PREVIEW: New Diana Looks to Keep Cinderella Postseason Going Against Gunter
CLASS 3A DIVISION II
REGION II CHAMPIONSHIP
New Diana Eagles (10-3)
Gunter Tigers (13-0)
7 p.m. Friday
Royse City ISD Stadium, Royse City
- New Diana: Robbie Coplin
- Gunter: Jake Fieszel
- New Diana: def. Jacksboro, 49-48
- Gunter: def. Holliday, 48-7
- Winner faces either Canadian or Childress, state semifinals
- QB Jackson Sampson, Sr., 5-11, 165 (280-of-428, 4,657 yards, 61 TDs, 13 INTs; 54 carries, 88 yards, 0 TDs)
- WR TJ Rogers, Sr., 6-2, 185 (95 catches, 1,622 yards, 22 TDs)
- WR Cody Payton, Sr., 5-10, 150 (54 catches, 1,458 yards, 21 TDs; 27 carries, 200 yards, 1 TD)
- RB/LB Aron Jahr, Sr., 6-0, 199 (41 carries, 428 yards, 5 TDs; 12 catches, 253 yards, 3 TDs; 85 tackles, 13 for loss, 2 sacks, 11 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery)
- DL Dakota Manes, Sr., 5-11, 203 (105 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 sacks, 5 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble)
- DB Jacob Choyce, Jr., 6-0, 172 (108 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 QB pressure, 2 INTs, 6 PBUs, 3 blocked kicks)
- RB Marquice Wilkerson, Sr., 5-6, 149 (64 carries, 439 yards, 3 TDs; 21 catches, 164 yards, 0 TDs)
- LB Cole Willeford, Sr., 5-11, 205 (26 catches, 246 yards, 5 TDs; 122 tackles, 14 for loss, 1 QB pressure, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
- ATH Daylan Bower (21-of-33, 355 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 78 carries, 699 yards, 12 TDs)
- QB Ethan Everson, Jr., 6-0, 165 (24-of-40, 449 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT; 47 carries, 372 yards, 4 TDs)
- RB Dylan Jantz, Jr., 5-9, 175 (72 carries, 1,030 yards, 22 TDs)
- WR Braiden Clopton, Jr., 5-9, 160 (58 carries, 761 yards, 12 TDs; 23 catches 559 yards, 10 TDs)
- RB Zach Lowe, Sr., 5-7, 185 (66 carries, 497 yards, 5 TDs)
Just the facts
- New Diana is averaging 499.7 yards per game -- 358.2 passing and 141.5 rushing.
- Eagle quarterback Jackson Sampson is the No. 1 passer in East Texas, and is more than 1,000 yards ahead of the second-best player.
- Eagle receiver Cody Payton is averaging 27 yards per catch and has 21 touchdowns this season.
- This is as far as New Diana has ever advanced in the playoffs, and it is doing so after an 0-10 finish just two seasons ago.
- Gunter is giving up only 5.1 points per game and winning by an average of 44 points per contest.
- The Tigers are averaging 381.3 yards per game -- 319.5 on the ground and 61.8 through the air.
- Gunter is the defending state champion.
- Braiden Clopton is the only player on the Tigers with at least 500 yards rushing and receiving this season.
Key matchup: New Diana's scoring ability against Gunter's defense. New Diana has had little trouble scoring this season. The Eagles are averaging 49.1 points per game this season behind the arm of Jackson Sampson.
Sampson leads East Texas with 4,657 passing yards and 61 touchdowns.
That said, Gunter's defense has been stifling. The Tigers are only giving up 5.1 points per game. It would be shocking if New Diana didn't surpass that, but the Eagles will likely be held under their season average.
Gunter also likes to run the ball on offense, meaning it has more opportunity to control the clock and keep the ball out of New Diana's hands. That means the times in which the Eagles do have the ball will be even more critical to their chances of surviving to keep their Cinderella-esque run alive.
Don't be surprised if: Jacob Choyce makes a big splash. Choyce's season numbers aren't eye-popping. He has just 131 rushing yards on 13 carries and 181 receiving yards on seven catches.
However, before Choyce was ejected from New Diana's game against Jacksboro, he was the star. He had 94 total yards and two touchdowns on offense to go with an interception on defense.
He showed off speed on his way to carving up the Jacksboro defense. If New Diana is lucky, he will pick up where he left off. If he does, it could be a completely different game and New Diana might keep its season going.