Whoever designed the TAPPS D-II District 2 schedule deserves a pat on the back.
The Week 10 league schedule includes three massive games, albeit with one major dud.
Grace Community and Dallas Parish Episcopal, both tied at 8-1 and 5-1 in district, will duke it out for second place at Clyde-Perkins Stadium tonight at 7:30.
Bullard Brook Hill (5-4, 3-3) travels to play Carrollton Prince of Peace (5-4, 2-4) in what is essentially a play-in game for the playoffs.
Also, Bishop Gorman (2-7, 1-5) goes for its first home win of the year against Dallas Shelton (2-6, 2-4), with the opportunity to go from seventh place to as high as a tie for fifth. Friday is homecoming and "Senior Night" for the Crusaders, who will have more than enough incentive to go into the offseason on a high note.
Deviating from the theme, the fourth game pits unbeaten Dallas Christian (9-0, 6-0) at cellar-dwelling Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill (2-7, 0-7), an apparent mismatch.
PARISH EPISCOPAL AT GRACE COMMUNITY
The Cougars haven't beaten the Panthers since 2007 and last year's loss was Grace's only blemish in district play.
Grace is coming off perhaps its best performance of the year, pulling away from local rival Brook Hill with a 48-14 win.
Stars are emerging all over the field for the Cougars, from running back/linebacker Kade Clayton to defensive lineman and leading tackler Andrew McCarty, both juniors.
Clayton and McCarty, along with the rest of the Grace defense, will have to deal with the powerful running duo of Tre Vance and Zach Shelley, who have both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.
Vance leads the Panthers with 1,244 yards while Shelley, who has 6,434 yards for his career, has 1,173 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Grace can counter with Clayton (1,714 total yards, 29 total TDs) and senior quarterback Blake White (2,219 total yards, 22 TDs accounted for).
"I think the keys will be establishing a run game, protecting our quarterback and having a high percentage of completions," Grace coach Mike Maddox said. "Obviously a key defensively is stretching out their sweeps and the things that they do and cut down the run lanes that they try to create."
Whoever comes out on top wins a home playoff game next week against the third-place team from District 1. The loser hits the road to face the second-place team from District 1. Former district foe Waco Reicher currently sits in second in that district, with Fort Worth Christian in third, though Arlington Pantego and Arlington Grace Prep are right behind.
BROOK HILL AT PRINCE OF PEACE
Both Brook Hill and Prince of Peace were in Division III last year and though they were not district foes, they did play.
The Guard crushed the Eagles 48-7 in a dominating performance in the regional playoffs on the way to a state title.
In that game, Prince of Peace's triple-option attack managed just 13 first-half yards and 91 for the game, showing the Guard know how to defend the unique offense.
Brook Hill, however, graduated much of its team from last year. Prince of Peace comes in averaging 340 yards per game on the ground and barely above double digits passing.
While many of the Guard players who weren't starters got into the game last year, they also saw the triple option against Spring Hill in September.
"We're hoping to rely on the knowledge of that," Brook Hill coach Terry Pirtle said. "A blown assignment can turn into a big play."
Pirtle said the Guard hope to capitalize on some turnovers, which the Eagles have had the propensity to do. Prince of Peace has put the ball on the ground 34 times, losing 21 fumbles on the year.
Brook Hill quarterback Will Weathers will be eager to have a good game after being limited by injuries and defenses during a three-game losing streak. The senior had 203 yards and three touchdowns passing against Prince of Peace last year, adding 35 yards on five carries.
Weathers did not play in the fourth quarter last week against Grace, but Pirtle confirmed it was as a precaution given the significance of tonight's game.
SHELTON AT BISHOP GORMAN
District rivals last year, Shelton scored 21 points in a five-minute span to defeat Gorman 35-28 and earn the No. 2 seed in district via a three-way tie with All Saints.
While not as much is on the line this year, the Crusaders could move into a three-way tie for fifth with a win and go into the offseason in style.
