyone in Region II thus far.

Waskom head coach Whitney Keeling looks at the clock during his team's dominating 71-21 win over Howe last Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler. (Jim Jackson, ETSN.fm)