Photo courtesy of Max Faulkner/Star-Telegram

KELLER, Texas — Keller Fossil Ridge High School is undefeated and the Haltom High School has lost two games. Both teams are 2-0 in District 6-3A.

Thursday at Keller ISD Athletic Complex in a battle between an overpowering offense and an opportunistic but bend-don’t-break defense, though, one will face relegation to No. 2 and the other rise to a tentative No. 1 in the District 6.

DEFENSIVE STATE OF MIND

Head Coach Jason Tucker’s (4-2, 2-0) Buffaloes have sacked opposing quarterbacks six times via tackles from sophomore Jonathan Rodriguez (3), junior Ruperto Rios (1), and seniors Brian Duran (1) and Chris Skinner (1) and hurried signal callers four times. Rodriguez has also forced a fumble — one of the seven turnovers created by the unit (5 FF, 2 INT).

Haltom’s defense has allowed 23 points per game while its offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Michael Black, tests scoreboard electronics teams. In six matchups, the Buffaloes have scored at least 27 points and against Sunset High School, they scored all but three of their 65 points in three quarters.

BET ON BLACK, OFFENSE

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Black leads Haltom in both passing (67-119, 1093 yards, 12 TD, 8 INT) and rushing (104 carries, 740 yards, 10 TD). With four games still remaining on the regular season schedule, he has nearly eclipsed the 2,000 total-yard mark. At his current average of 305,5 total yards per game, Black is on pace for 2,355 by season’s end.

The air attack is powered by a quartet of 100-plus yard receivers —senior Imiee Cooksey (17 rec, 474 yards, 8 TD), juniors Julian Johnson (14 rec, 209 yards, 2 TD) and Decorian Mitchell (11 rec, 149 yards, 2 TD), and senior Manase Mubanga (9 rec, 115 yards).

FOSSIL RIDGE’S ‘CRAFT’ WORK

To say Head Coach Tony Baccarini’s Panthers are dangerous offensively may be an understatement.

Behind the rifle arm of senior Cobe Craft, Keller Fossil Ridge has gained more than 1,500 yards through the air. More importantly and perhaps most surprising may be his touchdown-to-interception ratio.

In six high school football games this season he’s found senior Stefan Cobbs, Jr. (34 rec, 756 yards, 12 TD), junior Jaylen Hearst (25 rec, 538 yards, 4 TD) and two other wide receivers 19 times in the end zone while tossing only one interception. And while Craft attacks via air raid, Colione Evans wears down defensive fronts with ground-and-pound tactics.

The sophomore has 583 yards and eight touchdowns on 92 carries. He is one of two players — Craft is the other with 282 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries — with more than 100 yards rushing in 2017.

PANTHERS’ LEG TO STAND ON

If everything proves to be even offensively and defensively, special teams — specifically Keller Fossil Ridge’s Eduardo Mercado — may tip the scales.

Mercado not only leads all individual players in points scored this season, he has hit 30 of his 31 extra point attempts. As a kickoff specialist, he has 33 kicks for 1,678 yards (50 yards per kick). Nine of those 33 were touchbacks and his longest was 70 yards.

His ability to split the uprights may help score points against a tough Buffalo defense that gets tougher inside its own 50-yard line.

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