The Gainesville Leopards hit the road this week for one last tune-up before district play against Mineral Wells.
Gainesville (0-4) hasn’t found its rhythm yet, but the Leopards will hope to build some momentum on the road Friday night going into their off week.
Mineral Wells (4-0) will be looking to keep its perfect record intact.
Gainesville coach James Polk said with district play looming, the Leopards need to use this game to find a formula that works.
“We’re still trying to figure out what’s the best lineup that we can put out on the field,” Polk said. “Been limited with time to do that, so we’re just trying to figure out what’s the best 11 to put out on the field and win. Once we get all that going, we’ll get it turned around.”
The Rams are another run-heavy opponent. Mineral Wells averages 294.8 rushing yards per game, led by senior Tristan Gray’s 179. Gray has scored 12 of the Rams’ 15 rushing touchdowns this season. Senior Evan Guzman hasn’t scored, but he is the second-leading rusher, averaging 67.3 yards per game. The Leopards will need to slow down this duo to give themselves a chance to earn their first win.
Polk said the Rams’ linemen are the key.
“We’ve seen shifty and fast quarterbacks,” Polk said. “We’ve seen shifty and fast running backs. We’ve seen receivers that can go get the ball, but I think their offensive and defensive lines are some pretty tough, stout kids. So, we have to do the best we can to try to neutralize some of their abilities up front.”
Defensively, Mineral Wells has allowed 20 or more points in three of its four games so far. Gainesville has shown it can score, especially when the run game gets going. If seniors Jayce Morgan and Harrison Dempsey can have strong performances, the Leopards should be able to put points on the board.
With the offense having the success it has had, Polk said defense and special teams are what need the most work.
“Defensively, we just need to work on ensuring that we’re doing the things that we need to do,” Polk said. “Our jobs, not trying to do somebody else’s job. A lot of open field tackling, things like that. And then on our kickoff coverage team, we have to make sure we’re in our lanes. We have to make sure we don’t break down. Once again, open field tackling and being excited about being out there.”
A silver lining to last week’s defeat to Van Alstyne was a sign of life from the passing game. Sophomore quarterback London Daniels threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, his best game thus far.
Polk said it would be a big boost to the Leopards if that passing attack can continue improving.
“It would help take some pressure off of our running backs,” Polk said. “It also opens up our offense a little bit, just keeping people off balance. So, that definitely will help the team, getting the ball out in other guys’ hands. We’re not going to throw the ball 25, 30, 35 times a game. It’s not about that. It’s just being as balanced as you possibly can if you’re able to do that.”
Kickoff in Mineral Wells is set for 7 p.m.