Thursday, 6:30 p.m. in Garden City
This time of year, every game is big.
In the coming weekend alone, you could argue that there are several games that should be the game of the week. In the Division 1 bracket, there are six games that could make the case.
But rarely do you get the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the state facing off in Round 2 of the playoffs and for that, we go to Division 2.
“Our kids love the big stage,” Jayton head coach Josh Stanaland said. “I think this is our sixth game against a team ranked #1 or #2 since 2018. We work hard all year long for a chance to line up across from a team like Balmorhea at this time of year.”
These squads are no stranger to deep playoff runs. Since 2016, they have combined for an incredible 21 playoff wins.
“We have 12 seniors who were freshman the last time we played in the state championship game,” said legendary Balmorhea head coach Vance Jones. “They got some good playing time as sophomores and juniors those last two years we spent in Division 1.”
Jones hopes that experience can play to the Bears’ advantage since they really haven’t played too much football in the past two months.
“We’ve had three ballgames in seven weeks,” added Jones. “First, we had to go through quarantine, then we had some district games canceled. We got by playing Blue on White scrimmages every Thursday to try and keep the kids focused.”
Jayton on the other hand played a full ten games this season and really started to pick up steam late in the season, culminating with their big district win over last year’s state finalist Motley County.
“I’ve been so impressed with how we’ve grown,” Stanaland said. “A lot of people don’t realize that we graduated 9 of 12 starters from last year’s state quarterfinal team. Three of our starters on defense played JV all of last season. Because of that, it took this group a little while to gel and figure things out. There were some growing pains, but they’ve grown up big time. I’m so proud of how hard they’ve worked.”
This game will also be a contrast of styles on the field. Where Jayton hopes to pound the ball with their size, Balmorhea will try to use their speed and elusiveness.
“Jayton is big and tall,” Jones said. “And their running back has good speed. We may have more overall speed, but with their size, we are going to have to do a good job tackling.”
Regardless of the style differences, this game will be a battle.
“Balmorhea has great athletes and probably the greatest coach to ever do it in Vance Jones,” Stanaland said. “They are great in every phase of the game. Every snap is going to be a struggle. We wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
PREDICTION: Balmorhea 42, Jayton 36
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