Westbrook (13-1) vs. Abbott (14-0), 2 p.m. Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington
It’s a showdown of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Class 1A Division I, though there’s been a flip-flop from the preseason — Westbrook started No. 1 and finished No. 2, Abbott the inverse.
The defending state champion Westbrook ran through a gauntlet in non-district, and it’s hard to argue that it didn’t prepare them for a playoff push, which saw them face three teams they’d already played (Happy, Rankin and Garden City) en route to a return trip to AT&T Stadium.
Cedric Ware, the reigning dual-MVP of the title game, will be the best player on the field in this one, accounting for 49 touchdowns on the season.
Abbott’s calling card is its defense, which is the best in 1A Division I allowing fewer than 10 points per game, and the Panthers have powered through adversity after an injury to leading offensive weapon Riley Sustala. Mason Hejl has stepped up splendidly in his stead, including a 311-yard, 8-touchdown performance in the state semifinal win over Irion County.
This is the lone matchup of state champion head coaches in the state championships — Homer Matlock led Westbrook to the title last year, Terry Crawford sprung one of the biggest state title game upsets in recent history with Abbott back in 2015. This figures to be a nip-and-tuck affair that could turn into a slugfest.
- Greg Tepper
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mason Hejl - When leading rusher Riley Sustala went down with injury, Hejl became the feature back in the Panthers’ attack and has been outstanding, running for 26 touchdowns on the year and averaging 8.3 yards per carry. He’s only gotten stronger in the playoffs.
Joey Pavelka - The headliner on Division I’s best defense, Pavelka is a playmaker of the highest order, using his speed to track down even the most elusive ball-carrier. And don’t forget about him on offense — Abbott doesn’t throw a ton, but Pavelka is the team’s leading receiver.
Cedric Ware - The best player on the field in this game (and perhaps every game this season), the reigning title game dual-MVP has run for 1,758 yards and 43 touchdowns on the year. Can he cap his spectacular career with a second straight dominant performance?
Parker Matlock - A quintessential six-man player, Matlock is the team’s leading passer and the team’s leading tackler. It’s imperative that the Wildcats’ offense has balance, so his throwing ability will be put to the test against a great Abbott defense.
- Greg Tepper
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