Sweetwater Mustangs welcome Snyder Tigers to district opening
Snyder’s first six games of the season were a 180-degree turn from where the Tigers were in 2020.
The Tigers have gone 5-1 in out-of-district games, with the only loss coming to Jim Ned, Class 3A, Division I. Snyder already more than doubled his winning tally last year, when he finished 2-6.
Head coach Wes Wood attributed the turnaround to strong returning talent on both sides of the ball, as well as a culture change within the program.
“The most important factor is leadership,” said Wood. “The past two years have been tough, but I told them if we stay true and keep believing, good things will happen. We held everyone accountable, and it paid off.
While he’s proud of his team’s efforts over six games, Wood knows those wins mean next to nothing. The district game – which Wood calls “season two” – begins for the Tigers on Friday when they hit the road for a game against Sweetwater for the Big Country Game of the Week.
The Mustangs enter the week rolling, winning back-to-back games after a rough start. They enter the district game with a 3-3 record, most recently beating Eastland 70-54.
For first-year head coach Russell Lucas, the recent wins are a boost to team morale.
“Every time you win a couple it gives everyone confidence,” Lucas said. “And as a new coach there is more confidence in what I do.”
In Eastland’s victory, Leo Holsey made the offensive difference. The Mustangs signalman completed 17 of 19 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns. He also used his legs for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
The Mustangs have scored 112 combined points in their last two games, thanks in large part to Holsey’s efficiency behind center.
Faced with a solid defense from Snyder who allowed just 12.8 points per game, Lucas knows his quarterback will need to be comfortable for the Mustangs to succeed offensively.
“Leo is a great competitor,” said Lucas. “He’s always going to try to find a way to win. He improves his teammates and provides leadership.
And for Wood, he knows Holsey is one of the best passer the Tigers have seen so far.
“He’s a very dynamic individual, he’s special,” said Wood. “He’s a good QB, but he can also threaten with his legs. Stopping it will be a challenge.
Snyder’s offense is heavy, but the Tigers excel in the air when they pass. Quarterback Hunter Stewart made nearly 75 percent of his attempts.
And between a double-threat quarterback like Stewart and running backs Jorge Martinez and Jorge Olivares, the Tigers are an attack that can hurt opponents a lot, thanks to their ground speed.
“They tend to run a bit more, but they are very capable of throwing the ball,” said Lucas. “They run both parts of the game so it’s a challenge. They are balanced and they are good at both.
As Wood described, the first season is now in the rearview mirror. It doesn’t matter what happened in the first six games of the two teams.
The only common thread between Sweetwater and Snyder is both lost for Jim Ned. Comparing the point margins of those games is pointless, as Sweetwater played them in Week 2 under a new coach on the road, and Snyder saw them a few weeks later at home.
But both teams have been playing well lately. The duel to watch is how far Sweetwater’s explosive attack is able to move onto Snyder’s defense.
In a strong district that also includes Monahans, Pecos and Greenwood, a win in Week 7 could set the tone for a tough slide and give the winner some momentum.
The Mustangs are entering a winning streak of their own, and the extension that could generate more energy in the program.
“Snyder is a quality team,” said Lucas. “What they did in the non-district was very impressive, and they are doing it. A three-game winning streak for us would build on itself.
A year ago, Snyder finished 0-4 in a district game. The Tigers arrive Friday night with a much improved team from last year and a chip on their shoulder, looking to change their fortunes in district competition.
“1-0 is better than 0-1. In our five-team district, any team can win any Friday, ”said Wood. “The first win doesn’t solidify the playoffs, but it would increase the odds. It’s huge for us, and doesn’t necessarily sink the boat if we can’t get it out, but it would be huge.
CHOICE: Snyder 35, Sweetwater 31
Best Next Game
Early (5-0) to Jim Ned (5-0)
At level 3A, two undefeated and two of the best teams in the class compete in district.
The Longhorns have already tied their winning tally from last year when they finished 5-6. At this point, Early’s most impressive win was a 48-13 beating from a quality Merkel team.
Quarterback Jaxyn Price, son of head coach Daniel Price, has been the Horns’ offensive leader this year. The junior threw 17 touchdowns and just one interception averaging over 220 yards per game.
Jim Ned – the reigning state champion – built on last year’s dominance in non-districts, winning five games by a total of 126 points. The Indians’ winning streak stands at 19. Running back Xavier Wishert has built on his heritage, totaling 937 yards and 10 touchdowns in just half the season.
With Jim Ned and Early both undefeated and dominant at this point, Friday’s District opener is likely to be the District 3-3A de facto championship.
CHOICE: Jim Ned 38, early 28
The best of the rest
Stephenville (5-0) at Waco La Vega (3-2)
Stephenville’s out-of-district performance was impressive considering who the Yellowjackets beat. They had quality wins over Abilene Wylie, Waco Connally and Sweetwater en route to start the year 5-0.
The Yellowjackets duo of Ryder Lambert and Coy Eakin are one of the best quarterback-receiver combos in the state. Of Lambert’s 1,575 passing yards and 19 touchdowns this year, 759 yards and 12 touchdowns have gone to Eakin.
