Bullard Visits Canton With District’s No. 2 Playoff Seed On The Line
DISTRICT 5-4A DIVISION II
Bullard Panthers (6-3, 3-1)
Canton Eagles (5-4, 3-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Norris Birdwell Stadium, Canton
- Bullard: Shannon Wilson
- Canton: Robert Ivey
- Bullard: TBA, 4A Division II playoffs
- Canton: TBA, 4A Division II playoffs
- WR/TE Major Tennison, Jr., 6-6, 240 (23 catches, 492 yards, 6 TDs; committed to Texas)
- QB Cleet Bowman, Soph., 6-0, 185 (40-73, 840 yards, 11 TDs, 1 INT)
- RB/LB Brooks Parham, Jr., 5-11, 215 (125 carries, 522 yards, 10 TDs)
- WR/DB Nic Costas, Soph., 5-10, 145 (21 catches, 315 yards, 4 TDs)
- LB Mikah Hughes, Sr., 6-2, 210 (committed to Harvard)
- WR Zach Brown, Jr., 6-0, 165 (35 catches, 550 yards 4 TDs)
- WR/DB Tre Fitzgerald, Sr., 6-1, 200
- WR/LB Brazos Hesskew, Sr., 5-11,180 (125 tackles, 24 for loss)
- QB Hunter Moore, Jr., 5-11, 205 (119-214, 1,482 yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs)
- OL/DL Ivan Nelson, Jr., 5-10, 230
- RB Jordan Jackson, Sr., 5-6, 160 (114 carries, 900 yards, 8 TDs)
Just the facts
- This is the sixth meeting between the two schools in the past 11 seasons.
- Both teams enter the game tied for second place in District 5-4A Division II with 3-1 league records. Gilmer leads the district and has already clinched a majority share of the district championship.
- The winner of Friday's game will expressly win second place in the district and, consequently, a No. 2 seed in the Class 4A Division II state playoffs. The loser will finish third in the district.
- Emory Rains has already claimed the district's fourth-place spot, so the worst the loser can do Friday is finish third.
- There are still a lot of moving parts in the adjacent District 6-4A Division II, but it's most likely the winner of Friday's contest will face Gladewater next week in the bi-district round. The loser will most likely square off with Atlanta.
- Bullard has two well-known players on its roster. Senior linebacker Mikah Hughes is committed to Harvard and junior tight end Major Tennison recently pledged to Texas.
- Canton linebacker Brazos Hesskew won the most recent ETSN.fm + Dairy Queen Defensive Player of the Week honor. He recorded 19 tackles, including four for loss, in the Eagles' 27-16 win against Emory Rains -- a comeback victory.
- The Eagles will reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Bullard will be dancing for the second straight year.
- The Panthers defeated Canton, 35-21, last season in Bullard to end the Eagles' season.
- If Bullard and Canton advance far enough in the playoffs, the teams will re-meet in the third round.
Key matchup: Bullard's balanced offense against Canton's defense.
You might have wondered why no Panthers players have appeared on the ETSN.fm statistics leader boards through the 2015 season. The answer is, Bullard is too balanced. No player on its roster has produced a standout number passing, running or receiving, relative to other individuals in the East Texas area.
Combined, however, Bullard is a nightmare team to defend. It has two quarterbacks that have thrown for at least 500 yards, four runners with at least 200 yards and three receivers with 200 or more yards.
None of that is great news for Canton. It's just hard to get a strong feel for where the ball is going to go on any given Panthers' snap. That will force the Eagles' defense to either give up the lesser of two evils -- the Bullard passing game -- or play more conservatively in general.
Canton's best route to a win is consistently putting Bullard in adverse down and distance situations. Giving up short gains against the running game and then banking on the Panthers missing a pass on third-and-long. As a team, the Panthers have completed 49.7 of their pass attempts this season.
It's feasible the Eagles can get it done over the long-haul. There are far worse starting points than senior linebacker Brazos Hesskew. He has 125 tackles, including 24 tackles for loss, through nine games played this season and should be a big asset in run defense.
But with so many offensive options, Bullard is bound to hit on a big play every now and then.
Can the Panthers deliver a backbreaker in the process?
Don't be surprised if: Retrospectively, Friday's game is one of the best that District 5-4A Division II offered through the season. The two sides match up well against each other in all phases and there's an awful lot on the line despite both teams already bound for the postseason.
The goal all through the regular season for playoff teams is to set up the most favorable route through the region. Not only will the winning team enjoy a more favorable bi-district match up, Region II should be pretty wide open in general. The opposing District 6-4A Division II features the best cluster of teams. Winning the best opportunity to work beyond that group should create a set of favorable match ups into the regional semifinal round -- where a 7-2 Fairfield squad looks like the team to beat.