The two most successful Tyler-area TAPPS football programs of the last few years take the field together for the first time since 2008.
Grace Community and Bullard Brook Hill kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday from Herrington Stadium in their first-ever district meeting.
Two teams that have become accustomed to reaching the postseason will battle for playoff positioning in a game that sports interesting matchups all over the field.
Both the Cougars (7-1, 4-1 TAPPS D-II District 2) and Guard (5-3, 3-2) have senior quarterbacks who have talent and experience in abundance. Both were named first-team all state last year.
Grace's Blake White has thrown for 1,505 yards and run for 474, accounting for 19 touchdowns. Brook Hill's Will Weathers, back after missing last week's game with an injury, comes into Friday's game with 1,033 yards through the air and 618 on the ground, totaling 20 touchdowns. Both are completing better than 66 percent of their passes.
"He's a strong, fast young man and he's run their offense for two years now and he's very good at it," Grace coach Mike Maddox said of Weathers, though he could easily have been talking about White. "It'll be a good challenge defensively to slow them down with him operating it."
"(White and Weathers) are very competitive and both fit our different styles of offense real well."
Another matchup to watch is that of Grace's offensive line, led by senior Josh Boylan, against the Guard's defensive line, led by senior Mason Dickey. Dickey was a first-team all-state selection and leads the team in sacks while Boylan was a second teamer.
"Their offensive line is very well coached," Guard coach Terry Pirtle said. "They do what they do very well."
On the other side of the line, Grace linemen and brothers Grant and Andrew McCarty — the team's two leading tacklers — will go up against Brook Hill seniors Bailey Franklin, Matthew Seamands and Dickey, among others, in another matchup of strength vs. strength.
Additionally, Brook Hill's leading tackler, junior Ryan Young, will try to stop Grace's playmaking junior Kade Clayton, who has 1,514 total yards this year, more than 1,000 coming on the ground.
With matchups that appear even at key areas, a wildcard could decide the game. Guard freshman Jacob Dumesnil racked up 12 tackles last week and is beginning to flourish on defense. Likewise, Cougars sophomore Landon Ashbreck turned in 11 tackles and a forced fumble in his previous outing.
Grace has already clinched a playoff spot and will be looking to keep pace with Dallas Parish Episcopal for second place and the right to host a first-round playoff game. The Cougars host the Panthers next week.
Brook Hill is one game ahead of fifth-place Carrollton Prince of Peace, which hosts Parish Episcopal Friday. No matter what happens Friday, the Guard control their playoff destiny on Nov. 9 when they end the season at Prince of Peace, a team they beat 48-7 in the state quarterfinals last year.
ST. STEPHEN'S AT ALL SAINTS
A pair of independents face off in what is the season finale for both as Austin St. Stephen's and All Saints meet Friday at Mewbourne Field, starting at 7 p.m.
All Saints (3-6) hopes to go into the offseason on a high note and with a two-game winning streak as St. Stephen's (3-5) comes to town.
The Trojans are coming off a momentum-building win over Quinlan Boles, a game in which All Saints trailed 17-0 before mounting a comeback.
The Spartans, a fellow Episcopal school, had a two-game winning streak snapped last week.
St. Stephen's is led by the running back-quarterback tandem of Joey Carter and Taylor Brown. Carter has rolled to 728 yards and 10 TDs rushing and often takes direct snaps out of the wildcat. Brown has 852 yards through the air and 287 more on the ground.
The strength of the Spartans is in their defense, particularly the defensive line, which Trojans coach Mike Hall said is as good as any they've faced this year.
All Saints played its best game of the year last week and a second straight win would be a big boost for the Trojans heading into their first full offseason with Hall.
"To have the momentum of two wins and two big wins at the end of the year just sets everything up for the offseason," Hall said. "It helps motivate early on in the offseason and gives them something to shoot for and build on.
"If by chance we don't pull out a win we still know what we've built."
DALLAS CHRISTIAN AT BISHOP GORMAN
Coming off a big win against Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill, Bishop Gorman is rewarded with a date against one of the state's top teams.
