It’s been a long time since the Graham Steers (10-1) have been challenged on the football field, but the Glen Rose Tigers (10-1) intend to do something about that on Friday at 5 p.m. in Springtown’s Porcupine Stadium.
“I knew coming into the season that Graham was going to be one of the top teams in the region,” said coach Tommy Dunn. “They do a very good job with their scheme and they’re very athletic. We knew they had good skill kids after we saw them in 7-on-7, and when you throw the linemen into the mix they’re one of the premier teams in the region. They’re very well-rounded and well-coached.”
Looking at the Steers’ season, they beat Mineral Wells 53-7, beat Brownwood 28-7, lost to Abilene Wylie 31-7, beat Breckenridge 44-0, beat Springtown 32-28, beat Bridgeport 54-0, beat Vernon 34-24, beat Iowa Park 38-0, beat Wichita Falls Hirschi 47-18, beat Burkburnett 48-0 and then defeated Lake Worth 44-7 in the opening playoff round.
“They handled Brownwood pretty easily early in the season, even though I think the Brownwood team we faced was (improved),” Dunn said. “Vernon was their closest district game and Springtown gave them a good game, but otherwise they haven’t been challenged much this year (outside of the Abilene Wylie loss).
“They’ll be ready for anything we throw at them and (vice versa). They are pretty balanced and throw more than most teams we’ve faced, and I think their coaches would say the same about us. I think it has the makings of a very good, competitive game.”
Quarterback Ben Davis has completed 175 of 261 passes for 2,343 yards and 19 touchdowns with five interceptions. He’s also rushed 84 times for 260 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Davis is a good athlete who pulls the ball down when they don’t have what they want through the air, and that really helps them to have him make yards with his feet,” Dunn said.
Top Steer rushers include Dillon Gonzales (135-946, 15 TD with 31-358, 4 TD receiving) and Hagen Hughes (123-755, 7 TD).
“Their running backs are fast and can really stretch the defense out,” Dunn said. “They do a good job blocking for those guys and their scheme allows them to be successful. It will definitely be a challenge for our defense.”
The primary receivers are Bryce Reeves (52-728, 8 TD) and Jerrod Mahan (12-300, 2 TD). Seven Steers have at least 10 receptions this season.
“They have a lot of guys who can catch the football,” Dunn said. “I think they have eight different receivers that have significant receiving yards, so they have a lot of weapons to choose from. Reeves is an excellent player who plays on both sides of the ball.”
The top tacklers for the Steer defense are inside linebacker Spur Hearne (96 tackles) and outside/inside linebacker Hunter Walls (79 tackles). Regarding pass defense, Mahan leads the way with six interceptions and Landon Gonzales has five. Graham has 22 interceptions overall.
“They have (five) guys with multiple interceptions,” Dunn said. “They’re able to get their hands on the ball consistently. Some of the teams they’re facing may not be great passing teams, but when the ball is in the air Graham goes and gets it. We can’t afford to turn the ball over like we did last week.”
It will be essential for Glen Rose to play defense at a high level Friday just as it did against Brownwood.
“I thought we did what we had to do to win the game,” Dunn said. “Our defense kept us in it. Our offense struggled the first half in particular, but ended up making some key plays down the stretch to get us out of bad field position.
“That sealed the deal with the way our defense was playing. I think Brownwood only ran (four) plays in the fourth quarter.”
On the injury front, Dunn expects to have all hands on deck Friday and knows every Tiger will need to bring his A-game.
“Of all the teams we’ve faced, you have to look at Stephenville as the best, but Graham is close to that caliber,” Dunn said. “They’re just about as multiple on defense as they are on offense. I haven’t seen them bring a whole lot of pressure; that may change and we’ll have to be ready.
“They’re very aggressive and do a good job of recognizing what the play is and then reacting. They’re 10-1 for a reason; we’ll have to play our best game.”
Before leaving for Springtown on Friday, be sure to head over to GRHS at noon that day for the community sendoff pep rally in the auditorium parking lot.