Battle Tested Bearkats Not Out of the Woods Yet on Road to State
GARDEN CITY, TX-- Saturday’s 60-14 win over defending state champ Borden County was a major hurdle for the no. 2-ranked and undefeated Garden City Bearkats. Borden County eliminated the Bearkats in the same round en route to a state title last year.
With Borden County out of the way, the Bearkats feel confident they can make a run to Arlington, but know they have to navigate a tough road to get there.
“It was a great feeling because, last year, they did that [mercy rule] to us,” senior Trae Jost said. “So, this year it felt really good to come back and do that to them and just take that next step toward our goal.”
The win set up a rematch between the Bearkats and no. 6 Balmorhea in the regional final. Garden City won that first meeting 53-32. Head coach Jeff Jones says you can never count out a team coached by six-man legend Vance Jones in the playoffs.
“We know they’ve gotten better,” Jeff Jones said. “We know it’s gonna be a tough fight. We’re not overconfident at all. We know what kind of teams Balmorhea has at this time of the year. The last two years they’ve been at AT&T Stadium. Playoff Vance Jones is a very good coach. So, we aren’t overconfident. We do feel good about our chances. We know we can play with just about anybody that steps on the field with us.”
A win would likely set up a meeting with state no. 1 and undefeated McLean in the state semifinals.
“It would mean a lot because we haven’t gotten over the quarterfinal hump in a while,” Jeff said. “So that’s foremost in our minds, just win this game and get to the next game.”
To get there, the Bearkats will likely ride on the back of one of the state’s stingiest defenses as they've done all year. Garden City is allowing 14.7 points per game while scoring an average of 49 points per game. Those numbers have led to six mercy rule wins and two shutouts.
“The defense helps me,” Jeff said. “I’m calling offense. It really opens up the playbook for me. When it’s fourth-and-long in our own territory, I really don’t feel bad about going for it because I know our defense is gonna hold. That’s always a good feeling as a coach. We take a lot of pride in our defense.”
That pride starts at a young age in Garden City. From the time they start playing at the pee wee level, in fact.
“We’d rather win a game by six points if it’s 6-0 than win a game 80-70,” Jost said. “For example, we were more satisfied with Borden County’s win rather than Rankin. Against Rankin we gave up 41 points. Then, Borden County we only gave up 14.”
How did that start? Vance Jones’ state champion Bearkats in 2009.
Through the 2009 regular season, Garden City allowed an average of 17.8 points per game.
“He knows us. We know him,” Jeff added. “He’s a big name in Garden City. He’s brought a lot of tradition here. That’s probably why we’re at the level we’re at, because some of the things he did eight and nine years ago.”
Aside from their five meetings on the gridiron, the Jones are very familiar with one another. The two have known each other “a very long time” according to Jeff because their fathers went to college together.
In 2012, when Marfa moved down to six-man football, Jeff, the Shorthorns’ AD and head football coach at the time, says Vance was one of the first people he called.
“He was one of the first people I called to pick his brain and get some ideas of which way I wanted to start running my programs,” Jones said. “It’s a really cool feeling to stand on the other side of the sidelines and see him across the way. Not only is he just a good friend, but just knowing how many wins he has under his belt and knowing how many of them came against me. It’s a cool feeling knowing that you’re out on the same field as Vance.”
Garden City and Balmorhea are set for a 6:00 p.m. kick off Saturday at Rankin’s Red Devil Stadium.