All three Pecos County high school football teams are in the playoff hunt with two games left in district play.
There are two big rivalry games with Buena Vista hosting Grandfalls-Royalty and Iraan traveling to McCamey. Fort Stockton, meanwhile. plays host to Sweetwater.
Here are previews for each game:
Fort Stockton vs. Sweetwater
Fort Stockton vs. Sweetwater
Even after a disappointing 28-6 loss at Greenwood High School Friday night, The Fort Stockton Panthers football team still has full control over making the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
But their margin of error is now zero.
“For us to control that, we have to win out,” said Panther head coach Mike Peters. “.
The Panthers are in a three-way tie for third in District 1 4A-2 play, sharing 2-2 district marks with Monahans (whom they beat two weeks ago) and Lamesa (their Nov. 9 opponent).
Defeating both teams would make the Panthers 4-2 in district and a lock for at least third place behind Snyder (3-1, 6-2) and district champion Greenwood (5-0, 7-2).
But a loss to either Sweetwater this week or Lamesa next week, would leave the Panthers at 3-3 and vulnerable to an array of tie-breakers.
Losing both games would likely eliminate the Panthers from the playoff picture.
It is new territory for the current Panthers players to be playing this late in the season with so much on the line.
Peters is attempting to create a sense of urgency without stressing out the team.
“I was a lot more stressed at practice today (Monday) than they were,” said Peters. “That’s the big thing. You get to a point, you’ve played well, but you have goals and aspirations. To get to those, you have to continue to play well.
“As well as we’ve played, none of that means anything unless you finish strong. I’m sure our guys will be ready, but that’s always the concern going into a game like this.”
On the surface, Friday’s final home contest and Senior Night game for the Panthers – who are unbeaten at home with a 5-0 mark – seems like a lock.
“I hate the fact that I know how fans and players are, and they solely look at results, and, by no means, do results have anything to do with the talent level on the Sweetwater team,” Peters said.
But Peters also pointed out that playing at home helps, especially with the way the crowd has been fired up and turning out in large numbers.
Just two years after reaching the state title, the perennial power Sweetwater Mustangs find themselves in a surprisingly down year with a 1-7 record. Their lone win was 37-34 over Pecos (0-5, 1-7).
But Sweetwater would be in the three-way tie had they not given up 36 fourth-quarter points in a 49-30 loss to Lamesa.
Despite that, wins this week at Fort Stockton and next week over Monahans would put Sweetwater in the playoff mix.
“Watching film on Sweetwater, I do not know how they haven’t won more games than they have,” said Peters. “they are talented, they are big, and they’ve gotten better every single week.”
Since joining their district in 2014. Since a 34-28 Panther win in 2014, the Mustangs have won three in a row, outscoring the Panthers 138-7 in the process.
Peters said that the team skipped watching the Greenwood game film and went immediately to preparing for Sweetwater.
“As much as we needed to see our errors in the that game, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season,” Peters said.
Peters said the key for the Panthers is to not fall behind and to avoid turnovers.
The Mustangs run a spread offense and sometimes us two running backs. They have struggled amid their inexperience, posting just 122 points through eight games. But 101 of those points have come in the past four games.
They have been starting freshman Leo Holsey, who has completed 60 percent of his passes (71-for-118) for 889 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also has 222 rushing yards on just 23 carries. Against Snyder last week, he completed 7-of-10 passes for 100 yards and rushed for another 50 on four carries.
Senior runningback Alex Gallegos put up 112 yards against Snyder with fellow senior Josh Camacho adding 70. Gallegos has 657 rushing yards on the year, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
The team’s leading receiver is junior T. Warner with 317 yards on 21 catches. Junior D. Atkins has 285 yards and four touchdowns on 15 catches.
Gallegos leads the team with 36 points, followed by Atkins with 30.
The defense has given up 374 points thus far – an average of nearly 47 points per game. Only twice have they held an opponent less than 40 (34 vs. Pecos and 33 vs. Big Spring). They have only recorded two sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery this season.
The Mustangs run a 4-3 defense with a lot of pressure up front. Peters said they have the size advantage up front and have good speed in the secondary.
Gallegos, who also plays linebacker, leads the team with 66 tackles.
Iraan at McCamey:
The Iraan Braves improved to 8-0 by rallying for a 24-7 win over Wink in the District 1 2A-2 opener for both teams.
With only four teams in the district, Iraan can all but guarantee itself the district title with a win Friday at McCamey, which defeated Van Horn 53-0 Friday. Iraan closes out district against Van Horn on Nov. 9.
McCamey come in with a solid offense and strong defensive front, according to Maurer.
“They’re plenty good,” said Braves’ head coach Corby Maurer. “Offensively, what they do they are good at.”
Maurer said McCamey is balanced in running and passing out of a spread formation.
“They link what you are giving them to that style,” Maurer said.
Maurer said he expects McCamey to stack the box defensively to counter Iraan’s run-first approach.