Ralls football coach Xavier Rangel told his team after a loss to Hale Center that the Jackrabbits’ hopes for a district title were still alive. Win and Ralls will have a piece of the crown.
Sudan is not in the mood to share, however.
The Hornets (8-1 overall, 4-0 in the district) have a chance to close an undefeated district run and win the absolute championship on Friday at Jackrabbit Field. The stakes couldn’t be higher for Ralls, who could end up as the first or fourth seed.
“These guys have definitely wanted a district championship since the start of the season,” Rangel said. “We went off the rails a bit against Hale Center. But honestly, no matter what happened that game, we still had to beat Sudan.”
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Sudan are one of the hottest teams in the southern plains, winning their last eight games. Hornets coach John Cornelius said the first 49-0 loss to Olton was a bit of a blessing in disguise, showing the team what needed improvement.
The result was a schematic change in defense from a 3-3 stack to a 4-2-5 stack to better accommodate the staff. Paired with an attack that found its rhythm in the passing game, Sudan has been rolling ever since.
“We just started running and the kids got more confident,” Cornelius said. “They are playing very well now.”
The closest match of the winning streak was last week’s 25-23 victory over Bovina. The Hornets twice overcame second-half deficits, with freshman quarterback Caleb Groetken throwing the go-ahead touchdown to Salvador Juarez with less than a minute to go. Groetken stepped in after starter Trent Wilson was injured late in the game.
Wilson is also out this week, so Groetken will make his first career start on the big stage.
“All year he’s been really solid and he’s a guy we thought we could turn to if we needed him,” Cornelius said. “We kept him on JV just to get him those reps at quarterback so he could get that experience. But he handled it really well. We think he’s comfortable there. He’s an exceptional athlete, he can do a lot of things.
“We feel like we have our whole attack with him, so we’re excited to see what he can do there.”
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Ralls (7-2, 3-1) is coming off a 50-24 win over Crosbyton. It was the Jackrabbits’ best goal production of the season, coming a week after three Ralls runners – Zaiah Riojas, Justin Zavala and Mathias Zavala – passed the 100-yard mark.
“It’s definitely one of the offenses where I think you have to be disciplined on defense so you can stop us,” Rangel said. “Of course our linemen did a great job of opening up those holes, and the fullbacks blocked in for each other well, making sure we made good counterfeits. It’s just one of those things where we keep getting better. repeat.”
Every coach complimented the opposing defense’s ability to invade the ball. In what could turn into a battle on the court, it could be the difference between the No. 1 seed heading into next week’s playoffs.
“We want the title outright,” Cornelius said. “That certainly motivates our kids that we don’t want to have to share that. And then also making the playoffs is a big factor. … We haven’t had to do much to build the game. Our kids are nice to already understand the situation.”
Sudan to Ralls
District 3-2A Division II Football
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Jackrabbit Land, Ralls
Recordings: Sudan 8-1, 4-0; Rally 7-2, 3-1
Cover: Follow @byStephenGarcia on Twitter for live coverage, with post-match analysis and footage at lubbockonline.com.
Quick fact: Sudan last won an absolute district title in 2019; The most recent of Ralls dates back to 2018.