Roughriders are in the playoffs - district championship on the line against Jasper
The Center Roughriders struck hard and struck early in a commanding 62-13 defeat of Huntington Friday in 4A-2 Region III District 9 action.
Center racked up 35 first quarter points and added another 21 in the second period to head into halftime with a 56-0 lead.
“The kids played extremely well, it was probably the best first half of football we've played all year,” he said. “They did a lot of things the way we like to see them done and we're looking forward to building on that this week for our final (regular season) game of the year.”
“We were really happy with how explosive we were offensively and at the same time we played some solid defense,” he said. “We were really concerned going into the game because they have some really strong linemen on both offensively and defensively.”
Ponder said the team remains healthy and it showed.
“We were solid on defense and good on special teams and we put together a pretty dominating performance, which is what you'd like to have as you move forward getting ready for this week,” he said. “Attitudes are great. The kids are working hard, lifting weights hard, running hard — just like we were running two-a-days.”
The fact the team's attitudes remains upbeat carries a lot of weight going into a game like the Roughriders will play Friday.
“I think the commitment level and buy-in is at a high level right now, Ponder said. “I think our willingness to do what the coach asks you to do is high right now.”
The win puts Center in a tie for first place with Jasper in conference play. The Riders travel to Jasper this Friday to determine the District 9 Championship.
The outcome of this week's game will determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seed teams moving into the playoffs, Ponder said.
Both Jasper and Center are 3-0 in district play with the Bulldogs sporting a 6-1 season mark while the Roughriders are 6-3 for the season.
“It's a huge challenge. They have a tremendous program, it's kind of a storied program in Texas high school football. They've been great for a long time,” Ponder said. “They have great community support and they've had a ton of great players come through.”
The Jasper Bulldogs have an extremely strong team this year which has the potential to challenge for a state championship, he said.
“They've dynamic. They have to have the best offensive line in the state of Texas,” Ponder said. “They're huge and they've got great speed. They have two running backs that are really, really good.”
On defense he said Jasper is very athletic with a lot of strength.
“They've got quickness, strength and a very aggressive style of defense that they play,” he said.
Last Friday at Roughrider Stadium, Center rolled up 508 total offense with 302 yards rushing and another 206 in their passing game.
Keamondre “Redd” Horace was red hot on the night. He carried the ball five times for 266 rushing yards averaging 53.2 yards per carry.
Roughrider quarterback Jake Hanson completed 11 of 17 pass attempts.
Jakerrion Watson was Hanson's leading target in the game with six receptions for 127 yards. Watson averaged 21.2 yards per reception. Watson also had a 95-yard kickoff return.
Marques Hall added another 53 yards with his two receptions in the game.
JaMichael Weathered led the Roughrider defensive effort with 9 solo tackles to his credit in the contest with another assist for 10 total tackles. Senior Tyler Herndon was in on 8 tackles against the Red Devils with four of those coming from solos.
In practice this week Ponder said the team is focusing on being ready for some schemes the Roughriders have not seen all season.
“Offensively we're focused on doing a good job of blocking their defensive line, they're all athletic, they're strong,” he said. “Basically, they've got linebackers playing defensive line.”
The Roughrider coaching staff is spending a lot of time getting the ball to Center's playmakers.
“We're going to have to do that a little more differently than we usually do just because they're so talented and gifted in the secondary,” Ponder said.
“Defensively, they do a ton of formations, its a smash-mouth style of football,” he said. “The next thing that's got to happen is we've got to get physical. If we do not play physical defense we've got a long night.”
Ponder said he, the coaching staff and players know they need to show up in Jasper with their A-game on.
“You know, folks like us upset people like them every week in Texas high school football,” he said. “So it's possible, but we're not going to kid ourselves either, they're tremendous and we're going to have to play really well.”
For photo gallery from the Roughriders defeat, please click below: