Last year, a week 10 loss to Paradise kept the Whitesboro football team out of the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The Bearcats have a shot at redemption Friday night when they host Paradise in another critical district game.
Whitesboro (4-4 overall, 3-2 District 4-3A-1) can clinch a playoff berth with a win. If the Bearcats lose, they would need a win next week and favorable results in other games.
Paradise (5-3, 2-3) would be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, so the Panthers will be playing for their season.
Whitesboro coach Cody Fagan said he is excited for the last two games of the regular season.
“Finally getting healthy at the right time,” Fagan said. “Coming off a big win last week, got two really quality opponents left to finish up district play, but they’re both at home. So obviously, getting healthy and having both of those guys at home is something we’re real excited about.”
If the Bearcats beat Paradise, Whitesboro will clinch a playoff spot. Next week’s game against Peaster would only determine seeding. If Paradise wins, Whitesboro would need to not only beat Peaster, but also for Paradise to lose to Ponder.
Whitesboro faced the same situation last year. After losing to Paradise, the Bearcats defeated Peaster, but the Panthers beat Ponder. Whitesboro and Paradise finished tied, but Paradise had the tiebreaker and took the final playoff spot.
While the stakes are the same for Whitesboro, the teams are different. Last season, Paradise had an older team, and Whitesboro had a young squad. Paradise returned three lettermen from last year, while Whitesboro returned 22.
Fagan said the coaches are reminding the players about how last season ended to motivate them to avoid a repeat this year.
“The roles are almost reversed right now,” Fagan said. “Last year, they were the older, experienced team. We were the younger team with our backs against the wall. They put it to us. This is our turn to come out and be the older, more experienced team… We’re going to have to be on our A-game to beat ‘em, but obviously we’re going to use that as some motivation to go out there and get that done.”
Paradise runs an unusual offense, one Fagan said he has never seen before. The Panthers run a lot of plays with an empty backfield, but they keep their slot receivers close enough they can also be used as running backs. They can send five receivers deep or have eight players in the box to run out of the same formation.
Fagan said the Bearcats will have to be ready to stop both the run and the deep passes.
“It’s almost like playing option football,” Fagan said. “You’re going to have to have everybody do their job and trust your buddy next to you to do their job and hope that it turns out the way the coaches are telling you to. I feel like our kids can do that, we just gotta execute really well all week in practice and take that over to Friday night.”
Kickoff in Whitesboro is set for 7:30 p.m.