Traditional powers Hamlin and Muenster meet Friday in Graham in a Region II-2A Division II semifinal, and each team brings strong defenses.
The No. 2 Piped Pipers (11-0) gave up double-digit points for only the third time this season in a 48-14 area-round win over Petrolia. Hamlin built a 34-0 lead at halftime.
It was the Pipers’ first full game without running back/linebacker Jackson Sepeda, who suffered an injury in the playoff opener. Hamlin coach Russell Lucas was pleased with how the players responded to adjusted roles in the senior Sepeda’s absence.
“(Sepeda) was there and very encouraging to all the kids,” Lucas said. “They know what he provides. We had talked about it, guys were going to have to increase their role a little bit to kind of make up for some of that lost production that we get from him. I felt like we did that.”
Manuel De La Cruz had a team-high eight carries for 66 yards against Petrolia. He was one of four players with at least five rush attempts in trying to fill the void of Sepeda, the team’s leading rusher.
Braydin Warner led the team with 150 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Warner, who recently committed to Texas Wesleyan, was also 13 of 15 passing for 239 yards and three TDs, two to Cutter Martin. Martin finished with 112 yards on seven catches.
But the loss of Sepeda may be felt more on defense, Lucas said.
Hamlin has been stout throughout the season. Lucas said the plan is to limit big plays and force teams to sustain long drives. That will again be key against a Muenster team that features a lot of different formations.
Although the Hornets may not have one go-to player or a huge variety of plays, Lucas said they have about 50 formations in which they operate on offense.
“They’re very multiple,” Lucas said. “On Saturday, I think our guys were talking about 50-plus formations that they had to put in our scouting program. They’re going to try to out-flank you somehow by some type of formation. They don’t have a lot of different plays, but they’re going to present them to you in a lot of different ways.
The Hornets (9-3) also carry in a heap of tradition. Muenster fell to Mart in the region final last season, two years removed from winning a state championship. Hamlin is coming off its first trip to the state title game.
Lucas said the Muenster defense is similar to the Pipers. The Hornets posted five shutouts and allowed six points on two separate occasions. The team is coming off a 50-22 win over Quanah in the second round.
Muenster is a young team littered with sophomores.
But as mentioned, tradition means a lot during the playoffs. Lucas said programs like Muenster draw confidence from past success, and some on the team probably had relatives or friends on the Hornets’ most recent title team.
The Pipers aren’t short on tradition themselves and should be just as confident.
Warner showed what he can do offensively, even without his star running back. He is a threat with his legs and has a passing ability not typically seen at the 2A level.
The key will be what offense can break through, and I think Hamlin has the firepower to do so. Even without Sepeda, I like the Pipers defense, too.
PICK: Hamlin 28, Muenster 16
If there were two Stephens
Cisco (9-3) vs. Hawley (10-2)
It’s an all-Big Country affair Friday afternoon at Gordon Wood Stadium.
No. 6 Cisco, in its first season in 2A, is back in the third round for a second-straight year. The Loboes, led by sophomore quarterback Hunter Long, have won seven in a row. Last week Cisco beat Olton 46-15.
Hawley also had a sophomore at the helm last week in quarterback Rodey Hooper. He guided the Bearcats to a 34-20 win over Sundown. Hawley, which has also won seven consecutive games, reached the region final last year during a historic run.
Throw in bruising run games and these two clearly have a lot in common. I expect both to put up points, but I think Cisco will make enough stops to advance.
PICK: Cisco 38, Hawley 29
Keep your eyes on:
Sterling City (12-0) vs. Westbrook (11-1); PICK: Sterling City by 11
Brock (12-0) vs. Jim Ned (10-1); PICK: Brock by 12
Albany (10-1) vs. Windthorst (11-1); PICK: Windthorst by 14
The Beard’s picks
EASTLAND vs. Holliday
MAY vs. Leakey
STRAWN vs. Fannindel