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Waskom + Union Grove Square Off in First Round After Ending Long Playoff Droughts

Waskom’s Dillon Benton runs the ball during the Wildcats’ 56-38 win at Hughes Springs on Nov. 8. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)
Class 2A Division II Region III
Bi-district Playoff

Waskom Wildcats (10-0)

vs.

Union Grove Lions (5-5)

7 p.m. Thursday

Bobcat Stadium, Hallsville

 

Coaches
  • Waskom: Whitney Keeling
  • Union Grove: Roger Adams

 

Last week

 

Next week
  • Winner faces Deweyville or Rosebud-Lott in a 2A Division II Region III area playoff.

 

Playmakers

Waskom

  • RB Kevin Johnson, Jr., 5-10, 165 (78 carries, 1,283 yards, 18 TDs)
  • ATH June Bug Johnson, Jr., 5-8, 150 (81 carries, 1,072 yards, 13 TDs; 9 of 13, 130 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; 6 catches, 252 yards, 4 TDs)
  • FB Dillon Benton (71 carries, 823 yards, 13 TDs)
  • QB Trace Carter (15 of 30, 375 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 96 carries, 665 yards, 11 TDs)
  • RB/LB Chandrin Amie, Soph., 5-10, 160 (16 carries, 236 yards, 2 TDs)
  • DL Justin Spurlin, Sr., 5-7, 160
  • WR Eric Stephens III (6 catches, 157 yards, 3 TDs)

 

Union Grove

  • RB/LB Garrett Gibson, Sr. (110 carries, 583 yards, 9 TDs; 162 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 5 fumble recoveries, 2 kick blocks, 1 punt block)
  • QB/DB Tristen Thompson, Jr. (50 of 90, 528 yards, 2 INTs; 132 carries, 797 yards, 7 TDs; 10 catches, 168 yards, 2 TDs; 45 tackles, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries)
  • DE Garrett Bowery, Jr. (67 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 kick blocks, 2 punt blocks)
  • RB/DE Corey Sturrock, Jr. (124 carries, 789 yards, 4 TDs; 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries)
  • OL/DL Micah Brantley, Jr. (83 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery)
  • TE/DE Hunter Gray, Jr. (15 catches, 171 yards, 1 TD; 70 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 kick blocks)
  • ATH Coleson Klein, Soph. (22 catches, 341 yards; 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery)

 

Just the facts
  • Waskom is in the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
  • Union Grove is in the playoffs for the first time since 1968.
  • Union Grove hasn’t won a playoff game since 1965.
  • Waskom averages 56.6 points per game and allows 18.2.
  • Union Grove averages 18.7 points per game and allows 23.6.
  • Waskom has scored 60 or more points five times this season.
  • Waskom has held six opponents to 14 or fewer points.
  • Union Grove has held four opponents to 14 or fewer points.
  • Union Grove is the third team head coach Roger Adams has led to the playoffs. Adams also took Hallsville (1999-2000, 2003, 2005) and New Diana (2009) to the postseason.
  • The 56 points Waskom scored against Hughes Springs were the first points the Mustangs allowed since a 14-13 win against Paul Pewitt on Oct. 11.
  • Waskom’s regular-season opponents had a combined 43-57 record.
  • Union Grove’s regular-season opponents had a combined 45-55 record.

 

Union Grove RB/LB Garrett Gibson. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Waskom’s ground game vs. Union Grove’s defensive front. The front seven has been a strength for Union Grove all season. When the offense has at times not produced at the level they hoped, the defense has kept head coach Roger Adams’ team in games, and that starts up front.

Garrett Bowery ranks among East Texas leaders with 10 sacks. While his pass-rush skills may not be needed much against a run-heavy Waskom team, there’s no doubt the Lions need him and fellow lineman Micah Brantley — not to mention linebacker Garrett Gibson, one of the region’s top tacklers — to hold their own at the point of attack against what is statistically East Texas’ most potent ground game.

Waskom RB Kevin Johnson. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Speaking of that ground game, head coach Whitney Keeling brings a rushing attack averaging 453.9 rushing yards per game to Thursday’s bi-district playoff in Hallsville.

Kevin Johnson, June Bug Johnson, and Dillon Benton are the main ball carriers, plus quarterback Trace Carter, who’s averaging 66.5 yards and 1.1 rushing touchdowns per game. The Johnsons and Benton combine for 317.8 yards per game and have scored 44 touchdowns. Not even Hughes Springs, which had recorded three consecutive District 9-2A Division II shutouts entering last week’s district championship game, could contain Waskom, which eclipsed 400 yards and scored on all but one possession in an 18-point road win.

Union Grove DE Garrett Bowery. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Don’t be surprised if: Waskom wins the battle of the playoff drought-enders. There’s no doubt that these teams want to extend a season that has been special and history-making for both, but Waskom appears primed for a playoff run considering the Wildcats’ dominant offensive performance the entire season.

Waskom has not scored fewer than 40 points in a game this season. The Wildcats have scored fewer than 56 points only twice. While Union Grove has a solid defense to lean on, asking the Lions to contain a rushing attack that nobody has come close to containing during the first two months of the season is probably too much to ask.

 

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