Angleton (11-0) will be a solid favorite when it takes the field against Corpus Christi Flour Bluff (10-1) in the Class 5A Div. I Regional Semifinals on Friday, 7:30 p.m., at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos. But Angleton coach Ryan Roark knows this will be his team’s toughest test to date.
“First of all, they’re about as well-coached as any team we’ve played this year,” Roark said of the Hornets,” Coach (Chris) Steinbruck does a fantastic job of getting those guys ready to play. I wouldn’t even say a challenge. They’re more than a challenge. These guys are really good. They’re 10-1 for a reason.”
The Hornets have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in senior Simeon Wells (1,126 yards, 15 TDs) and senior Devin Burlingame (1,108 yards, 7 TDs). Junior quarterback Braden Sherron is also a rushing threat with 720 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. When Sherron throws the ball, he’s got three legit receivers to target in senior Taggert Peel (31 receptions, 470 yards, 7 TDs), senior Brendan Suckley (32 receptions, 422 yards, 3 TDs) and senior Jacob Solid (29 receptions, 391 yards, 6 TDs).
They’ve helped Sherron complete 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,586 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Flour Bluff also has a stud on the offensive line in senior James Bagnell, a Rice commit who’s got great feet for a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder.
“We have two really good running backs and our quarterback has been extremely efficient all season,” said Flour Bluff coach Chris Steinbruck, “We’re going to be able to have to move the ball offensively and keep (Angleton’s) offense on the sideline.”
Steinbruck hopes his team’s experience in close games can give them a leg up if the score is tight going into the final period. The Hornets outscored Mission Veterans Memorial 19-0 in the fourth quarter last week to blow open a one-score game. Angleton, meanwhile, has been ahead by at least 20 going into every fourth quarter this season and usually has its starters on the bench by that time.
“I think that would be a definite goal of ours going into the game is to play a close game into the fourth quarter,” Steinbruck said. “If they haven’t done that all year, it’s always kind of a question on how they’re going to respond, especially when they’re such a heavy favorite.”
There’s a reason the Wildcats haven’t played a close game all season. Angleton is scoring 55.4 points per game and giving up just 5.1. Its closet win came by 23 points in a game it led 21-0 at halftime and its won its first two playoff games by a combined score of 148-21.
“I think you’d have to be incredibly arrogant or foolish to say that the reason you’re winning has nothing to do with talent. We’ve got a lot of talented kids out playing,” Roark said. “But I think probably more so than anything else, the reason for the huge turnaround and the way we’re dominating people, we’ve got a lot of really smart kids and unselfish kids that are playing the positions they’re supposed to play.
The Wildcats defense is allowing only 184.6 yards per game and has speed all over the field. Senior linebacker Sincere Jackson leads the way with 87 tackles and ten for a loss. Junior defensive ends Jesse Herron III and Danny Rogers are menaces coming off the edge with 13 and 11 tackles for a loss, respectively. But the most dangerous guy might be senior free safety Evrin Hawkins, who Roark refers to as his “swiss army knife.”
Hawkins plays both both ways and is second on the team with 79 tackles. He’s also scored eight touchdowns (three rushing, three receiving and two defensive).
“They’re so fast on defense. There’s not much weakness,” Steinbruck said. “Playing great defense is the thing that sets them apart from everybody else. Offensively, they play everybody. You miss a tackle, those guys can take it to the house. We got to do a good job of surrounding the ball with as many defenders as possible and tackling well in space.”
The Wildcat offense is led by senior running back Tamerick Williams, a SMU commit, who’s rushed for 1,424 yards and 17 touchdowns despite not playing the second half of most games.
“We’re ecstatic with the way he’s playing,” Roark said. “He’s playing like a Division I running back.”
Angleton may not need any help, but it’ll get it anyways with the return of senior B. J. Foster. Foster is a University of Texas commit who’s missed the last four games because of an undisclosed injury. He’s rushed for 623 yards and 12 touchdowns on 10.6 yards per carry while leading the team in receiving with 13 catches for 405 yards and three scores.
“No doubt, we’re excited to be getting him back. That goes without saying, but we’re not a one-man show around here, and I’m not real comfortable sitting here talking about one kid,” Roark said. “He hadn’t played in the last four ball games and in the playoffs we’re averaging 74 points per game without him on the field. But we realize the dimension he adds to our team and the athleticism he adds to our team.
Both teams had to deal with the affects of Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged through the Texas coast about three months ago. The natural disaster brought plenty of devastation and caused the team’s to miss valuable practice time and cancel their season openers. But Steinbruck felt it also gave his team a fresh perspective and an opportunity to make a difference, while Roark felt it was good for his kids to have football to rally around in a time of need.
“Anytime a community has something to rally around when it has something devastating happen to it like Hurricane Harvey, anytime that a group of young men, 16, 17, 18-year old kids, black, white, Hispanic and everything in between can rally together and get away from all the political things that are going on, all the devastating things, that can rally around each other as a group and a unit that believes in each other, trusts each other and loves each other, that’s what sports is all about,” Roark said. “It’s a wonderful thing when our community can rally around the Angleton Wildcats and not worry about other things out in the world, whether it be social media, whether it be political stuff or whatever, that we can rally around each other and have an identity that we’re not democrats or republicans, or we didn’t have our house torn down or whatever. We’re a bunch of Angleton Wildcats.”
“I think it’s been big for us,” Steinbruck added. “The entire school of Port Aransas shut down for several weeks and we took care of them and opened up our school and did some things that really taught our kids what being a good person is all about. I definitely think that has helped us. Football-wise, that might’ve hurt us because we didn’t have a scrimmage. We didn’t have a first game. But the intangibles about coming together as a community and pushing through adversity, there’s no doubt that that carries over and has taught our kids to be resilient. It’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about since you asked that question, that Angleton being on the coast and them experiencing some of the things that we went through to, it’s pretty special that we’re both still playing football.”
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