TAPPS Notebook: Grace, Gorman still improving heading into Week 11

Bishop Gorman's LB Martin Guzman (8) makes a driving hit on Eagle's RB Chase Eisenmann (25), during their game against Legacy Christian Academy, at McCallum Stadium, on Bishop Gorman campus. ( Lang White / Correspondent )

Grace Community and Bishop Gorman have been the class of East Texas private school football this year and no teams have had more success in the TAPPS Division II playoffs than them.

But this year, despite their identical 8-1 records (5-1 in District 2), neither Cougars coach Mike Maddox nor Crusaders coach Coby Gipson believe their teams have peaked yet.

Both will be hoping for, and probably needing, their top performances of the year when they face off on Friday at Clyde-Perkins Stadium.

For Gorman and Grace, this has been a season of week-by-week improvements, building up to what both teams hope will be a crescendo heading into the playoffs.

The local rivals have already clinched postseason berths, with the winner Friday earning a home game in the first round as the league's second-place finisher.

Grace and Gorman are undefeated against teams other than Dallas Christian, which will take the top seed into the playoffs.

They started out the year with wins over bigger UIL schools in the Tyler Football Classic en route to 3-0 non-district records. Despite the bumps along the way against DC, both teams have won every game by at least nine points aside from Gorman's 21-19 victory over Brook Hill.

And yet both coaches still haven't seen the best out of their teams.

The Cougars, who won 68-14 over Dallas Shelton on Friday, have been one of the biggest surprises of the season after graduating almost their entire offense and half their defense.

Grace has won its last three by an average margin of 42 points, but Maddox is excited about the fact that he knows his young team will keep getting better.

"I don't think we've peaked yet," Maddox said. "That's always something you look forward to. Sometimes you try to control that but sometimes it's out of your control. Sometimes you peak too early; sometimes you peak at the right time."

With first-year quarterback Christopher Wilhelmi running the show, Grace averages 465.7 yards per game. Wilhelmi throws for 211.2 and runs for 99.3 yards per outing while Mason Dacus averages 108.7 total yards per game.

Similarly, the Crusaders average 520.9 yards per game, led by quarterback Michael Goodwin who puts up 315.8 total yards per game.

Receiver Judah Bell is one of the best in the area with 1,104 yards and 13 touchdowns. His next reception will be his 50th of the year as he closes in on Connor Hobbs' single-season school record of 1,406 receiving yards, set last year.

Gorman's run defense was near perfection last week against a strong running team in Frisco Legacy Christian, holding the Eagles to 2.2 yards per rush.

Last year the Crusaders began to peak at the end of the regular season, beating Grace on the way to a run to the state semifinals. This team could be in for a similar finish if it can get past the Cougars on Friday.

"I believe that our best is yet to come," Gipson said. "I believe in certain areas in certain games, like our run defense last game may have been the best I've seen in my four years at Gorman, but I think we have yet to have a game where we put it all together."

That these teams are having similar seasons isn't a surprise given the way the programs are modeled after each other, with Gipson bringing a lot of what he learned coaching at Grace to Gorman.

"(Maddox) in his own right should be proud of the success we've had at Gorman," Gipson said. "Because it's some of his philosophies and values that have helped us transform the program at Gorman."

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