Grace Community, Bishop Gorman battle with home playoff game on the line

Bishop T.K. Gorman Catholic School running back Ethan Milton (9) runs to the outside for a gain during the first half Friday against Cedar Hill Trinity Christian in Tyler. Andrew D. Brosig/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP

Bishop Gorman and Grace Community always means plenty in this community.

Over the last couple years, with the teams among the best in the state in TAPPS, the intensity has ratcheted up even higher.

For the second straight year, a home playoff game is on the line as the Crusaders and Cougars face off.

Kickoff between the rivals located less than 2 miles apart is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clyde-Perkins Stadium.

No. 8 Grace (5-3, 3-1 TAPPS D-II District 2) and No. 9 Gorman (4-4, 3-1) are deadlocked behind No. 1 Dallas Christian (8-0, 5-0) in the district standings. The top two teams earn first-round home games in the postseason.

The quarterbacks for each team know what's at stake.

"It's always fun playing for something and not just playing to play," TKG sophomore Jake Smith said. We always play for each other and this time there's a prize in the end as the team that wins gets a home playoff game."

Added Grace senior Christopher Wilhelmi: "It's a rivalry in its own sense but having the home playoff game along with it, nobody wants to travel two hours the first playoff game so it's huge and it just adds another element to how big this game is."

The coaches, however, are trying to focus their players on the game and not the bigger picture.

"If you get caught up in all the different parts or implications of it you can lose a little focus so our focus is just on doing the little things to try to win the ball game," Grace coach Mike Maddox said.

Added Gorman coach Coby Gipson: "I told them Monday we're going to acknowledge the fact the game has seeding ramifications on the line then we're going to stop talking about it because that's not going to help us make one block or tackle."

Both teams come in with potent offenses averaging better than 40 points per game. The teams runs similar schemes, with Gipson an assistant under Maddox at Grace for six years prior to moving to Gorman.

The Crusaders put up an eye-popping 622.6 yards per game led by senior receiver, who Judah Bell leads the area with 75 receptions for 1,592 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Smith has thrown for 3,106 yards and 29 touchdowns while Ethan Milton adds 1,044 yards and 14 scores rushing.

The Cougars are averaging 480.3 yards per game, with Uchenna Uduma rushing for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wilhelmi, having missed the first half of the season with an MCL injury, has completed 77 percent of his passes since coming back.

"With Chris Wilhelmi back in the pocket he's like a sniper back there; his accuracy is phenomenal," Gipson said. "He is a great talent but he's also a great leader."

Despite the potent offenses, it's not a given these two teams will put up points in this game. In 2014 Grace beat Gorman 7-3.

"Sometimes you think you're going to get together and score a lot of points and it's a defensive game," Maddox said. "Other times you think it's going to be a good defensive game and you have trouble stopping each other."

Clyde-Perkins Stadium should be packed Friday for these two familiar foes.

That said, Gipson doesn't like calling this a rivalry, saying the term is tossed around too flippantly. Instead, he sees this game as a coming together of two like-minded programs that just happen to be competing on the field.

"To me when I think of rivalry I think of two people or two programs or two anythings that stand for something opposite and want to prove that one is right," Gipson said. "But in this situation, I think both teams stand for the same thing.

"Both schools stand for not only trying to be very competitive on the field but also trying to be excellent at Christian education. We're committed to all those things and use football as vehicle to do that."

 

BULLARD BROOK HILL AT TRINITY CHRISTIAN-CEDAR HILL

Bullard Brook Hill faces a straight-forward task on Friday at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill.

Win and qualify for the playoffs.

The Guard (5-3, 1-3) are looking to lock down the fourth and final playoff spot, but need a victory over Trinity Christian (4-4, 2-2).

"If we take care of business, we're in and our kids are excited about the challenge," Guard coach Scott Ryle said. "We also have Hood (Taylor) back and he's been working all week with the No. 1s."

Taylor started Brook Hill's first six games at quarterback before suffering an injury in the first quarter against Prince of Peace. The Guard went on to drop that game and the next two.

Ryle said Taylor's injury was one of several factors that contributed to Brook Hill's three-game losing skid.

"I don't think we've played well the last two weeks," Ryle said. "Hood being hurt meant one our better receivers (had) to play quarterback, so you end up losing two players."

Ryle said turnovers last week prevented Brook Hill from having a chance to upset No. 1 Dallas Christian.

"I thought our defense played well, but our offense gave them a short field quite a few times," Ryle said.

Trinity Christian begins with quarterback Calab Powers, who has 1,920 yards passing and 22 touchdowns, but also 13 interceptions. His favorite targets are receivers Trenton Chambers (38-639, 7 TDs) and Camiron Smith (33-695, 6 TD). Senior Justin Deboskie leads the ground attack with 636 yards and six scores.

"They are extremely athletic and have great skill kids; we have to contain those guys," Ryle said. "They are a big-play offense, so if we can limit those, we should be successful. Our offense (also) needs to sustain drives and keep them off the field."

- Chris Parry

 

CARROLLTON PRINCE OF PEACE AT ALL SAINTS

All Saints hasn't won a district game in more than two years.

With homecoming festivities and trunk-or-treating going on before the game, now is the perfect time for the Trojans to end that streak.

All Saints (2-6, 0-4) hosts Carrollton Prince of Peace (4-4, 1-4) at 7:30 p.m. from Mewbourne Field.

Coming off a bye last week, the Trojans had their best week of practice yet, coach Drew Starnes said. This despite the fact that Gorman's victory over Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill last week officially eliminated All Saints from postseason contention.

The Trojans also got healthier on the bye week and prepare to face a Prince of Peace team that is similar to All Saints in many ways. Both run the option and utilize onside kicks often.

"It's kind of like looking in the mirror," Starnes said. "We're playing a team that's very similar to us. We think we're very well-prepared offensively and defensively."

The Eagles, who are coming off a 48-14 loss to Grace, are also out of the running for the playoffs. This is Prince of Peace's final district game of the year; the Eagles close the season with a non-district game against Frisco Legacy Christian.

"We're excited to see how we match up against them," Starnes said. "We're not at full force but our kids are fighting hard. If we can stay healthy Friday night I think we'll win the football game."

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