GRANDVIEW — With a berth to the Class 3A Division I state semifinals on the line, the Grandview Zebras face district rival Kemp in a state quarterfinal game Friday.
The Zebras (12-1) and Yellowjackets (12-1) are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday from Midlothian ISD Multi-Purpose Stadium.
Grandview and Kemp have been on a collision course all season since their showdown in District 6-3A DI play on Oct. 13. In that game, Grandview trailed at halftime, 16-14, before the Zebras dominated the second half — including a 29-0 edge in the third quarter — for a 50-23 victory.
But Grandview Coach Brad Davis said they’ve buried that game in the past, saying it has nothing to do with this rematch.
“We’re looking at it as a new opponent and clean slate,” Davis said. “We’re going to concentrate on what we have control of and that’s simply how we play, how we approach the game and how we execute. We need to take care of the things we have control of regardless of who we’re playing.
“Our mindset is the same as it’s been all year. And that’s to take the next opponent and prepare as well as we can for them and play our best football game. We’re not approaching this week any different than any other week.”
While Davis said they’ve forgotten about the 27-point win over the Yellowjackets, the Zebras’ coach acknowledged they’ll need a better start Friday than they had Oct. 13.
“There’s a couple things we can take away from that game,” Davis said. “No. 1 is we have to play a better first half of football because we didn’t play well the first half in that game. We just need to do a better job of playing well early. But No. 2, I don’t put any stock at all in a previous game or the outcome of that previous game or how the game played out because this is the playoffs. They’ve improved; we’ve improved. We’re two different teams in the playoffs than we were in the regular season.
“We’re just wiping the slate clean as far as that game goes and preparing this week for the fact that it’s a quarterfinal game and it’s the playoffs and we need to be at our very best. Like we’ve told the kids, we’re more concerned on focusing on how we play rather than who we’re playing.”
Kemp Coach Brandon Hankins said Grandview was simply the better team in their first meeting.
“A lot has changed from week 6 for both teams,” Hankins said. “I think we have gotten better as a team and I think Grandview has as well. I think the main thing you take away from our first meeting is how good Grandview really is. They are a very good ball club and can hurt you in many different ways in all three phases of the game.
“I know from our standpoint they played better that night and won. I think too many times coaches and teams make excuses of why they lost instead of giving credit to the other team, and on Oct. 13 Grandview was the better team and did what it took to win the game. We will have to execute in all three phases of the game. In the first meeting, we did not do that, they did.”
In the Zebras’ win over Kemp, Grandview scored its seven touchdowns from an average of 61 yards. The Zebras showcased an explosive offense as they beat Kemp’s aggressive defense over the top for touchdowns of 77, 68, 32, 20, 73, 76 and 80 yards.
“It’s hard to say [how Kemp might change their defensive game plan],” Davis said. “We’ll have to wait until the game starts to see how they’re going to approach it. They haven’t changed a whole lot on film except sometimes they play one safety deep and occasionally they play two safeties deep. They mix it up some. But we can only wait until the game starts to see what their approach is.”
The 23 points Kemp scored against Grandview were a season low for the Yellowjackets in the regular season and tied for the lowest in the playoffs. Kemp averaged 51 points per game in the regular season.
On the flip side, the 23 points Kemp scored against Grandview were the most points the Zebras have allowed all season (one of Kemp’s touchdowns came on defense).
Hankins said he views Grandview’s defense as one of the state’s best. The Zebras have allowed only 9 points per game through 13 contests.
“When we are on offense, we expect to see one of the best defensive units in the state, not just the region or area,” Hankins said. “They are disruptive up front, their linebackers are the real deal and their secondary doesn’t give you many opportunities. We will have to limit mistakes and take what is given. We feel like we have a very good offense and it is exciting to go against one of the best D’s in the state.”
Davis said he expects this second meeting against Kemp’s offense to be one of the biggest challenges for his defense this season.
“It should be quite a matchup,” Davis said. “They’ve got really good skill kids. Their receivers are very, very good athletes. Their running back is a good athlete. I think their skill kids are very much the strength of their football team. And several of them play both ways because they’re really good football players. So I think the skill position is the strength of their team as well as the defensive front. They’re all well coached, aggressive and very good football players.”
As both head coaches pointed out, each team is improved and has changed throughout the season since their first meeting. And the most obvious difference in the matchup this time around will be at quarterback for Grandview. Junior Landon Moon passed for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the first game vs. Kemp, but freshman Dane Jentsch has started the past four games for the Zebras. Jentsch has completed 42-of-59 for 888 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions in his four starts.
In the Yellowjackets’ 23-14 victory over Commerce last week, Kemp was led by senior running back Jordan Kempf, who had 257 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Kemp is also led by junior quarterback Cameron Clamon and senior receiver Kane Johnson on offense while junior linebackers Boomer Irving and Brock Dedie lead the defense.
Hankins said consistent execution in all three phases will be key for his Yellowjackets as they face a Grandview team that he believes has little to no weaknesses.
“There is a lot that stands out about Grandview,” Hankins said. “They have really good football players that play really, really hard, and they would be a tough matchup for anyone in this state. They are very well coached as well. Offensively, they are explosive and can beat you with the run and the pass. Defensively, they are really good and smother you. Special teams they make no mistakes. You watch film and you see very little weakness, if any.
“We will have to execute in all three phases. We have to play fast and play physical. Offensively, we have to limit turnovers and try to sustain drives. Defensively, we cannot give up the big one and we have to try to take the ball away. Special teams we have to be sound. I think both teams playing Friday night are vastly underrated and would be a test for anyone. Not too many times district foes match up in regional finals and we are.”
The Zebras are led by senior running back Earnest Crownover, who has 1,363 rushing yards with 525 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns. Sophomore running back Tremayne Gullatte has 882 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 100 carries. The Zebras have four receivers with at least 390 yards; Kamron English (43-438-7), Ruben McCray (32-575-9), Crownover (21-525-7) and Jake Goodman (21-390-7).
Defensively, Grandview is led by linemen Damian Dominguez, Cole Harroff, Isaiah Fuqua and Byron Buckley along with linebackers David Villa, Tyler Hale and Dylan Moore.
Davis said he believes the keys to victory are relatively simple: whoever makes the fewest mistakes will likely have the best chance to win.
“We just want to execute well and focus on ball security and taking care of the football,” Davis said. “We want to do the best we can to get into a good rhythm and mix the pass with the run.
“I think the team that doesn’t have the big mistakes — who takes care of the football and doesn’t have the penalties — will have the advantage because this is two really good football teams playing each other. The one that makes the fewest mistakes has probably the best opportunity to advance.”
The winner between the Zebras and Yellowjackets will draw the winner of Brock (11-2) and Comanche (12-1) in the Class 3A state semifinals next week, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at AT&T Stadium.