Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Game worthy of rivalry

Oct. 9, 2007:
Big Spring, Andrews play game worthy of rivalry
Oscar Leroy
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendlyOscar LeRoy is afor the Reporter-Telegram.

He can be reached at oscar@mrt.com.

I admit I've never favored these long, drawn out non-district schedules. After all, non-district games don't mean a thing when it comes to determining who gets in the playoffs, and they're just another opportunity to have star players get hurt before the meaningful district games ahead.

But then there's the exception. Regardless that Big Spring and Andrews are no longer district rivals, these two proud programs should always play each other, even though only bragging rights are involved.

Last Friday night at Big Spring's Memorial Stadium, Permian Basin fans were treated to a great game by the two longtime rivals as the contest featured outstanding individual performances and a late-game comeback by Andrews for a 33-29 victory.

Andrews has to be a team of destiny after overcoming late-game deficits of 26-13 and 29-19 and pull this one out by scoring 14 points in 13 seconds. The final score came after a perfectly executed onside kick. The ball bounced near midfield, went over a group of Steers and into the hands of a diving David Criswell to give the Mustangs the ball back with less than 2 minutes remaining. Two plays later, Andrews running back Michael Reid scored the game-winner with a 49-yard run.

Big Spring still had a chance with 1:44 remaining in the game, but a second interception by Corey Lee at the Andrews 33-yard line with 1:23 left sealed the victory for the Mustangs.

Friday was a perfect example of how much the 6-0 Mustangs have grown over the last year. Last year if the Mustangs faced a similar deficit late in a game, I'm not so sure they would have responded the same way. But these Mustangs are a year older and wiser, and that experience is paying dividends this season.

Big Spring, which fell to a frustrating 0-6, is still in that learning stage of a young football team. Some of the Steers may have had previous varsity experience but one year is not the same as having two to three years under their belts.

Still, this was a game in which the Steers had to perform well in to have some sort of a confidence boost going into District 4-4A play this week. The Steers' early game plan of direct snaps going to running back Monte Anderson was sort of reminiscent of single-wing offenses and using four quarterbacks did a good job of confusing Andrews and it had the Mustangs on their heels.

"They totally caught us off guard," said Andrews coach Blaine Springston about the Steers' early offensive formations. "They had us. We were out of position and our kids played very passive on defense because they were unsure of what to do. Not only had we not seen (Big Spring) do it, but we hadn't see that type of offense.

"But I tip my hat off to Big Spring. They did what they had to do to try to win the ballgame."

Now the goal for Big Spring head coach Mike Ritchey is to have his team learn to close out games. They at least got their offense going in the right direction as the 29 points was the most the Steers had scored in a single game this year. The previous high was 14.

As exciting as last week's game was, this Friday's home contest against Plainview (0-6) is the biggest game of the year for the Steers because it is the 4-4A opener. Now I know most coaches don't like to talk about must-wins this early but the loser of this game will have a major hill to climb in qualifying for the playoffs.

Wolfforth Frenship (4-2) hasn't set the world on fire this season but the Tigers are still the hands-down favorite to win this district because of their talent-ladened roster. And then there's San Angelo Lake View (2-4) and Lubbock Estacado (1-4). While both have been the cellar dwellers of this district the past couple of years, both have improved, so getting a win against either team won't be that easy.

So cheer up Steers. Even though you may have started 0-6 on the season, win at least two games in this district and you'll end up in the playoffs. And who knows? A break here or there and you could be making a long run in the postseason and a winless start in non-district play will be a distant memory. Just ask Andrews, who was in the same position last year but ended up going three rounds deep in the Class 3A Division I playoffs.

Midland Reporter-Telegram201 E. Illinois AvenueMidland, Texas 79701

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