Garner (10-3) at Middle Creek (11-2)
Need to know: Theres little doubt that Middle Creek and Garner have become each others top rival, even though they play in different conferences and the rivalry started just eight years ago. Thats also despite the fact that Garner has dominated the all-time series, leading it 10-1 (winning both postseason showdowns) and winning the last five meetings, including the Aug. 23 game that started the 2013 season.
Garner won that meeting 21-16.
Middle Creek has won 11 of its 12 games since then and Garner has turned into one of the most potent offenses in area football history.
Players to Watch: For Garner, its mainly Nyheim Hines and his 3,679 yards from scrimmage this season (3,076 rushing). Hines had his only game of the season with less than 200 yards rushing against the Creek last time, an 85-yard output on 22 carries. Its a safe bet he and his Trojan offensive linemen have been thinking about that number all week. On defense, the Trojans need plays from their defensive line to put pressure on Middle Creeks passing game and their secondary to counter the Mustangs big play potential with interceptions.
For Middle Creek, on offense its a player who didnt play in that Aug. 23 game or the seven after it senior receiver Curtis Burston, who was out with an injury. He shares the team lead with Jay Schuller with eight TD receptions this season. Quarterback Brant Grisel has thrown for 2,603 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The Mustangs top defenders are in their front seven with Terry Patterson, Matt Marino, Tom Hartshorn and King Kiaku leading the list of players the Trojans will scheme to get blocked this week.
Notable, both teams lost offensive playmakers to likely season-ending injuries last week. Middle Creek freshman running back Josh Drake suffered a broken leg and Garner lost tight end Jamison Brown to a knee injury.
Garner coach Thurman Leach: Both teams are obviously a lot better than we were in August and Middle Creek will have Burston back. Youve got two teams with a lot of players in different positions than they were back them and who have developed into pretty good teams.