Gainesville is back on the road this week for a must-win game.
Gainesville will take on Burkburnett at Iowa Park High School in its second district game of the season Friday night.
Gainesville (1-5 overall, 0-1 District 4-4A-1) beat Burkburnett 49-29 last season for the Leopards’ lone district win.
Burkburnett (1-5, 0-1) is the only other team in the district with more losses than wins.
The three games that follow will all be huge challenges, so beating the Bulldogs is likely the only way to stay in playoff contention.
Gainesville coach James Polk said the Leopards have had good, upbeat practices this week despite a tough result last week.
“The kids have had good attitudes,” Polk said. “I just think because we’ve been in this boat before, and they know. These seniors, we were in the playoffs their freshman and sophomore year. They’ve seen us have to battle. I think they know Coach is telling the truth. We still have a chance to get in (to the playoffs).”
Last season, Gainesville finished fifth in the district, one spot short of the final playoff spot. Burkburnett finished sixth. The fourth-place team, Lake Worth, is undefeated so far this season and opened district play by blowing out preseason favorite Springtown. Wins will be hard to come by in this district, so Gainesville needs to take advantage of any opportunity to get one.
Burkburnett is balanced offensively. Junior quarterback Hunter McCall averages 147.8 yards per game. The Bulldogs rush for an average of 121.2. McCall has thrown five touchdown passes, with three of those going to Rylan Stringfellow. The junior has 28 receptions this season. No other receiver has more than nine, so the Leopard defense will need to have an eye on him.
Sophomore running back Kyler Kirkland leads the Bulldogs in rushing, averaging 52.5 yards per game. He has scored three of Burkburnett’s four rushing touchdowns. McCall is the second leading rusher, but junior Colten Swanson has the other score.
Polk said the Bulldogs and Leopards are similar.
“They have to grind,” Polk said. “Things have to work out. Five yards, six yards, seven yards, maybe 10 or 12, grind it out. Every once in a while, something might get loose. Try to play some defense. They’re a lot like us.”
Burkburnett’s lone win was a 34-28 victory against Vernon. Other than that game, the Bulldogs have not scored more than 14 points or allowed fewer than 35 against any opponent. If Gainesville senior running backs Harrison Dempsey and Jayce Morgan can put together good performances, the Leopards could be in good shape on the road.
Polk said he feels good about how Gainesville matches up with Burkburnett.
“I expect to see a bunch of kids like ours that are still holding on to the hope of going to the playoffs,” Polk said. “I think we’ll see some things that we haven’t seen before. Maybe some trick plays, just taking chances on punting, fake field goals. I just think all stops will be pulled out to try to win this game.”
Kickoff in Iowa Park is set for 7 p.m.