Lake Highlands (7-3, 6-1) vs. South Garland (7-3, 5-2) at SMU’s Ford Stadium at noon

It’s playoff time! It’s my favorite time of the year.

Some people like Christmas. Others love summer time. I dig playoff time.

When teams are in a “win or go home” situation. anything is possible.

Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium, Lake Highlands will take on it’s first of what the Wildcats hope will be many playoff opponents in South Garland.

These two teams took the field against each other this year in a scrimmage game, and from what I was told, it wasn’t pretty for the Wildcats.

“And they haven’t changed a whole lot,” Scott Smith, LHHS head coach said. “They are a good football team. I’ve said it all year though, if we come out and execute our game, play our type of football, play the way I know this team can, we can compete with anybody in the state.”

South Garland will present very similar opposition offensively to what the Wildcats saw throughout most of the preseason and throughout their District 9-5A schedule.

They run a spread with variations of other offensive sets that help them in each situation.

The Colonels have a quarterback who can run the ball just as effectively, if not better than he throws. Quarterback Stephan Turner passed for 744 yards and a touchdown this year. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry on the ground and rushed for a team-high 11 touchdowns.

Only one receiver had more than six receptions this season and that was T.J. Hill who finished the season with 25 catches for 225 yards. Javion Doss finished with six catches for 140 yards.

On the other hand, four players finished the season with more than 300 yards rushing.

John Lacour led the way with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, nice whole numbers. He was followed by Turner. Cory Sherman and Reece Loyd combined for 647 yards and seven touchdowns.

Collectively, those four players combined for 235 rushing yards per game and 2.8 touchdowns per game.

Even though the Wildcats know exactly what is coming, it won’t be easy to stop because the Colonels will pound it up the middle and stretch it to the edge which can wear down a defense.

OFFENSE

YARDS PER GAME:  South Garland – 324 ypg   Lake Highlands – 409 ypg – edge LHHS

POINTS PER GAME: South Garland – 24 ppg    Lake Highlands – 34 ppg – edge LHHS

On defense, South Garland has what Smith called one of the best front seven’s around.

They are stingy in giving up 284 ypg, which ranks sixth in the area, two spots behind Skyline. They also rank third giving up only 108 passing yards per game. The front seven helps there by coming with lots of pressure and forcing opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball a little quicker than they might like.

South Garland does give up over 176 ypg on the ground, and that’s right where the Wildcats excel the most.

A good mix of run from Desmond Roland and DeVonte Sunwenghan should give the Wildcats plenty of offensive firepower which will open up the passing game for sophomore quarterback Michael Ketchmark. But Ketchmark will have to be sharp when given the opportunity, because openings will close quickly.

DEFENSE

YARDS PER GAME: South Garland – 284 ypg  Lake Highlands – 349 ypg – edge South Garland

POINTS PER GAME: South Garland – 18 ppg   Lake Highlands – 24 ppg – edge South Garland

Here’s the good news, South Garland only held one opponent under 14 points this season, meaning they do allow other teams to make plays. Here’s the bad news, it was Garland High, who the Wildcats lost to earlier in the season 38-28. One note, the Wildcats had some defensive issues at that time trying to replace some lost players and a number of other pre-season building lessons learned. Plus, South Garland and Garland have played so many times, each of them knows what the other is going to do before they call the play.

No matter though, it’s playoff time. Adrenaline runs a little heavier in these games. Speed kicks into another gear. Hits are a little harder and breakaway touchdown runs are a) harder to come by b) more crushing with each tick of the clock.

It’s the first round and every team wants to keep playing deep into December.

Enjoy this one because, this is why fans came out every Friday night, sometimes Thursday nights, and supported their teams. That was like an investment, here’s the payoff.