WHITESBORO — For much of the season, the Bearcats have relied on their defense. Before the playoffs started, Whitesboro had won seven games and in all but one of those victories it did not allow more than two touchdowns.
The Bearcats closed out the regular season with back-to-back shutouts. They opened the season by holding their opponents to a single touchdown.
It took awhile for the offense to get going. Injuries played a part but it wasn’t until late October that Whitesboro scored five touchdowns in a game.
For the next month it matched that number each time out and it was good enough to get the job done.
But the Bearcats needed an over-the-top effort to keep their season alive and it came at just the right time.
“We executed better last week than we had,” Whitesboro head coach Eddie Gill said. “Eliminated turnovers. Locked on blocks. We didn’t stay behind the chains. Things were manageable. You add all those things together and you have a good offensive day.”
Now the group has a chance to go where no Bearcat team has gone as Whitesboro (9-3) takes on Grandview (11-1) in a Class 3A Division I Region II semifinal at Justin Northwest ISD Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s a special moment for us,” junior quarterback Scout Sanders said. “The respect we get is going to come from when we line up. We’re going to have to keep proving ourselves.”
The winner will face either Kemp or Commerce in the region final next week. It would be the first state quarterfinal appearance for Whitesboro.
“There’s a lot of confidence with how we’ve been playing,” junior defensive tackle Riley Dickson said. “The coaches have been telling us from the beginning how good our potential is and I think we’ve been realizing it.”
The Bearcats continue to add to what has been one of the best years in program history. Their ninth victory put them in the company of just two Whitesboro squads before them to get that many wins in a season — 1948 and 2013 — and a win this week would match the latter squad for the most in a year.
“We like to keep account of history, especially since at Whitesboro there has been a lack of it,” Gill said. “I think it’s good to have the current group better the group before them. We want them to know what they’re working for because we work their tails off.”
Whitesboro advanced to the region semifinals for the second time and first since 2014 with that 64-39 victory against Jefferson, setting a school record for playoff points and producing their biggest output since the same number early in the 2011 season.
The Bearcats had 526 yards with 418 coming on the ground. Brooks Barker had 14 carries for 134 yards and scored twice, Nolan Frith added 14 carries for 119 yards, Sanders finished with 15 carries for 64 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 108 yards and a TD and Weston Hickman had a 66-yard touchdown run and a 71-yard TD catch. Brent Riddle also returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a score.
“Our big guys up front are clicking real good,” Sanders said. “It all starts with those guys. Having them protect us is key.”
Barker is on the verge of 1,000 yards for the season — he has 915 yards and 11 touchdowns on 148 carries — while Sanders is at 152 carries for 763 yards and 13 scores. Frith is next with 103 carries for 563 yards and six TDs.
“We pretty much had all our pieces,” Gill said. “It helps when you can spread it around. We’re a little bit more multiple. The past four years you’d look at us and there would be that one guy to have to stop.”
Grandview is in the region semifinals for the second time in three seasons. A year ago the Zebras were edged by Howe, 29-28, in the bi-district round to finish at 8-3 a season after getting to the third round and suffering their only defeat against eventual state runner-up Cameron Yoe.
After opening the playoffs with a 54-7 victory over Whitesboro’s districtmate Pilot Point, Grandview took down Hughes Springs, 49-6, last week.
Grandview was up 42-0 at half-time and held Hughes Springs to 125 yards and eight first downs in the contest. Earnest Crownover had 138 yards from scrimmage and and scored four times on six touches, Dane Jentsch was 9-of-14 passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns and Kamron English had three catches for 66 yards and two scores.
The Zebras have allowed just a pair of touchdowns in the last month and only once has an opponent scored more than 20 points against them. Grandview’s only loss was against Maypearl, 19-14, and that was who the Bearcats beat to open their playoff run, 36-26, two weeks ago.
Jentsch, a freshman, took over the starting QB job three games ago from Landon Moon.
“You can’t say he’s just a freshman. He’s a football player,” Gill said. “It’s not like he hasn’t been on the field — he was starting at linebacker and was a part-time quarterback before becoming the guy.”