Photo: Courtesy of Shana Kirkland

 
One of the Class 2A Division I regional semifinals is a battle of two teams who are in the midst of turnaround seasons as the Panhandle Panthers (8-4) take on the Stamford Bulldogs (10-2) on Saturday afternoon at PlainsCapital Park at Lowrey Field in Lubbock.

The Panthers find themselves back in the regional semifinals for the first time since 2003 when they went 14-1 and advanced all the way to the state semifinals that year. After two straight seven win seasons, Panhandle head coach Dane Ashley is excited about the direction that his team is heading.

“I’m just excited about their willingness to work,” Ashley said, “They have worked extremely hard over the last year and they’ve turned into some pretty good football players.”

The Panthers upset one of the Region I contenders in Abernathy in the bi-district round followed by an emphatic 55-28 win over McCamey. Ashley credits his leaders who have helped get them to this point.

Photo: Courtesy of Shana Kirkland

“Braden Durst has done an outstanding job for us,” Ashley said, “Our running back Jayden Shaver has been awesome and our top receiver Luke Ray has been explosive for us. They’ve all done well.”

This week, the Panthers face against a Stamford that’s looking to make its make as a state title contender. In order to knock off the Bulldogs, Ashley will lean on senior quarterback Colton Durst on offense and knows that the Panthers will need to be at their best when they face Stamford on Saturday.

“It’s a very talented football team that we’re playing on Saturday,” said Ashley on the Stamford Bulldogs, “I’ve been impressed with their offensive line and defensively, they’re very athletic. As a whole, they’re probably the most athletic team we’ve faced this year.”

Meanwhile, the Stamford Bulldogs are coming off a dramatic 24-21 win over Sunray on the same field they’ll be playing at again on Saturday. For head coach Ronnie Casey, the comeback win showed him what kind of a group they have in the Big Country.

“That game was a reflection of our season to this point,” Casey said, “Our kids have battled through a lot of adversity and have trusted each other. We just told to do that and things eventually worked out for us.

Especially in the smaller classes of Texas high school football, just about everyone will play on both sides of the football and the Bulldogs have plenty of it. Junior quarterback Peyton Bevel runs the offense and has two playmakers to help carry the load in running back Steve Johnson and wide receiver Lonnie Applin.

Many of those same players have also starred on defense and one standout to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon is linebacker Carson Holt, who is also listed as a wide receiver and kick returner.

Photo: Courtesy of Shana Kirkland

He’ll need everyone of those playmakers (and perhaps others) to step up on Saturday against a good Panhandle team.

“They have a lot of talent, good size, and are well coached,” Casey said of Panhandle, “They’re an extremely talented football team.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. CST at PlainsCapital Park at Lowrey Field in Lubbock.

Tony Venegas is an assistant editor for TexasHSFootball, covering prep football in the El Paso and West Texas region. Follow him on Twitter, @advenegas, and read more of his content here.

 
 

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