Class 2A Division II Breakdown

We’re taking a different approach to our breakdowns. It is the final weekend of the season, after all, so we needed to go out with a bang. DCTF’s Jake Shaw and Travis Stewart will argue the case from each side of every game. Check out their picks for 2007 state champions.

Canadian (14-1) vs. Elysian Fields (14-1),

3:30 p.m. Saturday, Wood Stadium in Brownwood
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Travis Stewart’s Take …
Well, I’ve picked against Canadian two weeks in a row, and both times the Wildcats have knocked me down a peg. I suppose I’ve learned my lesson.

But that’s not the reason I’m siding with the team most people couldn’t even locate on a map. I’ve always been a big proponent of three things: ball control, strong defense and mental strength. Canadian’s got ’em all, and that’s why I’ve got them taking home some hardware.

Ball Control:
There’s no question Elysian Fields can run the ball — just ask Rice Consolidated – but Canadian has QB Coleman Bentley, who’s the rare breed of quarterback who can carve up a secondary without throwing interceptions and has put up huge numbers (3,341 yards, 38 TDs) to accompany his completion percentage. It’s not a prototypical grinding run game, but it’s going to keep the ball in your hands. Last week showed what can happen if Elysian grabs the momentum early – that shouldn’t be a problem for Canadian in the finals.

Strong Defense:
The Wildcats’ defensive unit has been really good this year — the Alex Meraz-led squad has been tough to score on (it’s only given up 20+ points twice in 2007), and has put the clamps on in crunch time three weeks in a row (especially against Idalou). EF has only been explosive on offense two weeks out of five in the playoffs, while Canadian has consistently kept people out of the endzone; the only thing more dangerous than a good defense is a hot one, and right now the Wildcats’ is both.

Mental Strength:
No matter what anyone tells you, facing an undefeated team gives you butterflies in your stomach — you certainly don’t want to be another statistic — but Canadian has thrown the haymakers the past two rounds, knocking off unbeaten Idalou and Cisco. That takes some grits. But the way the Wildcats beat Idalou was special … stopping a fourth down conversion at the goal line to decide the game is as big a moment as you’ll find all year long, and I think it says quite a bit about the heart on this team.

Canadian goes three-for-three in my formula, and I think it’s a winning result: Canadian 21, Elysian Fields 20.

Jake Shaw’s Take …
I sighed in relief when Travis told me he’d argue the merits of Canadian. Not that I’d have a hard time picking Canadian. The difficulty, for me, would be picking against Elysian Fields, especially after what I watched in person Friday night in Waco.

Tim Curry is a solid leader, and I can see why UTEP and other DI programs are longing for the quarterback. And his running backs, Joe Benefield and Dekevius Johnson, offer a blend of power and speed that would force any defense off kilter.

But what stuck out most was the size of EF’s lines, both offensively and defensively (and I was relieved to see that at least one EF lineman, Michael Strange, was rewarded with a spot on the 2A all-state first team). That was the difference against Rice Consolidated — a total manhandling up front. Curry, Benefield and Johnson were getting three or four yards before even getting touched by a defender. That trio helped EF rack up over 350 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, EF’s defense held Rice RB Ziggy Foster to 43 yards on 21 carries. Foster entered the game averaging 166 yards per night.

Finally, to my X-factor. At this time of year when the weather is so unpredictable, if we get anything other than ideal weather, it will have to favor EF. The Yellowjackets like to mix Curry’s passing ability with the run, but if you get conditions like those in the state semifinal game — where the fog was thicker than a cinderblock — EF has no qualms about scrapping the passing game. Canadian, meanwhile, is a spread-based offense that would be affected by wind, rain, fog, ice, snow … you get the idea. All of those are possibilities this time of year.

Nevertheless, if this game were played in a dome, I’d still give the edge to Elysian Fields. Their physicality is unusually strong for a team at the 2A level. While Tatum came short last weekend, District 19-2A will still claim a state title when Elysian Fields beats Canadian 35-29.