Game: Kell (9-2) at Starr’s Mill (8-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Kell 31, Starr’s Mill 3 (Nov. 18, 2016)
All-time series: Kell leads 1-0
Prediction: Kell 35, Starr’s Mill 24
Kell will have a chance to advance to it first quarterfinal since 2016 when it faces Starr’s Mill Friday.
The Longhorns (9-2) are coming off a 48-32 win against Columbia, and coach Brett Sloan said he hopes it is a win that can propel his team into its matchup with the Region 3AAAAA champion Panthers (8-3).
“It’s never easy to win a playoff game,” he said. “The first one can sometimes be the toughest one, so it was just good to get that under our belt. You just have to take it one week at a time. We got the win we needed last week. Now, we get to try to be 1-0 the next week.”
This week will also be a longer trip for Kell.
However, Sloan said his team handled the road trip well last week, and the necessity for his team to travel in the postseason has actually been a unifying factor for the group.
“I think it’s been good,” he said. “There’s kind of a road-warrior mentality. It’s an us-against-the-world thing. I think our kids have embraced that, and we’re ready to go regardless of where we play.”
Wherever it plays, Kell will have a chance if it can continue to play offense the way it has.
The Longhorns Have scored 27 or more points in every game during their four-game winning streak, but they will need to find ways to score against a Starr’s Mill defense that has allowed seven points in fewer in four of its last five games.
“Their effort is really impressive,” Sloan said. “They get after you on defense, and what they do with their scheme is really good. You can tell they’re well coached and know what they’re doing over there.”
Kell will not change much offensively, though.
The scheme will still run through David Mbadinga (1,233 rushing yards) to set up Corbin LaFrance and the rest of the Longhorns’ weapons in the spread.
“At this point, I think you know who you are,” Sloan said. “You hope there are a few things you haven’t had to show yet. Maybe they won’t be ready for them, but you have to do what you do best when you get to this point in the season.”
There is no secret what Starr’s Mill will do with the ball either.
In their Wing-T set, the Panthers have rushed for 269.6 yards per game this season behind Kalen Sims (1,194 yards) and Ben Bodne (893).
“They’re a traditional Wing-T team, and they’re really good at it,” Sloan said. “You’re going to see some tight formations, but they do a lot of different things out of it. They’ll throw a lot at you.”
For Kell, the preparation for stopping the increasingly rare offense began this week in practice.
Sloan said one of the most difficult aspects of playing against a Wing-T offense is simulating it in practice, but his scout team has picked it up well to prepare the Longhorns’ starters.
“The big thing is getting your scout team to understand what’s going on at some kind of game speed,” he said. “Our scout team has done a great job getting our defense prepared. That’s going to help us Friday.”