ROSENBERG — All that stood between perfection and this Friday’s matchup between Foster and George Ranch was one play.
Even with that one loss marring George Ranch’s otherwise spotless record, this week’s showdown should be the most-anticipated game of the year for Lamar CISD.
On one side sits the reigning district champs in George Ranch, a program that made it to the regional finals last season with a perfect regular season record.
On the other sits the upstarts in Foster, a team hungry to prove itself amid a grueling non-district schedule and a chip on its shoulder.
“They know that this is a game we lift weights for,” Foster head coach Shaun McDowell said. “If they can’t focus this week in practice, they’re not going to be focused any time. I haven’t had to coach effort this week.”
Animosity builds between the two schools which sit about 14 miles apart all week, but both coaching staffs try to contain it to this game. The rest of the time, the two schools can root for their Lamar CISD brethren to succeed.
“I like coach (Ricky) Tullos,” McDowell said. “But, this week, I want to beat George Ranch.”
For George Ranch, blocking out the distraction is easy. Students have already been vocal about the matchup on social media, as the student group The Ranch Rowdies tries to stir the digital pot.
But, the Longhorn football team has kept its focus inward. This will not be the biggest game this core group has played in, having been in plenty of anticipated games during their playoff run a year ago.
“We’re about ourselves,” George Ranch head coach Ricky Tullos said. “We try not to beat ourselves. We try to go out and play our style of football. If we take care of ourselves, we feel we’ve got a good chance to win some football games.
“We take every game the same. It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve been in some big games. This is another game. That experience and confidence will help out.”
In the game itself, turnovers could turn the tide and give one side a crucial advantage. George Ranch has been beset with fumbles early in the year. The Longhorns have lost five fumbles in five games, including two-fumble games against Morton Ranch and Pearland Dawson.
Most of those have been on flukey plays, as the George Ranch ball carriers usually protect the ball well. Tullos said his team hasn’t dwelled on turnovers in practice any more than they normally do.
“The number one factor in winning and losing football games (is turnovers),” Tullos said. “We talk about that daily. We have to do a better job of focusing in and we drill it in practice. It’s just a matter of focus and taking care of the ball.
“It comes down to understanding that when you’re in traffic, be more cautious with the football. Our defense tries to create them and on offense, we can’t give it to them.”
For Foster, pace will dictate their success Friday. The Falcons love running with an accelerated tempo on offense, pushing the pace and tiring out opposing defenses.
On the other side of the ball, George Ranch relies on a clock-eating, ground-and-pound attack to control the game.
Scoring early is important in any game, but against a team like the Longhorns, Foster can knock them out of their comfort zone with a quick lead.
“I know coach Tullos and that staff want to run the football,” McDowell said. “They do a great job of running the football. I’m the opposite. I want to go fast. We’re going to turn the gas on. We’re better when we’re fast. That’s how we practice, that’s how we need to play.
“It’s been good for us in the past five games, getting ahead early. Against teams that don’t throw the ball, we have to execute at a high level offensively early in the game. As fast as we can throw it down the field, though, they can run it.
“It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”