Register Sports Editor

Many high school football coaches will tell you that there are actually three seasons — the non-district schedule, the district schedule and the playoffs.

Friday night, the Gainesville Leopards will finish off the first of those when they travel to Wichita Falls to take on the Hirschi Huskies.

A win Friday would give the Leopards a 4-1 record against non-district opponents. That would be the best record the team has had since starting 5-0 in 2005. That year, Gainesville advanced all the way to the Class 3A Division I state championship game.

This year’s team was close to having a chance to go undefeated in the non-district portion of their schedule. The Leopards suffered a tough 29-26 loss to the Burkburnett Bulldogs last Friday at Leeper Stadium. The Bulldogs scored the go-ahead touchdown with just over six minutes left in the game.

In looking at the film of the game, Gainesville head coach Ricky Lock says it’s a game his team could have easily won.

“We had three holding calls in a row at one point. We had way too many penalties, some of which were justified and some I couldn’t find on film,” he said. “I will give Burk some credit. They run and execute their offense very well. We gave up 260 yards of offense. That’s the most we’ve given up all year.”

In the game, Burk quarterback Cannon Cornelius rushed for 130 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Gainesville’s offense had their lowest rushing total of the season (178 yards). Running back Deshawn Franklin was held to 93 yards, while quarterback Kielyn Lewis rushed for 73. Franklin is still averaging 118.8 yards rushing per game and Lewis averages 99.8. The Leopards as a team average 226.8 yards on the ground and 103.3 through the air. They are averaging 26.3 points per game and allow an average of 18.3.

In last week’s game, Gainesville was successful twice on fourth-and-long plays. One was a pass on a fake punt from Lewis to Franklin. The other came on a 10-yard run by Merit Banks on a reverse.

The Leopards now have to see how they can bounce back from their first loss of the season.

“Our kids have practiced well and given great effort this week,” Coach Lock said. “I think our kids are ready to play another game.”

This will be the last chance for Gainesville to iron out some kinks before they start playing district games that really matter. So what are the biggest areas of concern for the team?

“Penalties, execution in the red zone and special teams,” Lock stated.

The Big Red’s final tuneup before District 9-3A play starts in two weeks will be against the Hirschi Huskies, who are coached by former Leopard standout Neil Searcy.

The Huskies are 1-3, which is already an improvement over last year when they went 0-10. Lock says Searcy’s team has played well and consistent in every game this season.

“They are athletic and very fast,” Lock added. “They are really good in the secondary and they run the ball well.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is 7:30 p.m. The game will be played at Wichita Falls’ Memorial Stadium.

Gainesville will have a bye next week before starting district play Oct. 9 at home against Whitesboro.

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