San Antonio–Is it Groundhog Day?
The Corpus Christi Calallen Wildcats certainly hope not as they prepare to take on the La Marque Cougars once again this weekend. Into the UIL 4A Division II State Semifinals yet again, they run into a familiar foe, one that denied them glory many times in the past.
They’ll get another chance to beat La Marque when the teams meet at Alamodome in San Antonio at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“That was 13 years ago and our coaching staff and kids are quite aware of how good La Marque is,” Calallen head coach Phil Danaher said. “But none [of our history with La Marque] will really matter to us in this game.”
The game over a decade ago marked the fifth and final one of consectutive meetings between La Marque and Calallen from 1993-97, all won by the Cougars.
One way Calallen hopes to change that trend is by relying on its offense, which alternates between a Wing T and Spread formation. Running back Buddy Wright, who has 1,506 yards this season and 21 TD’s and quarterback Tanner Sparks (1,818 yards and 21 TD’s passing; 1,088 and 17 TD’s rushing) are the Wildcats’ go to players.
“Tanner has good speed,” Danniher said. “Buddy breaks tackles and has good speed. I’m not sure if it’s to the level of La Marque’s speed but for us it’s good speed.”
Calallen runs a 50 Front (i.e. 3-4) and has only allowed more than 22 points twice this season, on the road at Victoria East (39-35 non-district win) and last week against Boerne Champion (51-31). Even in their only loss, a 13-9 result against solid South Texas program Gregory-Portland on Septemer 3, the defense kept the team in the game.
“They all play really good as a unit,” Danaher said of the defense.
To keep up with La Marque, a team must be well conditioned because of the Cougars no huddle Spread Offense. In addition to a stout defense which has really come on since the end of the regular season and running back Tim Wright, who has fought through ankle injuries to continue to be a force for the Cougars, the team has really been boosted by quarterback Mandy Williams and his improved play during the playoffs.
Against Dayton, Williams threw for 225 yards and 2 TD’s and against Manvel last week, he had 244 yards passing and 3 TD’s. His play earned him honerable mention as the Houston Boys High School Boys Athlete of the Week.
“He’s really picked it up since Tim [Wright became less effective] and so has the rest of the team,” Jordan said.
In order to have the best shot at a win, Danaher felt his team would have to win the battle of the trenches and in particular felt they needed to apply pressure on Williams and stop Wright.
“The line of scrimmage is always key to any game,” Danaher said.
Jordan felt that in order for La Marque to win, they’d need to take the Wildcats out of their comfort zone.
“We have to get them out of that Wing T and we want them to go into the Spread,” he said. “As long as they’re having success in the Wing T, they’re going stay in it.”
The winner of this game is set to take on the winner of the Aledo (14-0), Mesquite Poteet (12-2) game in the 4A D-2 State Championship Game next weekend at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.