Hawks to host ninth-ranked Steers for title
by Kevin Hamilton
While Iowa Park was getting a 52-17 win over Bridgeport Friday, Graham was once again dominating a District 3-4A opponent in a 63-12 win over Vernon.
The wins gave both teams a spotless 3-0 conference record leading into tomorrow night’s matchup in Hawk Stadium (7:30 kickoff) with the district gold ball on the line.
The Steers will come into the game as the clear favorites, compiling an impressive 9-0 on the season, and currently ranked ninth among all Class 4A teams by the AP. They have scored 470 points in those nine games, while allowing 162.
Iowa Park has scored 346 and allowed 245 in building a 6-3 season record, and after a bye week in which they stayed away from the pads, the Hawks looked refreshed and in control against the Bulls.
Facing what he considers the best team he’s coached against, Head Hawk Aubrey Sims said the Mean Green is looking forward to the challenge.
“We have earned the right to be playing in this game, and a chance to win the district championship,” he said earlier this week.
“I would say Graham is probably the favorite. They are undefeated and averaging something like 500 yards a game,” he continued. “And their defense is one of the best defenses I’ve seen ... as a team, they are one of the better teams I’ve coached against in a long time.
“It is going to be a challenge,” he said of the game. “But I just think there is something for being the underdog. I like having that ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, and having something to prove. I’ve told the kids all along that unless we win the state championship, we are going to lose a game. I just want to make sure it is someone better than us, and we are going to make them earn it.
“Coming into our place, our seniors don’t want to lose their last game in this stadium,” Sims added. “We have a lot to play for. We’ll see.”
Graham opened the season Sept. 1 with a 55-14 win over Sanger, then edged Brownwood 54-49 before taking down Hirschi 42-35.
From there, the Steers defeated Burkburnett 63-17, Stephenville 30-14, Big Spring 54-7, Bridgeport 62-7, Krum 47-7, and Vernon 63-12.
Steer quarterback Tucker Horn is having an exceptional year. Going into the Vernon contest, the senior had 2,202 yards passing with 29 touchdowns. Junior runningback Chase Gilmore has rushed for 1,406 yards and 21 touchdowns. Against Vernon, he carried only eight times, but managed 133 yards and three scores.
Top receivers for Graham are Cameron Parker (703 yards, 14 TDs) and Callen Mills (460 yards, 3 TDs).
Defensively, senior Wes Martin leads in tackles (890), while back David Colunga has three intercptions.
Asked what the keys are for Iowa Park having a shot against the unbeaten Steers, Sims replied “We can’t let the quarterback sit back there very long. Their receivers run 20-yard dig routes and 30-yard curls. When he turns it loose, he is very accurate and has a strong arm. So we have to be able to cover 50 or 60 yards of a field with him throwing the ball.
“The offensive line does such a good job,” he continued. “We’ve just got to try to put some pressure on him. Hopefully they will have to run the ball. If we can get them to do what they don’t want to do, they may benefit us.
“On the other side of the ball, we’ve got to take care of the ball and try to win the field position battle. We’ve just got to get first downs, and not go three-and-out.”
While Sims noted that it is important to come away from tomorrow night’s game healthy and ready for the playoffs, his players are focused on Graham.
“You don’t get many chances to get a district championship, and for the seniors to win their last game (in Hawk Stadium) and just to beat Graham,” Sims said. “I think they would rather beat Graham than they would Sweetwater or Seminole or anybody else in the state of Texas. We are going to play to win, for sure.”
The winner of Friday’s Vernon-Krum game will face 4-4A Division II champ Glen Rose, and Bridgeport will face runner-up Godley in another bi-district matchup.
Opponents for Iowa Park and Graham will be Waxhachie Life (4-5) and Hillsboro (3-6), depending on how tomorrow’s title game plays out.
Sims was presented with a signed football following Friday’s win over Bridgeport to celebrate his 100th win as a head coach through 13 seasons, with 30 of those wins coming at Iowa Park.
“That was nice,” he said of the signed ball. “I’ve coached a lot of good kids. To get 100 wins in 13 years, we’ve had some pretty good years to get that. The years I didn’t have successful seasons (at Snyder) I still had great kids that played hard. The games we won we earned. And this (tomorrow night) is another one of those big games that I’d love to get a win on.”