Last year the Living Word Christian varsity football team entered the playoffs with a record of 1-8 overall and then eliminated Mexico to open district play, 28-25.
This season that matchup is the same except the Eagles are now 2-7 overall while the Bulldogs have regressed from seven wins to six. Despite the ups and downs of this scenario, Mexico is still clearly the better team by any and every recognizable standard. Now it's up to head coach Steve Haag and staff to make sure the Bulldogs impose their will in a way that shows last year was a fluke if their going to seriously shoot for any kind of real postseason success.
"I believe we are playing good defense, and at times good offense. We must learn to protect the ball," said Haag. "Turnovers have hurt us in the games that we have lost. We are a much better team when we protect the football."
Recently the Eagles put a seven-game losing streak to rest by beating Lutheran on Oct. 13 at home 47-14. Prior to that the squad hadn't experienced victory since winning at Orchard Farm 27-19 on Aug. 18 to start the season.
"We played them last year, so we are familiar. Christian has a very good passing attack. Their standout is number seven, senior quarterback Brady Tolle," Haag said. "He can run and throw. He will probably be the best thrower we have seen all year. They also have some skill guys that can move in space."
If Christian does plan on taking to the air against Mexico, the first obstacle it'll have to overcome is the pass rush of defensive lineman Terrese Aaron and Wyatt Turner. Jasean White will also cause the Eagles as much trouble as he can in the Bulldogs defensive backfield, and, as for anything in between the two, Jonathan Grubb and Cameron Holman have been racking up big numbers this season for the team on both sides of the ball.
"Defensively Christian plays well upfront, which we found out last year," said Haag. "We must make their linebackers commit to a read, and then make that read wrong."
Even though a lot of the main defensive contributors also play big offensive roles, Mexico does have some wildcards in its midst that could end up having the type of outing that won't soon be forgotten. This includes running back Avion Williams and wide receiver Matthew Huffman. During the regular season both of these players showed flashes of brilliance. As for whether they possess the type of spark that'll ignite when they need it most, only time will tell for the Bulldogs.
"Hopefully the level of our opponents in the regular season will help with the playoff games. I think our players will be a little more focused this year and not overlook Christian," Haag said. "They were disappointed with last years results and lets hope it fuels a fire to play them again."
Currently the Bulldogs are averaging 237.6 rushing yards and almost 52 passing yards per contest. The squad has also accumulated 31 touchdowns, 23 sacks and eight interceptions.