Keith MacPherson, Sports Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
GAINESVILLE — It might be unfamiliar territory for most players, but don’t expect nerves to get to the Leopards this postseason.
Gainesville will open the Class 3A Division I playoffs with a bi-district meeting with Frisco Lone Star at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Denton High School and Leopard coach Keith Hall expects his team to be up to the challenge.
“It’s something we talk about every Thursday,” Hall said. “The kids call it my 45 minute speech. We focus on getting their minds ready to play – to be mentally prepared.”
Part of that preparation is getting a group of players – all but a handful with playoff experience – ready for the pressure and atmosphere that comes with the postseason.
“One thing I’ve preached all year is to stay hungry and don’t be satisfied,” Hall said. “It’s like an animal out in the wild. When they wake up, the first thing they thing about is trying to find food and they are going to do whatever it takes to get it. I think our kids are hungry for more – they’re not satisfied with what they’ve already accomplished.”
In order for the Leopards (10-0) to move on, they will have to knock off a Frisco Lone Star (7-3) team that has been battle tested.
Though the Rangers have three losses on the year, two have come against state-ranked district opponents in Celina and Argyle. Their other loss was by less than a touchdown to a 6-4 Anna team.
“They are a good football team,” Hall said. “We have to respect everyone we play. If we do our thing, we’ll be fine.”
What Frisco Lone Star will bring to the table on Friday is a spread offense with an emphasis on the run. The Rangers will throw the ball a bit more than other spread teams the Leopards have faced this year – Krum, Decatur and Sanger – but will be run heavy.
“They’re going to run the spread and do a pretty good job at it,” Hall said. “They do a good job of running the football and throw the ball pretty well. They have a good group of receivers they can spread the ball around to.”
Personnel wise, the Leopards will be as healthy as they have been all season. They will have starting linebacker Kennan Blacklock back from a broken foot for the first time since their win over Springtown.
“We’ll basically have the same team as we had to start the season,” Hall said.
Gainesville will be playing in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 – when the Leopards advanced to the area playoffs with a 41-34 win over Van Alstyne.
The winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of Wilmer-Hutchins and Princeton in the area playoffs over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I’d like to get out to quick start (on Friday) – we’ve been kind of a fast starting team this year,” Hall said. “We don’t need to shoot ourselves in the foot. We have to take advantage of what they give us defensively and play solid on special teams. If we can do that, and play like we have all season, I think we’ll be in good shape.”