No. 2 Garden City, No. 5 Sterling City Set For Titanic District Championship Clash
GARDEN CITY, TX-- The No.2-ranked Garden City Bearkats and No. 5 Sterling City Eagles will square off Friday night for the District 8-1A Division I title.
The two programs and communities are no stranger to each other.
Garden City and Sterling City are separated by 30 miles, meaning there is always interaction between the two communities. Adding to that is the fact each program plays each other in every sport.
On the gridiron, this will be the 80th meeting all-time between the Bearkats and Eagles. Sterling City leads the series 45-30-2. Garden City has won the last three meetings, however.
This will be the first time in this millennia that the two teams will meet with unbeaten records in tact, however.
Yet, the roads the two teams took to get to 9-0 have been drastically different.
Garden City has been at the top in the landscape of Texas six-man football throughout the season. That's nothing new for the Bearkats.
"That's something our kids live with," head coach Jeff Jones said. "Our expectation every year is to win state, win every game."
They've also cruised through their schedule to this point. The Bearkats have beaten opponents by an average of 41.8 points per game. In district play, that number is 52 points.
While Garden City has lit up the scoreboard offensively, Jones says that dominance comes from the other side of the ball.
"It's defense, plain and simple," Jones said. "Our defense has done a great job lifting this team. Coach [Ollie] Willburn has done well with our defensive gameplans."
In a game highlighted by explosive offenses, having a tough defense in six-man football is "huge."
"One missed tackle could lead to a touchdown," Jones added. "It's not like 11-man where you have four defensive linemen in pursuit. In six-man, [defense] is crucial. Most busted plays lead to a touchdown."
Garden City also faced some tough tests in non-district by playing the two teams from the 2017 Class 1A Division II State Championship. In week 3, Garden City knocked off No.6 Balmorhea, and former head coach Vance Jones, 53-32. Three weeks later, the Bearkats knocked off defending state champ, and current No. 1 Strawn, 34-23.
Those matchups are what Jones wants for his players: a high-pressure game without the risk of their season ending.
"I like seeing our kids in an emotional game," Jones went on to say. "You've got two teams who played in state. There's not that repercussion of hanging up the pads."
Jones added that his team came out injury-free from that as well. Sterling City wasn't that lucky.
The Eagles are on their third running back this season and have lost a bit of senior leadership on the field due to injuries. In six-man football, having to go that deep on your roster can doom you. Not for Sterling City.
"Any kid I put out there, they're going give it all they've got," Sterling City head coach Trey Sisco said. "It's a testament to these kids."
Since the injury bug bit, the Eagles have had juniors Quinton McMullan and Wyatt Sisco step up to fill that void. McMullan has been a crucial two-way player on the line for the Eagles. Sisco has stepped up to be the Eagles' running back and has seen the lion's share of the work.
"We expect that from each other," Sisco said. "They've played together for a while. It's cool seeing that through the program."
While you could say Garden City has the advantage on paper, Jones knows that means little to nothing in a game of this magnitude.
"We participate against each other in everything," Jones said. "We're still gonna get their best effort. You can throw everything else out the window."
If Sterling City were to steal a win on the road, it'd be a tremendous achievement for the Eagles, but not their final goal.
"It'd be awesome," Sisco said. "It'd be nice to have something to show. But it's not our last goal. We want to make a run in the playoffs."
Garden City and Sterling City kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.