By JUSTIN RAINS
The last two times the Palestine football team has taken the field, it’s taken most of the first half for the Wildcats to get going.
They trailed Pittsburg 14-6 in the first quarter three weeks ago, and then fell behind Rusk, 21-6 with less than two minutes to play in the second quarter last Friday.
The Wildcats (5-2, 1-0) travel to Groesbeck Friday, and PHS coach Lance Angel said that type of slow start can’t happen.
“We’re going down to, basically, hostile territory and if we play like we have the last two games in the first half, we’re going to be so far down we can’t make it back,” he said. “The kids will be focused and we’ve kind of created a chip on our shoulder this week about how we’re going to play in the first half. We’re going to get off the bus, get dressed and be ready to play.”
Palestine has rebounded in each of the last two games, beating Pittsburg, 39-14, and Rusk, 35-28.
In each of those games, the Wildcat defense has pitched second-half shutouts. Rusk’s lone second half score last Friday came on a kick-off return.
“It’s a credit to our defense, which hasn’t given up a point in the second half in the last three games,” Angel said. “That’s a credit to (defensive coordinator Ty) Robinson and the defensive coaches, who make great adjustments at halftime, and the players who execute those adjustments.”
Groesbeck has an offense that can score quickly through the air. Led by quarterback Colt McCoy — seriously — the Goats will throw more than they run.
Even if those passes don’t go for many yards, Angel said they’ll keep coming.
“They’re quarterback gets the ball out quick (and) they’re going to dink it around and you just can’t get frustrated. It’s going to be almost the same as Rusk in the sense that Rusk was happy, at times, with three or four yards or at a time. Groesbeck, at times, is going to be happy throwing the ball four or five yards and making you come up and make tackles.”
The passing attack, which features receivers Matt Barnes and Klein Wiley receiving most of McCoy’s attention, isn’t the only thing the Goats can do, however.
The team’s rushing attack is led by Terrell Miles.
Running the ball is what Palestine does best, and the Wildcats are doing it at the highest level heading into Friday’s game.
The Wildcats ran for 270 yards in the win over Rusk, 211 of which came in the second half as the Palestine offensive line — which has gone from preseason question mark to midseason strength — wore down the Eagles’ defense.
“They don’t get all the glory and the pictures in the paper, but that group has been stable all year,” Angel said. “Once again, we felt like that group — as they’ve done the last three or four ballgames — in the second half they really took over and dominated and wore down the defense.”
The Wildcats are running at a high-rate despite not having one designated “feature back.” Instead, Palestine features a stable of backs, three of whom — Jadarrius Beasley, Ben Luckett and Darrius Stephens — have already run for 300-plus yards this season.
Having more than one — or two, or three — backs that can carry the load gives Angel the advantage of not having to wear down any of his players. Instead, it keeps them all fresh.
“I think that’s what the players have to understand,” he said. “Right now it’s about being unselfish, it’s about spreading the ball around.
“There are going to be nights when one guy gets hot and others aren’t, but it’s nice in the fourth quarter when we can hand the ball in the fourth quarter while a kid is fresh. It makes a difference.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Groesbeck Stadium (Commerce St. at Berry St., Groesbeck, Texas 76642).
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com