History Repeats?: No. 2 Garden City Ready for First Semifinal in 8 Years
GARDEN CITY, TX-- The second-ranked Garden City Bearkats are into the state semifinals for the first time since 2010. That team won state to end a two-year reign over Texas’ smallest classification of football.
“[The team] is excited about it,” head coach Jeff Jones said. “It’s been a while since Garden City has been in the semifinals. The kids take a lot of pride in that … To be back in that round is great.”
Players like junior Hunter McMillan saw that team make it to Shotwell Stadium -- then the home of the six-man state championships -- and idolized that team. They’re hoping to continue to leave their mark on the storied program.
McMillan said, “Being able to look at the statues in front [of our stadium] and see how important that was to the community and how much we can change things by going to state” has driven this team to 13 straight wins this season.
However, making it to AT&T Stadium -- the current home for all UIL Football State Championships -- will not be an easy task. They face the no. 1-ranked McLean Tigers (13-0) for that right.
The Tigers have run roughshod through their schedule, with 11 of their 13 wins coming from the mercy rule and an average margin of victory north of 50 points.
“When you get to this round, you need to earn it,” Jones said. “We know that only the best are still around."
While McLean has torn apart other teams, one should expect an atypically defensive game as far as six-man football goes. The Tigers boast seven shutouts and the Bearkats are holding opponents to an average of 16 points per game.
“It’s wild,” Jones chuckled. “I mean, both defenses have been playing good. Really good kids everywhere. They’re well-coached. It’s real cool to have a six-man game that’s gonna be featuring the defenses.”
Yet, you look on paper and see the results against common opponents and the Tigers’ dominance stands out. McLean 56, Balmorhea 0. McLean 51, Strawn 18.
Garden City beat Balmorhea 53-32 and 48-14 this season. The Bearkats also handed Strawn a 34-23 loss in week 6.
However, none of that matters in the postseason and Garden City’s defense has found a rhythm over the last two weeks. They held state contenders to 14 points in consecutive weeks in the playoffs. That has Garden City feeling confident.
“I don’t think they’ve seen a defense like we’ve got,” senior linebacker Cesar Chavez said.
McMillan echoed that sentiment, saying “I think we’re really excited because I don’t think they’ve seen a defense like we have.”
“Getting ready for an offense like McLean, you just tell the guys to watch video and try to be as prepared as we possibly can be come Saturday,” Jones added. “It’s gonna be a tough challenge, but, you know, I think we’re up for it. We feel like we can play with anyone in the state.”
So why do the Bearkats feel that confident? They feel their tough schedule has prepared them for this game.
“We’ve had a lot tougher schedule than they have this year,” McMillan said. “I think that’s gonna be a big factor in who’s gonna win.”
The Bearkats have also been opportunistic, causing 37 turnovers this season. Four of those came last week to keep Balmorhea at bay.
“Our habit of making turnovers helps out a lot,” Jones said, “because we’re gonna try to make as many opportunities for ourselves as possible.”
Creating those turnovers against McLean will be “tough.” By Jones’ regard, McLean doesn’t lose the ball a lot.
“They’re number one for a reason. They’re in the semifinals for a reason,” Jones lauded. “They don’t give the ball up much. It’s one of those where we’re really gonna have to earn it. Nothing’s gonna be given to us.”
Another factor is mother nature. Forecasts call for anywhere between two and six inches of snow to accumulate and temperatures are expected to be in the mid 30s in Levelland at kickoff on Saturday.
“We can’t simulate it,” Jones joked. “It’s one of those where you’ve gotta go out and stay focused. It’s been chilly up here in the mornings, so we’re used to our hands hurting and being cold. The adrenaline will overcome them. We’ve been in some cool games that were kinda misty and nasty. Once you kick the ball off, you kinda forget about that stuff and you play football.”
With the possibility of ice and snow on the panhandle roads, the date and time of the game could change.
McLean and Garden City are both monitoring the weather. Should it get too risky for travel, the teams will move the game to Monday, Dec. 10, at 6:00 p.m. in Levelland. A final announcement will be made no later than 3:00 p.m. Friday.
As of right now, the two teams are slated for a 2:00 p.m. kickoff at Lobo Stadium this Saturday.