BURLESON — A pair of 10-1 powerhouses will collide Friday in a Class 5A Division II Region II area playoff game as the Burleson Centennial Spartans visit the Ennis Lions.
In last week’s bi-district round, Centennial picked up a 53-6 win over Dallas Seagoville while Ennis knocked out Frisco Reedy, 34-0, to set up an intriguing second-round matchup between two of the better teams in the region.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday from Lion Memorial Stadium in Ennis. Centennial coach Kyle Geller said
“We couldn’t find a stadium on Friday night in between that was neutral and that was a venue that both of us wanted,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “We tried to get Midlothian, it was full, Mansfield was full, Waxahachie was too close to them. So we flipped for homefield and we lost the flip.”
Despite having to play a second-round playoff game on the road, Geller said his team has responded well to hostile environments, and he expects the same come Friday in what he expects to be Centennial’s toughest challenge since a week 3 battle with No. 1 Aledo.
“They’re really, really good,” Geller said of the Lions. “I had a coaching buddy of mine text me [Tuesday] and he said, ‘Well, how’s Ennis?’ And I texted him back, ‘They’re really good,’ and he text me back, ‘Do they have a good quarterback, running back or receiver?’ And I said ‘All.’ And he said, ‘Don’t give me that coach speak,’ and I said, ‘I’m telling you, they’ve got the complete package over there.’
“Then you pair that up with coach [Sam] Harrell, a legendary coach, and it’s a recipe for success for what they’ve got over there.”
Ennis has won nine consecutive games since a 41-34 loss to Bishop Lynch on Sept. 6. The Lions went 8-0 in District 8-5A Division II, beating Kaufman, North Forney, Terrell, Royse City, Sulphur Springs, Forney, Corsicana and Greenville by an average score of 43.4 to 13.6.
Ennis is led by junior quarterback Collin Drake, but the Lions have a balanced offensive attack that averages 36.5 points per game.
“I think he’s a great player,” Geller said of Drake. “He’s a coach’s son, and he plays like it. He’s a fierce competitor. Not afraid to run the football. He throws the ball really well. He’s accurate. He gets rid of it. I really am impressed with him. He’s a good player.
“They have a receiver, No. 7 [Laylon Spencer] and he might be one of the top two or three receivers we’ve seen all year. They don’t have a weakness in their offense. And then they have a plan. You can see in games the A to the B to the C. And they’re playing a chess match with numbers. They formation you. They’re pretty simple as far as like, in their running game, they don’t have 10 different runs, but they do what they do very well. They run gap schemes, run their QB, running back and receivers. But they keep the scheme the same. When guys know what they’re doing and they’re able to play fast, and they’re already fast, that’s what you want.”
Ennis allows just 14.8 points per game this season and its shutout win over Frisco Reedy last week was the Lions’ third shutout of the season.
“I think it’s kind of the same thing as their offense,” Geller said. “I don’t see any kind of glaring weakness. They’re all good football players, all 11 guys. And then they have a plan for what they do, and you can see it each week. They mix their coverages up a little bit, just enough. And up front, they slide from an even front to an odd front, which can create some problems for an offensive line if they’re not prepared.”
Throughout the season, Centennial has relied on the special big-play ability of Jaylon Jackson, but the Spartans got some help last week with the return of All-Johnson County performer Chris Mosley, who returned from a long absence due to an injury.
“He did good last game,” Geller said. “He got his first action back, played a half, then we took him out after that. He ran for a TD, really ran for two but one got called back. He looked like Chris. He chipped the rust off. Having him back definitely helps. Not only do we get a great player back but now we’ve got a little bit more depth. Chris will probably see action in all three phases of the game on Friday.
“It makes things a little easier as a coach with him back, I’ll just say it like that. Not that David Clerk, who filled in for him did a great job, didn’t do what we asked, and so we’ve got us a player there for the future. But getting Chris back, he gives you so much in the passing game as well as the running game. And it’s great to see his smiling face back on the field.”
Friday’s matchup in Ennis will be the biggest test for Centennial freshman quarterback Phillip Hamilton, who has filled in as the starter since senior Hank Meyer’s season ended due to a concussion.
“He’s doing a good job,” Geller said. “We just need him to run the offense; don’t try to do something that is not there. If guys are covered in the passing game, either run it or throw it away. Don’t try to force anything. If we’ve got to punt, we’ll punt. Just play within the system and make plays when they’re there. That’s what he’s done to this point.”
Geller said he believes there are four keys that will enable the Spartans to put their best foot forward and give themselves a chance at moving on.
“It’s like I told our kids, to me there’s four things,” he said. “No. 1, win the turnover battle. No. 2, play great special teams. No. 3, no foolish penalties. And No. 4, win the line of scrimmage. Those four things. If we go out and do that and play our best, we’ll have a good chance.”
The winner of Centennial and Ennis advances to the regional round against the Frisco vs. South Oak Cliff winner.