Glen Rose High School’s head football coach Cliff Watkins didn’t spend much time on fiery motivational speeches to get his players ready for Friday’s third-round playoff rematch against the Iowa Park Hawks.
He knew that wasn’t necessary.
The Tigers who were on the 2018 varsity squad all should have vivid memories of their 31-28 loss to the Hawks. That ended the Hawks’ season at 11-2 in the regional finals of the Class 4A Division II playoffs. The Tigers were leading in that game until Iowa Park managed to score the winning points on a touchdown with just eight seconds left.
The Hawks went on to reach the state semifinals.
“Our guys are extremely excited to get an opportunity to play their guys again,” Watkins said of this year’s contest, which is set for 6 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. “We have to go out and play our best, and they are up for the challenge. We have plenty of kids that were on that team last year. I haven’t had to have motivational talks.”
Watkins added that his players seem to have their minds “in the right spot” in respect to avenging that loss.
This season, Iowa Park has rolled to an 11-1 record and entered the playoffs as the No. 9 team in the state, according to Dave Campbell Texas Football online. The Hawks 42-23 area playoff win over Dalhart was their 10th straight victory.
Glen Rose (7-5) is also on a roll, looking for its eighth win in a row.
The Tigers had faced a rugged non-district schedule and were 0-5 before turning around their season by winning the last seven games in a row. The Tigers earned an undisputed District 4-4A Division II championship with a 4-0 mark along the way.
The Tigers are coming off a 63-42 victory over Pecos in the area playoff round last Friday, at Abilene Wylie High School’s stadium.
Glen Rose and Iowa Park both played Ferris this season. The Tigers defeated Ferris in a district contest on Oct. 18, 34-15. The Hawks posted a 53-26 win over Ferris on Nov. 15 in their bi-district playoff game.
Iowa Park is enjoying the leadership of senior Trent Green, who is in his third season as the starting quarterback. Green is not only a standout passer with accuracy, but is also a dangerous runner.
“Their offense is so explosive,” Watkins said of the Hawks. “He (Green) makes them go. He is their leader, and a heck of a football player. He’s a really good football player.”
There are also three receivers and two running backs that concern Watkins, meaning that the Tigers can’t focus on stopping just one person.
"They’ve got really good skill players," Watkins said. "We’ve got to be sound and disciplined on defense.
“They play extremely hard, they’re well coached, and they are a talented football team. They are not going to make mistakes.”
The survivor of the Glen Rose-Iowa Park clash will advance to next week’s fourth-round playoff matchup against either Greenwood or Lubbock Estacado. Both of those teams are 12-0. In the final regular-season rankings, Greenwood was No. 4 and Estacado was No. 5.
Tigers fans will sit on the visitors side Friday, and there will be a $5 parking fee at Shotwell Stadium (1525 East South 11th St.). Tickets are $5 for both adults and students.
Glen Rose quarterback Austin Worthen now has 1,881 yards passing this season with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He also leads the Tigers in rushing, with 1,055 yards on 167 carries with 17 TDs. Next in rushing is senior Nicholas Rebolloso with 601 yards and six TDs on 78 attempts, followed by J.W. Roper with 497 yards and seven scores on 67 carries.
The top three GRHS receivers are Nathaniel Ferguson (495 yards, six TDs on 26 catches), Braylen Meador (401 yards, two TDs on 27 catches) and Ricky Douglas (341 yards and six TDs on 21 catches).
On defense, Meador leads the Tigers in tackles with 135 tackles, including 91 solo, and also in interceptions, with three. Second is Douglas with 119 (74 solo) and next is Cory Aper with 109.