This week, Stephenville faces another tough test: Waco La Vega.
The Pirates enter Week 7 with a 3-2 record, but that’s somewhat misleading considering their losses were to LBJ Austin and Argyle – two very strong teams. And in wins, La Vega beat their opponents 164-35.
This battle against the Pirates is a chance for Stephenville to remain undefeated and once again prove its legitimacy as a top 4A team.
CHOICE: Stephenville 41, Waco La Vega 36
Brady (2-2) vs. Ballinger (3-1)
After a season opener loss to Jim Ned, Ballinger was excellent, winning three straight before entering the district.
The Bearcats recently beat a good Llano side in overtime in Week 5, avenging a 2020 loss to the Yellowjackets. Prior to that, their winning streak began with wins over Colorado City and Breckenridge.
Ballinger’s rushed two-headed attack on Carter Arrott and Beau Perkins pushed the offense to this point, as the Bearcats are averaging over 200 rushing yards per game. And defensively, Ballinger has recovered six fumbles in four games.
This week, the Bearcats welcome a Brady team with a .500 record. It is difficult to assess the Bulldogs’ strength, as their two losses were suffered by excellent teams (Dublin, Ozona) and their two wins were against average opponents (San Angelo TLCA, Comanche).
Ballinger enters the district opener with momentum, and a win over the Bulldogs could be huge for the Bearcats’ chances of winning a district that looks to be relatively weaker this year.
CHOICE: Ballinger 34, Brady 21
Santa Anna (6-0) at Baird (4-0)
Neither Santa Anna nor Baird have had a problem this year, as the teams enter their respective district opener games with a combined 10-0 record. The Mountaineers outscored their opponents 400-92 in six games, while the Bears scored 176 points against 45 for their opponents.
Both teams have improved a lot from 2020, as Santa Anna finished the year 6-4, while Baird finished 5-6.
Neither team played a close game in the first six weeks, and this opening district showdown has all the makings of a competitive clash.
CHOICE: Santa Anna 62, Baird 48
Carson Field is the area sports reporter for Abilene Reporter-News. It mainly covers Big Country High School sports. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to reporternews.com.
Ranking of the powers of large countries
Class 3A / 4A
1. Jim Ned (5-0); Last week: inactive; This week: Early (5-0).
2. Stephenville (5-0); Last week: inactive; This week: Waco La Vega (3-2).
3. Early (5-0); Last week: inactive; This week: Jim Ned (5-0).
4. Snyder (4-1); Last Week: Beat Muleshoe 45-33; This week: Sweetwater (3-3).
5. Dublin (4-1); Last week: inactive; This week: Comanche (0-5).
1. Albania (4-0); Last Week: Beat Olney 55-6; This week: Meridian (1-5).
2. Hawley (5-0); Last week: inactive; This week: Haskell (2-3).
3. Cisco (5-0); Last week: inactive; This week: Winters (1-3).
4. Coleman (4-0); Last week: inactive; This week: De Leon (0-5).
5. Roscoé (4-1); Last week: beat Sudan 6-0; This week: at rest.
1. May (5-0); Last week: beat Newcastle 55-0; This week: Gorman (4-1).
2. Straw (5-0); Last week: Beat Covenant Classical 114-97; This week: Bluff Dale (4-1).
3. Jayton (5-0); Last week: beat Roby 64-22; This week: Southland (2-5)
4. Throckmorton (5-0); Last week: beat rule 74-26; This week: Lueders-Avoca (0-4).
5. Hermleigh (6-0); Last week: beat Bronte 51-0; This week: Aspermont (2-4).
Carson’s Great Country Choices
THURSDAY, OCT. 7
Gorman at MAY
Southland to JAYTON
TO REIGN vs loop
FRIDAY, OCT. 8
SNYDER to Sweetwater
GREAT SPRING in Pampa
MIDLOTHIAN HERITAGE in Brownwood
STEPHENVILLE at Waco La Vega
Clyde to BRECKENRIDGE
Brady at BALLINGER
DUBLIN in Comanche
Early to JIM NED
IDALOU in Coahoma
MERKEL in Jacksboro
MILLSAP in Eastland
San Angelo Grape Stream in FRINGE
ALBANIA at the meridian
CISCO in winters
COLEMAN at De Léon
GOLDTHWAITE in San Saba
Hico to CROSS THE PLAINS
Olney at MONDAY
RALLIES in Hamlin
Anson at STAMFORD
Forsan at CITY OF COLORADO
Haskell at HAWLEY
BENJAMIN in Gold-Burg
Bluff Dale at STRAW
Brontë at CITY OF STERLING
CHEROKEE in Mullin
Gordon at EVANT
HERMLEIGH in Aspermont
Highland at WESTBROOK
IRA at Roby’s
CITY OF KNOX in Paducah
Lueders-Avoca in THROCKMORTON
Moran at PAINTING STREAM
Panther Creek at SIDNEY
TIDY in Zéphyr
Rising star at BLANKET
FATHER ANNE in Baird
Stephenville three-way at GUSTINE
Thirty to LORAINE
WOODSON in Forestburg