There’s always a team that finds a way to surprise early in a season. This season we have two: Westbrook and O’Donnell, who have already combined for four top-10 wins between them. What makes this more impressive would be the fact both were ranked in the 40’s in the Preseason Six-Man Division 1 rankings.
The most shocking may be the emergence of Westbrook. The Wildcats, 4-6 a year ago, caught everyone’s attention in Week 1 with their upset of Division 2 state finalist and then-No. 2 Motley County. Their offence exploded for 58 points, scoring on all but one possession, while holding Motley County and their all-state running back Jake Richards to a mere 36 points.
“We knew he (Richards) would be amazing and that they would block well,” Westbrook head coach Homer Matlock said. “It was going to be a big game for our defensive ends and Jimmy Roberts, Jr. and Jake Walters responded. I wouldn’t say we contained him (Richards) because he broke some runs, but we slowed him down enough.”
Slowing down Motley County was one thing, but the offensive explosion was something else.
“We were a lot more balance in Week 1 and were able to run out of our tight package a bit more,” added Matlock, a Westbrook alum himself. “Coming off our scrimmage, we had a lot of confidence and controlled the ball well.”
By contrast, this week’s upset of Borden County, 44-30, was centered around the defense, led by Roberts, Walters, Cedric Ware, Zach Falzone and Kenan Morris.
“Borden is so physical on the line,” Matlock said, “but we still tried to run. We did score three rushing touchdowns, but really couldn’t control the ball the way we would’ve like to. Going to a spread formation opened things up a little. Ultimately, it was our defense that had to step up.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats as they play Mitchell County-rival, Loraine this week, followed by Water Valley, Strawn and Garden City in their run up to district.
When asked about this brutal preseason schedule Matlock explains his reasoning.
“Westbrook hasn’t the playoffs in forever (actually, 2001),” stated Matlock, “and we explained to the kids we weren’t going to do it in the first few weeks either, but this will prepare us for a really tough district. Hopefully this will set us up for the playoffs.”
“We’ve had a history here in Westbrook of not having a very tough pre-district schedule,” adds Matlock. “That really didn’t prepare us for the district games that mattered. Last year we made a point of scheduling harder and saw some results.”
“We also had a little success in basketball last year and I think that confidence has carried over. They’re excited and starting to think we have a chance to make some noise.”
I believe we already hear them loud and clear.
O’Donnell squeaked into the playoffs in 2019, but still completed the season at 5-5. In that squad, Coach Fernando Baeza saw the potential that needed to challenged, so like Westbrook, he built a pre-district schedule chock full of ranked opponents.
“We don’t have a lot of playoffs experience here at O’Donnell,” explains Baeza, a former state champion as both a player and an assistant coach at Borden County. “I wanted them to get exposure to that kind of talent, so playing at such a high level is not a big jump.”
The Eagles started quickly against Gordon in week 1 and never looked back on their way to a 60-36 win.
This week the offense exploded in the second quarter, scoring a remarkable 42 points agains Garden City. The Bearkats responded, pulling within a few scores, but the Eagles were unfazed.
“We didn’t miss a beat,” added Baez about Garden City’s comeback attempt. “Our kids had a great attitude and responded.”
Leading the way so far this season for O’Donnell has been the running back duo of Caleb Lowe and Blaze Garces. A virtual Six-Man Thunder and Lightning, Lowe is a bowling ball at 6-1, 205, while Garces is 5-9, 155 pounds, and the combination attack has been so far effective.
In two games, Lowe has already amassed 386 yards and eight touchdowns. Garces has added 95 yards and two touchdowns rushing and another 350 yards and eight touchdowns passing.
“The guys are working hard,” says Baeza. “We just need to keep limiting mistakes and remain positive.”
It certainly doesn’t get any easier, as they head to #3 Sterling City for this week’s Six-man Game of the Week.
TOP-RANKED TEAMS UPDATE
Both Rankin and Balmorhea cruised this weekend after their battle in week 1. Rankin scorched White Deer, 73-34, in a battle two top-10 teams. The Red Devils did not have a scrimmage prior to the season and have started to look like the team to beat in Division 1. Another top-10 matchup awaits as they travel to Gail to play Borden County this Friday.
Balmorhea shut down Fort Davis, 62-14, and will host Nueces Canyon this Friday.
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.