CLASS 3A DIVISION II
Region II Championship Game

Winona Wildcats (8-5)

vs.

Gunter Tigers (13-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday
City Bank Stadium, Forney

Coaches

  • Winona: Keylon Kincade
  • Gunter: Jake Fieszel
Last week

Next week
  • Winner plays Canadian or Sonora, Class 3A Division II state semifinals
Playmakers

Winona

  • RB Dee Wheeler, Sr., 5-10, 210
  • ATH Keylon Kincade Jr., Soph., 5-10, 170
  • RB/DB Quinn Johnson, Soph., 5-7, 149
  • ATH Braxton Kincade, Sr., 6-2, 172
  • LB Chase Boyd, Sr.
  • DB Earl McNown, Sr.
  • OL/DL Tee Simmons, Sr., 6-1, 320

Gunter

  • QB Trey Carr, Sr., 5-10, 170
  • RB Colson Stovall, Sr., 5-11, 178
  • ATH Daylan Bower, Jr., 6-0, 200
  • WR/DB Dylan Jantz, Soph., 5-9, 165
  • LB/RB Zach Lowe, Jr., 5-7, 185
Just the facts
  • Winona is enjoying its first multi-round trip in the playoffs since 1987.
  • The Wildcats now have two runners above 1,000 yards on the season. Sophomore running back Quinn Johnson's final run of the night against Whitewright gave him 1,002 yards on 117 carries through 13 games. Senior back Dee Wheeler hit the mark a few weeks ago.
  • Gunter is coming off what was essentially a shutout over Henrietta in its third-round playoff game. Henrietta kicked a field goal to get on the board with no time left in the fourth quarter.
  • The victory gave Gunter its 13th of the season, and the team became the schools' most successful in history in terms of wins.
  • Gunter is making its fifth fourth-round playoff appearance this decade. It is 0-4 in these games through the span.
  • Winona eliminated Gunter's District 6-3A Division II foes Leonard and Whitewright the past two weeks. Gunter beat Leonard, 35-6, and Whitewright, 53-0, in the regular season toward the district championship.
  • The Wildcats will travel 84 miles to Forney. Gunter will make a 68-mile trip from its spot about halfway between Frisco and Sherman in North Texas.
Running back Dee Wheeler scores a touchdown in the second quarter against Whitewright.

Key matchup: Winona's offense versus Gunter's dominant defense.

Henrietta, Gunter's last opponent, entered the third round of the playoffs having scored 30 or more points in eight of its 12 games. Gunter held it to seven first downs, less than 130 yards and pitched a shutout for 47 minutes and 59 seconds.

The defense the Wildcats are about to scrap with averages 10.5 points given up per game and has never given up more than two touchdowns in its last nine contests.

Gunter's offense feeds off its defense. It averages six touchdowns per game thanks in large part to quick turnarounds.

Friday's game will be a massive challenge for Winona, which has given up 279 more points than Gunter and has scored 94 less points this season.

However, the Wildcats are built well on offense to play a good underdog role. The team has a run-first mentality and generates its yards on the ground as opposed to through the air at a bit more than a three-to-one ratio.

That should serve the team well. If its stable of runners successfully gain yards, they're going to run the clock and prevent Gunter's opposing offense the time it needs to pull far out ahead.

As long as it's close down the late stretch of the game, Winona has a chance to pull out the win. Just like last week against Whitewright.

Expect Dee Wheeler to get a heavy load in the running game. The senior back -- who missed four games in the regular season with an injury -- has a team-high 180 carries for a team-best 1,433 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Underclassmen Quinn Johnson and Keylon Kincade Jr. also will have to be at their best along with the offensive line at large.

 

 

Don't be surprised if: Senior athlete Braxton Kincade plays a big role in all three phases -- offense, defense and special teams.

Kincade recorded two interceptions at safety in last week's one-possession win against Whitewright. He ran for 19 and 40 yards on the returns.

The senior also completed 7 of 9 passes in last week's contest for 143 yards and extended several drives with his feet.

Kincade, a three-year letterman at Winona and a four-year letter winner overall, is the fairly young team's most experienced and polished all-around athlete. It cannot hurt to get the ball in his hands on special teams as well.

Winona senior athlete Braxton Kincade. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)