Central-Permian Rivalry Renewed with District Title on the Line
SAN ANGELO, TX-- All eyes will be on San Angelo Stadium this Friday when the No. 16 Central Bobcats (7-0, 3-0) host the No. 17 Permian Panthers (6-0, 3-0) in a pivotal District 2-6A clash.
This game, much like the 2015 edition, has district title implications. Central and Permian are both undefeated, the only two remaining unbeaten teams in District 2. While this game itself won't decide the outright district champion with two games to follow this week, the winner will surely have one foot in the door of another title.
"I think it's huge," Central Head Coach Brent Davis said about the rivalry. "There have been big crowds in the past. In 2015, it was a packed house. They're undefeated. We're undefeated. I think they're going to bring a lot of people because they travel well. I think it'll be hard to find a ticket. It could be very similar to [the Allen game]."
Coach Davis would go on to say he felt the home support would well outnumber that of the traveling Panthers.
The Central Bobcats have won 25 consecutive regular season home games, dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season.
"Playing at home is a big advantage for us," Coach Davis said. "I think we play better at home. I think our kids feed off that crowd."
In the last eight meetings, dating back to 2006, the series is split 4-4. Central has won the last four meetings in the rivalry.
This week will be, by far, the biggest test for Central in their push for a fifth-straight district title.
Offense: Advantage Central
Central has proven to be explosive all season. However, they'll have to contend with a tough defense that is allowing just 15 points per game.
The key for Central's offense getting going, according to Coach Davis, is Junior Quarterback Maverick McIvor. "Our offense goes through him," said Davis. "That's no secret."
McIvor has grown into a true dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 2,077 yards and rushing for 616. "He's going to have to play well," Davis mentioned. "I have all the confidence that he will." McIvor does have a solid offensive line up front to protect him and that will be paramount to Central's success on offense.
Along with his offensive line, McIvor has a solid corps of receivers around him with Seniors Jaden Coates, Jesse Scott and Henry Teeter, and Junior Philip Lupton. But the run game has really been the surprise after the loss of Austin Barron, with Sophomore Bobby Pena and Senior Defensive Back-turned-Running Back De'Marcus Cobb stepping up to anchor the Bobcats' backfield. "I thought they both played well against Frenship," Davis said. "They both scored touchdowns on pretty decent runs."
Permian runs the ball about 86 percent of the time in their triple option offense. The Panthers are averaging just under 45 points per game and have had a district average margin of victory of 40 points. Senior Quarterback Steve Steen has lit up the scoreboard with 19 total touchdowns for the Panthers, 11 of which came on the ground. Those 11 rushing touchdowns leads Permian. Junior Running Back Ed Williams leads the Panthers three-headed rushing attack with 808 yard. Williams has also tallied nine touchdowns for Permian. Junior Receiver Justin Hammond has carried the ball 40 times for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Central's explosive offense should be able to get past Permian, but it all hinges on the defense.
Defense: Advantage Central, barely
Central's run defense has been a big part of their success so far this season. "I think that's one of our strengths, run defense," said Davis. "That area of our defense is really going to have to shine." The Bobcats have allowed an average of 191 yards rushing this season and have held four opponents to under 100 yards. Last week, in the win against Wolfforth Frenship, the Bobcats allowed the Tigers just 91 yards rushing. However, the triple option is more difficult to defend than an offense that runs out of the spread. Coach Davis mentioned his defense would have to play "assignment football" in order to contain the Permian offense.
"If you can't stop the run against Permian, it's going to be a long night for you," Coach Davis emphasized. "Not only are they going to score, they're going to chew up clock and limit your possessions."
This matchup is where the game will be decided. If Central is able to contain Permian's offense, that means Permian won't be able to bleed the clock like they have all season. If Permian can't do that, Central wins.
"If there's one key to the game, its our run defense against their run offense," said Coach Davis.
As I mentioned earlier, Permian's defense is a tough one. "They're good," Coach Davis said of Permian's defense. They're allowing 15 points per game. That's thanks in large part to Permian's offense controlling the clock and returning most of their starters from a year ago. Permian's defense has also helped out it's own cause, holding opponents to an average of 280 yards of offense. Permian's run defense is their best, allowing 104.5 yards per game. Where Central might have Permian is through the air. Permian has allowed an average of 175.5 yards per game passing. However, the Panthers held Tascosa to just nine yards passing last week. Granted, Tascosa is a run-oriented team. In that 49-7 win for Permian, the Panthers limited Tascosa to 190 yards rushing.
At the beginning of the year, I said this game will be the de-facto district championship and that's what it looks like. This will either be a defensive struggle or offensive tug-of-war where the last team to score wins. Central is up against it this week, and should prevail by a narrow margin.
Prediction: Central 31, Permian 28