The games just keep getting bigger for the Oakwood football team.
The Panthers — who moved up to No. 3 in the Division I rankings at sixmanfootball.com — face their toughest test this season Friday, when they travel to Milford to face the Division II No. 2 Bulldogs.
But, as has been the case all season long, the magnitude of the upcoming game still doesn’t seem to phase the Oakwood players, a fact that remains baffling to OHS coach Mike Heckathorn.
“They’re still the same,” he said this week with a laugh. “I don’t understand it, but they are.”
It could be because of how confident Oakwood is in its own play. The Panthers scored on every single possession of a 72-26 defeat of Zephyr Friday, ending the game via the 45-point mercy-rule early in the fourth quarter.
But, for as good as the offense for Oakwood has been this season — the Panthers are averaging 428 yards and 67 points per game — what impressed Heckathorn the most Friday was the plays his defense made.
“We played well. We made four plays that I thought were pivotal plays in the game,” he said. “We stopped them twice on fourth down, and when you can do that in six-man...that’s a big thing.
Milford (2-0) has, much like Oakwood, opened the season against high-level opponents. The Bulldogs defeated Zephyr 56-40 to open the year, and last week topped Division I No. 9 Abbot, 44-42, Friday.
Heckathorn said the Bulldogs should be the toughest test the Panthers have seen in awhile.
“They’ve got more speed than anybody we’ve played,” he said. “I think their biggest weakness, from what we’ve seen, is they don’t have a lot of depth. They’ve got six guys starting both ways, then only a couple of guys that come in.”
As far as speed is concerned, there aren’t many teams in the state faster than the Panthers, at least in the minds of the Oakwood coaching staff.
Milford isn’t the exception either, though they do have players that can match up with a lot — not all — of the Panthers speedy players.
With the physical matchups so even, that means it’ll come down to which team can execute and make less mistakes.
“I think we match up speed-wise well, and size too. I think it’s going to come down to execution,” Heckathorn said. “I don’t think they’ve got anybody as fast as Bryson (Randle). We’re going to have to block and tackle better than we’ve been.”
Friday night will be the second-straight week that the Panthers have faced a team ranked in sixmanfootball.com’s overall top-25, with Zephyr currently at No. 22 and Milford occupying the 10th spot. Oakwood, for comparison, is fourth.
Heckathorn understands the implications these kind of games can have on programs, and said he thinks his kids do as well, even if they don’t outwardly show it.
For a team with state title ambitions, these are games that have to be played — and need to be won.
“It’s another step in the direction that we want to go,” said Heckathorn, when asked what a win of this level would mean. “I think the kids are really thinking about that, about the playoffs and the opportunity out there in front of us. It’s a little premature for that, but it’s not a bad thing to have, I guess.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Milford’s Horton Field (700 S. Main St., Milford, Texas 76670).
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com
The games just keep getting bigger for the Oakwood football team.
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