Whitesboro set for Shallowater, and make some history in the process

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Whitesboro's Asher Contreras and the Bearcats are playing in the region semifinals for the third time in program history.

WHITESBORO — The Bearcats find themselves right where they wanted to be all along.

Despite missing out on the playoffs last season, there were big goals on tap when Whitesboro was about to start two-a-days.

It was a group that liked its chances, even though it had a tough schedule — both in its choice of non-district opponents and the district road it would need to navigate.

But the Bearcats still put out there about how good they thought they could be.

“They set the goal in July to be the best team ever at Whitesboro,” WHS head coach Cody Fagan said. “They’re a win away from making that happen.”

With support from big plays on both sides of the ball during their late-season surge, Whitesboro (8-4) faces Shallowater (10-2) in a Class 3A Division I Region I semifinal at 1 p.m. on Friday at Abilene Christian University.

“There’s no pressure on our guys. They’re playing at a really high level and they feel like they can beat anybody,” Fagan said. “I think we’ve got a really good shot.”

The winner will face either defending champion Jim Ned or Brock in the region final next week.

This is just the third time in school history the Bearcats are in the third round, joining the 2014 and 2017 teams to make it this far. A win not only puts Whitesboro in the state quarterfinals for the first time but would also be just the fourth time since 1948 that the program earned at least nine victories in a season.

“We haven’t been to a region final but there’s kids who were in the region final in basketball a couple years ago. They’ve been to state track, state powerlifting. Deep runs in baseball,” Fagan said. “Competitors compete no matter what.”

Last week against Bushland, Whitesboro came away with a 41-21 victory. Mac Harper completed 13-of-25 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and also ran 18 times for 101 yards and three TDs while Jake Hermes had three catches for 92 yards and a score and Torran Naglestad finished with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

“The way to beat the 10-1 (defense) is to have the quarterback running the ball,” Fagan said. “If forces you to have to run that QB. We planned all week for it and we told them that you get it done or we’re going home and we’re still here.”

Naglestad also came up with three interceptions, returning one 42 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter that helped set the tone.

“If you watch him play, he’s an instinctual player and he’s always in the right place at the right time,” Fagan said. “If you could get pressure on (the quarterback), his instinctual play was to throw the ball up for grabs.”

In addition to Naglestad’s three interceptions, Blake Hapiuk also picked off a pass and Paul Velten blocked a punt.

“We don’t do any fancy stuff on defense. Our kids were really ready for those things,” Fagan said.

Three of the four teams that beat Whitesboro are also still playing — Gunter, Aubrey and Brock, which could mean an all 4-3A (I) rematch should both win. The Bearcats also have a win over Bells, which is still alive.

Those battles, win or lose, are what helped shape this five-game winning streak after the team was sitting at 3-4.

“We have so many guys who are confident in what we do,” Fagan said. “A lot of teams, you get to this point and they are what they are. I think we’re still improving.”

Shallowater is in the region semifinals for the first time since 2018, which was also the last time it advanced to the region final.

The Mustangs, who have won at least 10 games in a season for the eighth time in 11 years, suffered both of their losses in the first month of the season — 28-16 against Abernathy and 30-28 to Childress.

Since then the eight-game winning streak has had only one game decided by less than 23 points; the first of the string being a 37-29 victory over Panhandle.

Shallowater started the playoffs with a 56-18 victory over Dalhart and then last week eliminated Early by a 43-14 margin where the Mustangs led 43-0 after three quarters.

Garret Foerster was 5-of-12 passing for 72 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score, Keegan Campbell ran 14 times for 96 yards, Kaleb Cox and Cannon Reed had rushing TDs, Major McCully caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown and there were two defensive scores — Brett Hall returned a fumble 41 yards and Raston Copeland had a 35-yard interception return.

“They spread you to run you,” Fagan said. “I think they’re going to run the football to keep the ball away from our offense. They’re a big, strong, physical team and we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

Class 3A Division I Region I Semifinals

What: Whitesboro vs. Shallowater

When: 1 p.m. Friday

Where: Abilene Christian University