Gainesville

The Gainesville Leopards fell 41-21 to Decatur on Friday, Oct. 9, to drop to 0-2 in district. They’ll host Burkburnett on Friday, Oct. 16, in search of a win to keep themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Gainesville played tough against Decatur on Friday, Oct. 9, but a crucial fourth-down trick play gave the Eagles a lofty lead headed into halftime.

The Leopards’ defense only gave up seven points in the second half, but their offense could only muster seven points of their own as they fell 41-21 to drop to 0-2 in district.

“I thought they were well coached and I really thought we had a chance to beat them,” Gainesville head coach James Polk said. “Our kids kept fighting and then that freebee they got right before the half changed the game. It seems like that has been the moral of the story right now. It’s been one big mistake that has turned the game around.”

Polk said the Leopards got off to a good offensive start and closed the game well defensively. The hope this week against Burkburnett is that they can put those two facets of the game together at the same time.

“We have to be closers,” Polk said. “We shut them down after making the adjustments on defense. We’ve got to meet in the middle somewhere. Even though we had a good half defensively, it was more of a bend but don’t break mentality. We’ve got to tackle better. Offensively, we’ve got to get our personnel right and pick up our speed with getting our plays called.”

With the Leopards digging themselves an 0-2 hole in district play and having lost their past three games, it’s incredibly imperative Gainesville picks up a win against Burkburnett team that is also 1-4 on the season.

Simply put, the Leopards have to win Friday, Oct. 16, if they want to return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

“We’re treating this like the playoffs,” Polk said. “I know it’s kind of cliché but we’ve got to win. We stand no chance if we don’t win. We’ve got to take care of business. Like I was telling our kids, don’t let their record get you confused. They’ve been beaten by some good teams. We’ve both beat Vernon, but I just think they’re going to be ready to go.”

Polk said the Bulldogs flip back and forth between a run-based offensive look and the spread formation. He said his team will be prepared for both looks Friday.

“Even though they go spread, it’s not something we’ve never seen,” Polk said. “We’ve prepared for their run game like against Alvarado and Aubrey.”

Defensively, Burkburnett operates out of a 4-3 formation and they will also mix in some quarters and cover-3 looks.

“Blitzing isn’t a big part of their plan, but it might be against us,” Polk said.

More than what the Bulldogs will roll out at Leopard Stadium on Friday, Polk said the Leopards have to focus on not beating themselves.

“We have to cut down on the dumb penalties,” Polk said. “Holding and block in the back is going to get called, but it’s the false starts and offsides that really irritate me. Our guys are still fired up. We’ve had some pretty good practices this week.”

Reach Patrick Hayslip at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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