For the Crusaders, a win starts with containing Ben Luedtke, one of the top playmakers in the district who plays quarterback, defensive back and returns kicks. Last year Luedtke accounted for all five touchdowns against Gorman.
"He is a great athlete," Crusaders coach Coby Gipson said. "He can run, he can throw, he can read the defense, he's a great kick returner. He is an outstanding athlete and outstanding player. Everything goes through him on offense, defense and special teams."
On offense, Gipson wants his offensive line to give quarterback Tristan Saint enough time to find playmakers like Cale Tucker (821 total yards) and Collin Parks (860 total yards), as well as establish a running game with Taylor Hurst (651 rushing yards).
Tonight's tilt is both homecoming and "Senior Night" for Gorman, which has yet to win at home.
"We hope everyone has a great time at the game and we hope to be able to win one for the whole Gorman community," Gipson said.
Dallas Parish Episcopal Panthers at Grace Community Cougars
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Clyde-Perkins Stadium
Records: Parish Episcopal 8-1 (5-1 TAPPS D-II District 2); Grace 8-1 (5-1)
2011 Result: Parish Episcopal 49, Grace 42
Last Week's Results: Parish Episcopal 53, Carrollton Prince of Peace 28; Grace 48, Bullard Brook Hill 14
Players To Watch:Parish Episcopal — RB Tre Vance, RB Zach Shelley, RB Andrew Boyd. Grace — RB/LB Kade Clayton, QB Blake White, DL Andrew McCarty.
Quick Slant: The Panthers want to run and have the horses to do so. Vance (1,244 yards, 13 TDs) and Shelley (1,173 yards, 24 TDs) are the dual pistons that keep the chains moving for Parish Episcopal. The Panthers also have the second-best defense in the league, allowing 13.3 points per game, five points better than Grace's third-ranked defense. After Cougars leading tackler Adam Graham went down with a season-ending injury, McCarty took over the team lead with 79 tackles.
Who's Next?: Both teams: Playoffs.
Brook Hill Guard at Carrollton Prince of Peace Eagles
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Herrington Stadium
Records: Brook Hill 5-4 (3-3 TAPPS D-II District 2); Prince of Peace 2-4 (5-4)
2011 Result: Brook Hill 48, Prince of Peace 7 (regional playoffs)
Last Week's Results: Grace Community 48, Brook Hill 14; Dallas Parish Episcopal 53, Prince of Peace 23.
Players To Watch:Brook Hill — QB Will Weathers, LB Ryan Young, DL/OL Mason Dickey. Prince of Peace — QB Pat Hoerr, RB Taylor Nelson, LB John Bloom.
Quick Slant: Brook Hill just needs a win to get in. A loss by fewer than 15 points could also do the trick, unless Bishop Gorman beats Dallas Shelton. The Eagles average 340.4 yards per game on the ground with their triple-option offense, led by Taylor (971 yards) and Hoerr (607). In last year's game, Prince of Peace managed just 54 rush yards.
Who's Next?: Playoffs Pending.
Dallas Shelton Chargers at Bishop Gorman Crusaders
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: McCallum Stadium, Tyler
Records: Gorman 2-8 (1-6)
2011 Result: Dallas Shelton 35, Bishop Gorman 28.
Last Week's Results: Shelton 36, Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill 7; Dallas Christian 49, Gorman 0
Players To Watch:Dallas Shelton — QB/DB Ben Luedtke, RB Rich Morton, TE John DiCaro. Gorman — QB Tristan Saint, WR Cale Tucker, OL/DL Matt Roe.
Quick Slant: After Shelton prevented Gorman from winning the No. 2 seed in their TAPPS D-III district last year, the Crusaders will be looking for a bit of revenge. An even game last year, both teams will want to show who has grown the most since the end of last season. Luedtke runs the offense, defense and special teams for Shelton and accounted for five touchdowns in last year's win. Tucker had a game-high 83 yards rushing in the game.
Who's Next?: Both teams: Season complete.