GAINESVILLE — After two narrow wins over hard-fighting opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Gainesville head coach Keith Hall would like a strong bounceback by his team for Saturday’s Class 3A Division II region semifinal game against Gladewater.

GAINESVILLE — After two narrow wins over hard-fighting opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Gainesville head coach Keith Hall would like a strong bounceback by his team for Saturday’s Class 3A Division II region semifinal game against Gladewater.


"We had a big win the week before against Celina," Hall said. "Sometimes it’s hard to get up after a big win. We played well on special teams and on offense. We just didn’t play well on defense.


"When you play a game like we did (last week), you can question and question. I told the kids, we’re 23-1 over two years. We’re not going to question a whole lot what we’re doing. We’re going to have good nights and bad nights. Hopefully, we’re good enough that if we’re not clicking on all cylinders, we can still win."


The Leopards, fresh off living to fight another week after a 36-28 win against Bonham, are nevertheless three rounds deep for the second year in a row and will take on Gladewater at 4 p.m. at Royse City ISD Stadium.


The Leopards (11-0) have played the Bears only once before, in the 1989 Class 3A playoffs. Gladewater sent Gainesville home with a 31-3 loss in the third round en route to the state semifinals that year.


Gladewater is one of only three remaining teams left in the UIL statewide playoffs — all 3A teams — which ended the regular season with a losing record. Led by 275-pound running back Daylon Mack, the Bears (6-6) routed Canton in the bi-district round, 48-0, and last week they beat Atlanta, 34-33, for the second time this season.


Part of the reason for Gladewater’s record is the district they play in. District 16-3A is home to top-ranked teams Kilgore and Gilmer, as well as the Bears and Tyler Chapel Hill, all four of which are still going strong in Region II.


Chapel Hill is facing Decatur, Gainesville’s District 9-3A colleague, in the Division I region semifinals.


"They have some good football teams," Hall said. "But there’s a good chance Decatur can win, and there’s a good chance we can win … It’s District 9 vs. District 16. Maybe they do have a good district, but don’t count out District 9, either.


"If you look on a map, Argyle, Celina, Decatur and Gainesville are probably as close as that district out there. If all four of us were in the same district, it would be the same deal. We preach to our kids that we play pretty good football at our end of the state, too."


It took a herculean effort by Gainesville senior running back Adam Berryman to get the Leopards over the hump against feisty Bonham.


Berryman carried 19 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns, including a 92-yarder early in the game and a score with 1:48 left that gave the Leopards some breathing room.


"Adam’s having a good year," Hall said. "If you look at the two playoff games we’ve played, he has really stepped it up. He’s hard to bring down and he’s running real, real hard. Our kids block for each other and we feel like if our skill kids get into the second level, we can make things happen."


Wingback Jonathan Mendez and backup tailback Demarius Farr don’t touch the ball as much, but Hall said there isn’t much of a drop-off at all, with Farr averaging eight yards per carry and Mendez about seven. Junior quarterback Mason Copeland averages six per carry himself.


"We do give the ball a lot to Adam," Hall said. "But when we give it to somebody else, we kind of hit the other people with home runs. It’s good we have other people to go to."


The Leopards are using last week’s showing in less-than-favorable playing conditions as motivation for this week.


"The rain and the cold might’ve affected us mentally," senior right tackle T.J. Beal said. "It’s made me want to work harder in practice. We’re a little more focused this week than we were last week."


The Gainesville-Gladewater game is in the Region II bracket opposite what most people are calling the game of the year in Class 3A, the clash between No. 1 Argyle and No. 3 Gilmer.


"Those are the two best teams in the state," Hall said. "We’d love to have the opportunity to upset one of them and Gladewater would love the opportunity too. There’s a good chance whoever wins that football game’s thinking they might just win the state title."


A Gainesville win Saturday against Gladewater would put the Leopards in the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row.


"You always talk about Argyle and Celina and Gilmer and all that," Hall said. "But you also have to mention Gainesville in that conversation. We’re still one game from (the quarterfinals), but we’re one that’s always there right now. That’s what we want to try to get back to being."