In the past two games, the Gainesville Leopards have been their own worst enemy. Two weeks ago, six turnovers marred a very winnable game against Alvarado and instead, the Leopards dropped a 38-28 decision.
Last week, Gainesville hung right with the Springtown Porcupines and were down just six points midway through the third quarter.
However, a backbreaking blocked punt from Springtown quickly turned the game upside down and the Porcupines pulled away for a 41-19 victory.
Gainesville head coach James Polk said the Leopards have that part of their special teams figured out as the Leopards prepare for their second district tilt of the season on the road against Decatur on Friday, Oct. 9.
“Our team can play at that level if we can take care of the little discipline type stuff,” Polk said. “We took the No. 8 into halftime nervous. I mean they were worried. I think after watching film, our kids have finally realized that they can play at that level, but if you’re at that level, those teams don’t commit game-changing penalties and mistakes at a repetitive level.”
When critical mistakes like turnovers or blocked punts happen, the emotional letdown can be just as powerful as the change in field position or score.
Polk said it’s imperative the Leopards limit those mistakes this week against Decatur, which is coming off a 69-0 win over Burkburnett.
“I thought we were doing a really good job controlling the field position battle and our defense was playing well enough,” Polk said. “We really, really worked on our protection because Springtown should have blocked three kicks and the one they did block we had 10 guys on the field. That’s on me. I wasn’t making sure our coaches got the personnel in. That’s on me.”
The Eagles are 2-4 on the season, but they went 12-1 last season, including a 49-12 win over Gainesville.
Gainesville has played Decatur close in recent years as the Leopards won 49-48 in 2018.
“We go back and forth too with Decatur,” Polk said. “Our kids aren’t afraid of them. This group believes they can win. Decatur has a different style than last year. This year, they want to run it a little bit more. Their quarterback is pretty shifty. Defensively, they’re going to get after you. They’re as good as last year, but they’re good in a different way.”
The key to beating the Eagles to Polk will be about stringing together successful offensive, defense and special teams series.
“We need to have at least two successful rotations to play in and win these types of games,” Polk said. “We’ve got to stop being choppy. I’m not going to take away from the opposing coaches. They had some good schemes prepared for us. They gave us problems.”
After falling to Springtown in their opening district game, the Leopards do not want to put themselves in an 0-2 hole.
“We lost our first season at 1-2 because we break it up with our preseason and district,” Polk said. “Right now, we’re 0-1 in our second season, so we need to get this W this week and go 1-1. If we can get out of this with a split, we’ll be on the up and up.”
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