High School Football: Its Win or Go Home for Central against Pebble Hills
SAN ANGELO, TX-- As many coaches would say, the third season, playoffs, is beginning this week. The Central Bobcats (10-0) will host the El Paso Pebble Hills Spartans (8-2) this Friday at 7 pm in San Angelo for the Bi-District round of playoffs.
The Spartans started the season 8-0 before dropping their final two games, in narrow fashion, to Montwood and El Paso El Dorado.
As a school, Pebble Hills has only been open since 2015. But that hasn't stopped the Spartans from turning into a power in El Paso. Here's the problem for them, El Paso schools went 1-4 in the 6A playoffs a year ago.
Central, on the other hand, has a winning tradition in it's pedigree. Over the last 3 years, the Bobcats have gone 33-3.
Last week, the Bobcats escaped a scare from a good Tascosa team in a 35-26 win. Pebble Hills fell to El Dorado 49-44.
But will the Bobcats get the dominant Spartan team that went 8-0 to start the year, or the team who allowed 450 yards of offense in their final three contests.
Offense: Advantage Central
The two teams are fairly even when it comes to offensive production. Central is averaging 423 yards per game while Pebble Hills is averaging 417 yards.
But when you look at these two teams, there is one glaring difference: ball distribution. The Bobcats have numerous weapons surrounding Maverick McIvor. For the Spartans, only four players have gotten lion's share of work in 2017.
For Central, it starts with McIvor. The dual-threat quarterback has accounted for 3,503 yards and 43 touchdowns for the Bobcats. His receiving corps has been a massive factor into his success, as well. The 201 completions McIvor has thrown have found 11 different receivers, with seniors Henry Teeter and Jesse Scott heading up the pack.
Scott and Teeter have accounted for 1,838 of the Bobcat's receiving yards with 11 touchdowns each.
The Bobcats also welcomed back junior running back Cody Parker in the win over Tascosa. Parker only got five carries in the win, but was getting acclimated back to the game after a lenghty absence. The return of Parker, from an injury in the spring, means the Bobcats have another true running back in the backfield.
For the Spartans, senior Orlando Puig has taken the majority of the snaps at quarterback. Puig has completed 143 passes for 1,834 yards and 21 touchdowns. However, he has not shown any semblance of the same ability as Central's McIvor, meaning he may not be a threat to run.
If the Spartans are going to run it, that will fall on the back of junior Caleb Gerber. Gerber has tallied 1,567 rushing yards, more than 70 percent of Pebble Hills' yards on the ground. The junior has also found the end zone 19 times this season.
Puig has primarily targeted two receivers, seniors Haredt Gonzalez and Kevin Averette. Averette leads the Spartans in receiving yards with 583. Gonzalez is not to far behind with 576 yards, but leads the team in touchdowns with nine.
With the way Central has spread the ball out, their offense looks much better on paper.
Defense: Advantage Central
Central's defense was tested once again last week and made the stops when they mattered most, as they have all season.
But the focus has to be on Pebble Hills. There's a good idea of what Central brings to the table in stopping the run and playing solid in the secondary. The Spartan defense has been sort of up and down throughout 2017. They have held opponents under 100 yards passing on five occasions this season, but are allowing 510.3 yards of offense over their last three games of the season. Those last three games, against Eastwood, Montwood and El Dorado, were also the closest games the Spartans have played all season.
The Spartans also boast a respectable defensive front. Junior linebacker Jonas Christmas and senior linebackers Gavril Bone and Kevin Esquivel will need to start paying rent if they stay in the opponent's backfield any more. Christmas leads the team in sacks with nine. Bone is second with 5.5 and five tackles for a loss to his credit as well. Esquivel leads the Spartans in tackles for a loss with eight.
For Pebble Hills, they will need to create turnovers, as they did 25 times in the regular season. The Spartans have three players with two interceptions this season. Christmas is one of those three. Seniors Jacob Hernandez and Ke'Shaun Cartwright are the other two players with two picks.
Pebble Hills had a stellar defense to start the year, but it has since tapered off. Central's offense should be able to get past them with relative ease. However, keep an eye on the turnover battle. That's where this game will be won.
Prediction: Central 41, Pebble Hills 20