The Crusaders (2-6, 1-4) host the unbeaten Dallas Christian Chargers (8-0, 5-0) tonight at 7:30 p.m., the first of two straight home games to end the year.
Gorman is eager to go out and put on a good showing in front of its home fans at McCallum Stadium, where the Crusaders have yet to win this year.
"We want to represent ourselves in a way that brings honor to our school and God and each other," first-year TKG coach Coby Gipson said. "We don't feel like we've played a complete game at home yet."
The Crusaders' confidence should be sky high after last week's victory. Gorman won its opener but hadn't won since. The task at hand Friday includes a powerful offense and a dominant defense.
The Chargers defense has allowed less than 10 points per game with three shutouts. On offense, D'Andre Cannon leads the charge with 814 yards rushing.
"I think it starts with a belief in ourselves that we can make plays and we have the ability to stop them on defense," Gipson said. "We just want to concentrate on what we do and do what we do best."
Grace Community Cougars at Brook Hill Guard
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Herrington Stadium
Records: Grace 7-1 (4-1 TAPPS D-II District 2); Brook Hill 5-3 (3-2)
2011 Result: Did not play
Last Week's Results: Grace 60, Carrollton Prince of Peace 24; Dallas Parish Episcopal 36, Brook Hill 12.
Players To Watch: Grace — QB Blake White, OL/DL Josh Boylan, RB/S Kade Clayton. Brook Hill — QB Will Weathers, OL/DL Mason Dickey, LB Ryan Young.
Quick Slant: The teams haven't played since 2008 and the Cougars lead the short series 2-0. Grace has already clinched a playoff spot while a win would likely be enough for Brook Hill to ensure a spot in the postseason, pending other results. White leads the Cougars offense with 1,505 yards passing and 474 rushing; Clayton has 1,047 rushing and 467 receiving. Weathers, despite missing a seven quarters this year, has 1,033 yards passing and 618 rushing yards to power the Guard offense. Young is Brook Hill's leading tackler while Andrew McCarty leads Grace in stops.
Who's Next?: Dallas Parish Episcopal at Grace Community, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9; Brook Hill at Carrollton Prince of Peace, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.
Austin St. Stephen's Spartans at All Saints Trojans
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Mewbourne Field, Tyler
Records: St. Stephen's 3-5; All Saints 3-6
2011 Result: Did not play.
Last Week's Results: Austin St. Andrews 27, St. Stephen's 21; All Saints 27, Quinlan Boles 24.
Players To Watch:St. Stephen's — RB Joey Carter, QB Taylor Brown, WR Thomas Jensen. All Saints — SS Ruben DeLong, OL/DL Grady Smith, OL/DL Josh Sigal.
Quick Slant: It's the season finale for both teams, so there will be an added of urgency with neither team playing a district schedule. The Trojans want to build on last week's win and send off their seniors in style. Carter is the spark to the Spartans' offense, though it's the defense and special teams that have shined recently. St. Stephen's scored on an interception and kick return last week.
Who's Next?: Both teams: season over.
Dallas Christian at Bishop Gorman Crusaders
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: McCallum Stadium, Tyler
Records: Dallas Christian 8-0 (5-0 TAPPS D-II District 2); Gorman 2-6 (1-4)
2011 Result: Did not play.
Last Week's Results: Dallas Christian 49, Dallas Shelton 10; Gorman 24, Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill 17.
Players To Watch:Dallas Christian — QB Alex Craig, RB D'Andre Cannon, K Jarrod Collins. Gorman — LB Max McKinley, LB Cody Collins, RB/WR Cale Tucker.
Quick Slant: The Chargers will look to keep their unbeaten record intact as they roll toward the playoffs. The Crusaders won't be reaching the postseason in their first season under coach Coby Gipson, but a win or two to at the end of the season would boost the program heading into the offseason.
Who's Next?: Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill at Dallas Christian, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9; Dallas Shelton at Gorman, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.