EL PASO-Playoff action in El Paso gets underway Thursday night at the Socorro ISD Student Activities Complex as the Montwood Rams (9-1) host the Midland High Bulldogs in a rematch from the regular season. The Rams won a shootout 58-53 in Midland and now the two will meet with more on the line in the Sun City.
The Rams enter the game off of their first loss of the season to El Paso Eastwood in the regular-season finale. Coming off a big win the previous week over El Paso Pebble Hills, a bit of a letdown was perhaps expected. But Montwood head coach Ariel Famaligi is taking that game as a lesson for his team moving forward.
“I think what happened last week against Eastwood will help us in the long run,” Famaligi said, “Every game in the playoffs will be big and I think they learned that there can’t be a hangover from the previous game.”
Thursday night at the SAC presents a different kind of challenge. Midland High has rebounded after an 0-5 start to find themselves in the playoffs and even with a 3-7 record, Famaligi knows that his team can’t take the Bulldogs lightly.
“They’re doing a lot of things differently on offense and defense that they weren’t doing when we played them last time,” Famaligi said, “They’re much improved and efficient. It’s a dangerous team.”
Tim Anuszkiewicz has seen that improvement first hand. The first year head coach previously served as the defensive coordinator and was promoted following the retirement of longtime head coach Craig Yenzer.
He had a large task at hand replacing 15 total starters from last year’s team and knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The Bulldogs traveled to El Paso to play Franklin, the previous matchup with Montwood in Midland followed by a matchup with defending state champion DeSoto. They also faced tough games against Keller and Midland Lee to open District 2-6A.
“We played a really tough schedule to start the year,” Anuszkiewicz said, “We took a really young team to travel and played some good opponents and we had to deal with some injuries early on.”
That tough early schedule has led to marked improvement down the stretch of the season. Junior quarterback Suddin Sapien has settled into the role as the signal caller and Anuszkiewicz says that the current seniors from last year’s team have provided a strong leadership presence and have come a long way from their September struggles.
The Bulldogs are playing in the postseason for the fourth straight year, an accomplishment that had not been achieved until this season.
“The biggest difference is that the kids and coaches have stayed the course,” Anuszkiewicz said, “It’s a testament to our kids that they’ve worked hard and done what we’ve asked them to do and I think we’ve gotten progressively better throughout the year.”
As the Bulldogs travel west, the expectation is for another hard fought game just like the last time these two teams played back in September.
“Our kids are excited to be back in the playoffs and to see Montwood again,” Anuskiewicz said, “It should be another explosive game.”
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