Grace Community was picked to finish fifth in its district by Dave Campbell's Texas Football.

The Cougars finished second in TAPPS D-II District 2, going 9-1 and earning a home playoff game in the process.

Now the postseason is here and the prognosticators have been proven wrong, yet Grace has yet to play its best football.

"We're honored to be here, we're thankful to be here and we just really look forward to it and embrace the opportunity to know that our best game is still out there in front of us," Cougars coach Mike Maddox said.

Grace hosts Houston Second Baptist at 7 p.m. Friday from Clyde-Perkins Stadium in the opening round of the TAPPS Division II playoffs.

Also today, Bishop Gorman (8-2), which finished third in district at 5-2, travels south to take on Houston Lutheran South, also at 7 p.m.

The Second Baptist Eagles (6-4, 4-1) and Lutheran South Pioneers (9-1, 4-1) finished in a three-way tie for first in D-II District 4.

Last year in the first round of the playoffs Gorman beat Second Baptist 21-17 while Grace fell to Lutheran South 43-36, both in Houston.

The Eagles are coached by former Bullard Brook Hill coach Terry Pirtle, making him a familiar foe for Maddox and the Cougars.

"Having won a state championship (at Brook Hill) says a lot about his coaching ability," Maddox said. "I've known him way back in his days when he was an assistant at Harmony and Pine Tree, so we go way back. His defensive coordinator Jed Whitaker and I go way back.

"There'll be some familiar faces on their sideline as well as ours. It'll be good to go up against each other again."

On the field of play will be two teams that are balanced offensively.

The Cougars have thrown for more than 2,000 yards, yet they won a game while throwing the ball just three times. For the year Grace has thrown for 2,012 yards and run for 2,575.

"It's been a great team season for us that you look around and you don't see just big glaring stats," Maddox said. "You just see blue collar workers that just find a way to get it done whether it's throwing 30 times a game or running 50 times a game.

"They seem to be very resilient and they adapt to a lot of different situations."

Quarterback Christopher Wilhelmi leads the statistics with 1,966 yards passing and 1,081 rushing. He's thrown 15 touchdowns with two interceptions while adding 12 scores on the ground.

Mason Dacus has more than 1,000 total yards (708 rushing, 370 receiving) and leads the team with 17 touchdowns.

The Cougars defense, which has held opponents to 257.9 yards per game, will face a stout runner in Lynnard Rose of Second Baptist. A 6-0, 180-pound senior, Rose has run for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"I think they're just really on the top end of skill in that Houston area," Maddox said. "They've got good size on their offensive line and good linebackers."

Grace earned the home playoff game with its 34-13 win over Gorman in the final week of the season.

Though both teams wound up scheduled against teams that finished tied for first in the district, the Crusaders' loss put them on the road in the opening round for the second straight year.

But Gorman has been here before. Last year the Crusaders reached the state semifinals despite opening their run in Houston.

"I think it was a lot of unknowns last year," TKG coach Coby Gipson said. "This year the schedule is set. We know … what it takes mentally to get off the bus ready to play.

"I think they'll respond well."

Friday's game will pit two potent offenses against each other.

The Crusaders average 5,096 yards and 32.9 points per game behind senior quarterback Michael Goodwin, who has thrown for 2,059 yards and run for 1,080. He has 17 touchdowns and three interceptions passing, adding a team-high eight rushing scores.

Judah Bell accounts for more than half of Goodwin's passing yards, having caught 56 balls for 1,187 yards and 14 TDs. Josh Johnson has added 849 yards on the ground.

The Pioneers average 510.9 yards and 49.1 points per game behind quarterback Patrick Gonzales, who has thrown for 3,353 yards and 40 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Gonzales has two 1,000-yard receivers to go to: Kyle Hutchins (1,139, 19 TDs) and Josh Shelmire (1,137, 11 TDs). Additionally, Christian Shelmire provides the ground game with 144 yards per game, having scored 22 total touchdowns.

"I think they're very comparable to Brook Hill in terms of having some college-quality receivers, a good quarterback, explosive offense and aggressive defense," Gipson said. "We expect a really tough game and tough challenge.

"We're thankful for this experience but we're not satisfied with where we are. We want to go forward; we also realize there's a lot of hard work ahead."

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