The Longhorns have been to the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, while the Seminoles are making their eighth appearance in the last 10 years.
Both teams are undefeated at 13-0 and riding huge waves of momentum following important losses over the summer heading into tonight’s Class AAAAA state semifinal game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kell’s drive is two-fold.
“I think there are two things that have galvanized us this season,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “My father, Mike Cook, passed away this summer, and the guys have dedicated this season to him. They’re wearing stickers on the backs of their helmets that say ‘In memory of MC’ with a cross on it.
“The other thing that’s got us going, I think, is a guy named Mark Tidwell. He’s a (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) guy in the community who’s been battling cancer for the past two to three years. He spoke to us last year before our game with Gainesville and he spoke to us again at the beginning of the playoffs this year. A lot of the guys have ‘MT’ written in marker on their tape.”
Creekside’s momentum into today’s semifinal is just as emotional. The Seminoles lost De’Antre Turman, a junior cornerback on the team who died from a broken neck injury he suffered following a scrimmage at Banneker High School in August.
“An emotional impact like that can go one of two ways,” Cook said. “It could either put you in the gutter, or it can take you to the top. Their situation has obviously taken them to the top.
“Creekside is playing great football and they’re honoring his memory by doing so. It’s a positive reflection on his personality. From what I understand about the team, a lot of the kids looked up to him and a situation like that can motivate a team, which has obviously happened with them, and in a lot of ways with us too.”
Rallying behind its fallen comrade, Creekside has gone through this season with a heavy emphasis on playing sound football on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Seminoles are averaging 43.3 points per game in the playoffs after scoring 39.9 during the regular season. The defense is holding opponents to 12.5 points per contest.
“Obviously, they are an extremely athletic and talented team,” Cook said. “They are as physical and athletic a team as we’ve played all year. They run the ball about 75 percent of the time, but of course they can throw the ball well enough to hurt you that way too.”
Quarterback Felix Harper and running backs Dexter Knox and Bricen Terry have been the catalysts offensively for the Seminoles.
“They have two to three guys on offense that can really run well and several guys that can catch it and they’re quarterback can put it on you,” Cook said. “They’re offensive line is big and physical.
Defensively, they’re a 4-3 and so are we, so some of that stuff is similar. They have tremendous speed on defense. They have the Berry brothers (Elliott and Evan), who are the twin little brothers of (Kansas City Chiefs safety) Eric Berry. They’re very gifted and talented and play as hard as anybody I’ve seen on film all year.”
Kell has averaged 38.2 points per game this season and has held opponents to 14.8 per outing. Tonight’s contest is the Longhorns first road game of the postseason.
“Playing on the road is one of those things you have to do all season,” Cook said. “We’d love to play them at Kell, but it didn’t work out that way. We have no problem going down there. We’d play them in a parking lot if we had to. It’s the fourth round of the playoffs, and we can’t necessarily be concerned about the site of the game as opposed to how we’re going to play the game. That’s more important to us right now.”
Game: Kell (13-0) at Creekside (13-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: First meeting
All-time series: First meeting
Prediction: Kell 45, Creekside 42