By JUSTIN RAINS
It’s been a rough past three weeks for the Westwood football team, which has lost three-straight games since coming off of its bye week.
But, despite their struggles, the Panthers are right where they need to be in terms of the playoff chase.
With three games remaining and both district heavyweights behind them, all Westwood must do to make the postseason is simply win out.
That journey starts in Trinity Friday, when the Panthers take on the Tigers at Tiger Stadium (Hwy. 94, Trinity, Texas 75862). Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
“You don’t want to down play your opponents...but at the same time we looked at it when we got the schedule and knew that, with our district alignment, that everybody thought Teague and Franklin were the top two teams,” WHS coach Roger Mays said. “We still control our own destiny. We’ve told the kids that, if we win out then we’re in. That was our ultimate goal from the get-go.”
To accomplish that goal, Mays said he wants to see improvements on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers have given up 175 points in this three-game losing streak, and Mays said he thinks that’s caused some of his defensive players to lose confidence in their abilities.
He said he and his defensive staff have stressed to the players to just go out and make plays, not worry about what might happen.
“Last week, you could tell, was just a complete lack of confidence in their ability,” he said. “They need to just be able to not be so worried about making mistakes, just turn loose and play football and fly to the football.
“That’s something we’ve preached since two-a-days...and we didn’t see that because I think kids are afraid to get out of position.”
Offensively, the Panthers achieved a bit more balance against Teague than they had against Franklin. As a team the Panthers ran for 130 yards, while Keke Hicks was able to throw for 146 on 7-of-11 passing.
In their new, spread-based offense, the ability to establish the passing game is key to success, Mays said.
“If we’re able to have success in the run game then we’re not able to connect on any passes, then teams are going to load the box up on us,” he said. “You’ve got to spread it out and throw it around a little bit, make them respect that we can get it to our outside guys to keep the pressure off our offensive backfield.”
On top of that, Mays wants to see a solid start from his team, much like they were able to do Friday against Teague.
Despite the Lions’ high-powered offense, Westwood held Teague to only six points in the first quarter, and he said another start like that could do wonders for the Panthers’ mindset.
“We need a fast start. Our kids, if they get some early momentum then they build on that,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve seen that if we have early struggles then kids start putting the pressure on themselves. We need a fast start so we can get out of the gate and get going from there.”
The status of running back Aaryon Robinson, who missed the Teague game due to injury, isn’t quite clear. Mays called him a game-time decision.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org