Gladewater Draws A Celina Squad Hoping To Make Its Way Back To Title Game
CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Region II Area Round Playoff Game
Gladewater Bears (8-2)
Celina Bobcats (9-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday
City Bank Stadium, Forney
- Gladewater: John Berry
- Celina: Bill Elliott
- Gladewater: def. Tatum, 35-7
- Celina: def. Emory Rains, 62-21
- Winner plays Pleasant Grove or Wills Point in the Class 4A Division II, Region II semifinal round.
- RB Darnell McKnight, Sr., 5-11, 235 (140 carries, 793 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 (178 carries, 1,125 yards, 17 TDs; 7 tackes, 1 INT)
- QB Cameron Callaway, Sr. (35 of 73, 758 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs, 102 carries, 779 yards, 14 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)
- RB John Franklin, Sr., 6-0, 190 (136 carries, 1,199 yards, 16 rushing TDs, 28 catches, 588 yards, 8 receiving TDs)
- QB Conner Pingleton, Sr., 6-0, 180 (10 games played, 77 of 121, 1,219 yards, 16 TDs, 8 INTs, 47 carries, 246 yards, 3 TDs)
- RB Ismael Ortiz, Jr., (55 carries, 567 yards, 9 TDs)
Just the facts
- Celina is trying to get back to the Class 4A Division II state championship game. It was the state runner-up a year ago to West Orange-Stark after defeating Gilmer in the state semifinals.
- Celina was a Region I team last season and mostly encountered teams from West Texas and the western side of the Metroplex through its run.
- Quarterback Conner Pingleton broke his arm in the red zone on the first drive of the state game and the team never established much offense afterward in a 22-3 loss.
- Pingleton is back this season as a senior.
- Celina has eight all-time state championship game wins and has played in 11 title games. It won consecutive championships at what is now known as the Class 3A Division II level between 1998 and 2001.
- Gladewater and Celina share no common opponents. Celina's first exposure to East Texas came last week, a 62-21 win against Emory Rains.
- Celina has two losses this season, but both came against Class 4A Division I teams in non-district competition.
- The Bears have played one less game than Celina due to a power outage that cancelled their Week 1 contest.
- Gladewater will travel 98 miles to City Bank Stadium. Celina's trip to the playoff venue will be 62 miles from the northwest.
Key matchup: Gladewater's collective defense versus Celina's offensive backfield.
Celina has thrown for 1,713 yards this season, but two of the top three targets are the team's primary running backs. The running game has generated 62 percent of the offense's 4,565 total yards, and the two running backs' catching ability ups productivity from the backfield to 80 percent.
John Franklin has a team-best 1,199 yards on the ground for Celina and another 588 yards on 28 catches toward 24 total touchdowns. Ismael Ortiz has 567 yards on the ground and a third-best 219 yards through the air.
Receiver Christian Rivas is the team's second-leading player in the aerial game with 304 yards. The rest of Celina's receivers have 205 yards or less through 11 games.
This is a big game for Gladewater's defense. If Celina's predictability was a problem, the team probably would have changed its offensive principles and it certainly would not have an overall record of 9-2.
Furthermore, the Bears' offense isn't really built to come from behind. The unit wants to methodically move the ball down the field, limit the Celina's opportunities for possessions and put the opposing team into a real clock bind if the game remains competitive to the end.
Gladewater's offense isn't experienced in late-game drives for the tie or win. It has only been in position to need one once -- the Pleasant Grove loss was too far gone -- and threw an interception against Gilmer 10 yards into what needed to be a 67-yard drive.
Head coach John Berry's squad has only overcome a two-possession deficit once. That was in Week 2.
The Bears have a strong defensive front, which is a nice place to possess a strength considering Celina's reliance on running backs.
Isaiah Tiner has 16 tackles for loss along the defensive line. Bryson Oliver has 20 tackles for loss at middle linebacker and Michael Batchelor has played some of his best football recently at outside linebacker.
Beyond those guys, Austin Hawley is a Louisiana-Monroe verbal commitment at safety and is the last line of defense.
The unit as a whole held a Tatum offense reliant on its star running back to seven points last week.
Don't be surprised if: Gladewater running back Darnell McKnight is a big factor in the playoff meeting.
McKnight had an incredibly strong first quarter of 78 all-purpose yards last week against Tatum before losing his helmet and getting nicked by someone else's in the period's final minute. The back was available later in the game, but he got held out since a multi-possession Bears lead had been established.
It's been a difficult season for McKnight, injury wise. He looked as good as he'll be in the past game.