Every week in the postseason is about surviving and advancing to the next round. But on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, there’s also a chance to make history on both sides as El Paso Parkland takes on Richland in the Class 5A Division II playoffs. The winner would advance to the regional finals for the first time in their program history.
Coming off a 45-34 win over Lubbock Cooper in the area round, the Matadors are feeling good about themselves and enter the game against the Rebels with confidence. Parkland head coach Eric Frontz is confident in his team that they can keep it going this weekend. Ask the players the same question and they’re feeling that same enthusiasm.
“Last week, we used the experience from the year before to come out more focused,” said Parkland quarterback A.J. Briggs, “It really helped us a lot.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of support over the last week and it’s really helped us,” said linebacker A.J. Marquez, “I feel like we’re a really good team that can go far.”
The Matadors were able to exact some revenge on Lubbock Cooper after the Pirates knocked them out in 2016 in Odessa. As they get set to face off against the Richland Rebels at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock on Saturday afternoon, they know it will be a tough challenge.
“Their speed really stands out,” Briggs said of the Rebels, “They’re fast and they’ll track you down and it presents a good opportunity for us.”
Richland is also trying to make history of their own and earned that right thanks to a 28-21 overtime victory over Saginaw Boswell. The Rebels came back from a 21-7 fourth quarter deficit to upend the Pioneers and are riding that wave of confidence into the game.
“The way the game was going last week and it took us until about six minutes left in regulation to finally solve the puzzle,” said Richland head coach Ged Kates, “We talk about playing to the end and I feel like that our team did that and then some.”
The Rebels enter the game with a number of playmakers in both the backfield and on the outside. Running back Rylee Johnson is back from injury and quarterback Drew Trent will be on the lookout for fast receivers in Shamar Johnson and Rashee Rice. They’ll carry the load for an offense averaging nearly 45 points per game this season.
On defense, the Rebels will rely on linebacker and 2018 Texas A&M commit DaShaun White to lead the way. The future Aggie has been all over the field for Richland, accumulating 124 tackles during the 2017 season.
Kates knows that he and the rest of the Rebel defense will have to be ready for the Matador offense that is one of the fastest in the state, averaging more than 590 yards per game.
“Some of the schools out here do go that fast but it’s tough to replicate in practice,” Kates said of Parkland’s up-tempo offense, “We try hard to mimic that and the speed at which they play is one thing they do really well.”
As for the history side, both teams are carrying extra motivation: For Parkland, it’s carrying the banner for El Paso as the last team standing. For Richland, it’s about continuing a historic run.
“Being the last team left from El Paso, we want to put on a good show,” said Briggs, “We want to show everyone else that the teams from El Paso can play.”
“I was young the last time that Richland made it this far,” Kates said, “As an alum, we know a little about it and it means so much to have that opportunity to do well.”
The two face off at 1 p.m. CST Saturday from Jones AT&T Stadium.
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