A challenging start to football season for Gainesville does not get any easier this week.

The Leopards hit the road again Friday night. They head to Denton County to take on the Aubrey Chaparrals.

Gainesville (0-2) is still searching for its first win after playing shorthanded to begin the season.

Aubrey (2-0) has started the season strong, outscoring Burkburnett and Whitesboro 104-21.

Gainesville coach James Polk said he welcomes the challenge.

“I’m pretty sure they’re probably in the top 15 or 20 somewhere,” Polk said. “But this is what we want. They made it to the third-round last year and have everybody back. You want to play against teams like that. You get up for those kind of games.”

Aubrey is a run-heavy team like Gainesville’s last opponent, Vernon. The Chaps averaged 387.5 rushing yards in its first two games compared to 51.5 passing yards. Junior Braylon Colgrove rushed for 274 yards last week against Whitesboro. Senior Martavious Hill was held to 49 yards last week but rushed for 103 week one.

Polk said the Leopards will need to defend the run better than last week after allowing 345 rushing yards to Vernon.

“We have to get ourselves in positions to make plays, and then we have to capitalize,” Polk said. “There’s many times where we’re there, but we don’t bring the dog to the fight when we get there. We just have to want to be the guy, once we get where we’re supposed to be at, to make that play, and everybody else wanting to get there to help out.”

Despite the loss to Vernon, Gainesville’s rushing offense did well last week. Seniors Harrison Dempsey and Jayce Morgan continue to lead the team. Dempsey rushed for 274 yards and two touchdowns, while Morgan had 136 yards and four scores.

Polk said as good as Morgan and Dempsey have been, senior lineman Yovanni Juarez was the Leopards’ player of the week. The two-time powerlifting state champion had nine pancakes, two cut blocks and didn’t allow a sack.

“We have some really good multi-year experienced offensive linemen who are coming into their own and really leading that charge,” Polk said. “Those backs get a lot of attention because people see yards, stats, things like that. But when you watch film and you break it down and you look at the little things on the inside, I think those guys are doing a good job running the ball and running hard, but sometimes, those guys aren’t getting touched for five or six yards down the field. That makes a really big difference.”

Gainesville has played without several varsity players dating back to the second scrimmage. Polk said a couple may return this week, but he still expects to be without eight players. He said players are missing for a variety of reasons, but COVID-19 is the main culprit.

To fill in the gaps, some players are having to shift to new positions. Polk said learning those new roles is a big part of what Gainesville needs to do to be successful.

“We have to, one, learn some new positions, and when we get in those positions, do every single thing we can to take in what we (were) taught,” Polk said. “Two, when we do have them on the ropes, we have to finish. When we do have a chance to strike, we have to finish.”

Kickoff in Aubrey is set for 7:30 p.m.

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