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Big Country Game of the Week: Anson, Winters open playoffs with Week 1 rematch

Stephen Garcia
Abilene Reporter-News

THE BEARD'S PICKS LAST WEEK: 24-7 (.774); 11-man: 14-3; Six-man: 10-4

OVERALL: 316-82 (.794); 11-man: 162-36; Six-man: 154-46

A lot has changed since Anson and Winters met in the season opener. Neither team has the same quarterback, and multiple others have moved positions as well.

It's a rematch, but don't expect the same script when the teams clash in Roscoe on Friday to open the Class 2A Division I playoffs.

The Tigers won the Aug. 28 meeting 34-22 on the road.

"It's quite a bit different," Winters coach Matt McCarty said. "We have about seven or eight defensive starters that are in different positions than what they were at the beginning of the season. Kind of the same thing offensively...

"I know it's kind of the same thing with Anson."

Anson (7-2) started the year with Isaac Brann at quarterback before the senior suffered a season-ending knee injury. Dylyn Pyle started a few games, but junior Blake Vinson took the reigns at the beginning of district play.

Pyle is at receiver, one of multiple speedy skill players. That includes Jacob Jenkins, Julian Garcia and Riley Pippin. 

"There's no team that we've faced that uses screens to the receivers like they do," McCarty said. "The quarterback that they have now can throw the ball really well."

The Tigers are 4-1 in Vinson's starts, finishing as district runner-up. Coach Chris Hagler said the team is peaking at the right time.

And that starts with defense, he said.

"They've found their identity," Hagler said. "They like to play defense. A lot of times, you don't know about the character of your team in certain areas, but you can tell a lot about the 2020 Tigers because they really like to play defense. They like to play physical, and that's exciting."

Anson's task will be the flexbone offense of Winters (4-6), which was idle Friday after Coleman forfeited due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Blizzards turned to Jon Kullen Busher at quarterback the past two games, moving former starter Alex Salas to running back. The combination connected for two touchdown passes in the team's last game against De Leon. Salas also ran for 67 yards and two scores.

"We're going to have to make sure we're responsible for each party in that triple-option look," Hagler said. "...You just can't let them loose at all, at any time, thinking 'well, this is going to happen,' because you'll guess wrong."

The Pick

Despite the unexpected Friday off, McCarty isn't concerned. After all, Winters had a bye on the last week of the regular season each of the past two years. In fact, McCarty said the team played one of its best games following its bye week this season — a 28-14 loss to No. 6 Cisco, which won the district.

So, don't expect that to be a determining factor.

It's playoff time, and that's when defensive play is amplified. I tend to trust Coach Hagler when he says his group likes to play on that side of the ball. I've seen it myself twice this season, and the front seven is stout.

That's always important facing a potent rushing attack like Winters. I think it'll be a tight game, but give me the Tigers with their quick receivers and stingy defense.

PICK: Anson 28, Winters 20

Stephen Garcia

If there were two Stephens

Ira (8-2) vs. Westbrook (9-1)

One good thing about six-man playoffs including only a district's top two teams is you get matchups like this early and often.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 3 in Class 1A Division I, snapped a 19-year playoff drought after a breakout season. Their lone loss was to No. 1 Sterling City. That put Westbrook as a potent second seed.

Ira is no slouch, though. The Bulldogs replaced a sizable senior class but caught fire to win their last six. Ira handed Hermleigh its only loss in the process.

It will be interesting to see how experience plays a factor. Ira has a proud playoff tradition, which should help with nerves.

PICK: Westbrook 43, Ira 38

Keep your eyes on:

Wichita Falls City View (6-4) vs. Comanche (8-2); PICK: City View by 6

Cross Plains (8-2) vs. Petrolia (6-3); PICK: Cross Plains by 9

May (9-1) vs. Irion County (9-1); PICK: May by 18

Big Country power rankings

Class 3A/4A

1. Jim Ned (8-1); Last week: No. 1—W, 42-6 vs. Clyde

2. Eastland (7-3); Last week: No. 2—W, 65-19 vs. Dublin

3. Ballinger (9-1); Last week: No. 3—W, 42-0 at Sonora

4. Sweetwater (7-1); Last week: No. 4—Idle

5. Bangs (8-1); Last week: No. 5—W, 76-23 vs. Brady

Class 2A

1. Hamlin (9-0); Last week: No. 1—W, 22-0 at Lockney

2. Cisco (7-3); Last week: No. 4—W, 48-6 at San Saba

3. Albany (8-1); Last week: No. 2—Idle

4. Hawley (8-2); Last week: No. 3—W, 14-8 vs. Forsan

5. Anson (7-2); Last week: No. 5—W, 55-14 vs. Colorado City

Class 1A

1. Westbrook (9-1); Last week: No. 1—W, 46-0 vs. Bronte

2. May (9-1); Last week: No. 2—W, 61-6 vs. Lingleville

3. Jayton (9-1); Last week: No. 3—W, 67-50 vs. Matador Motley County

4. Strawn (8-2); Last week: No. 4—W, 90-40 vs. Gordon

5. Knox City (6-2); Last week: No. 5—Idle

The Beard's picks

Thursday:

CLASS 3A

BROCK vs. Early

CANADIAN vs. Coahoma

BANGS vs. Tornillo

EASTLAND vs. Callisburg

CLASS 2A

HAWLEY vs. Goldthwaite

CISCO vs. Stamford

HAMLIN vs. Olney

QUANAH vs. Roscoe

ALBANY vs. Chico

CLASS 1A

STERLING CITY vs. Hermleigh

BALMORHEA vs. Loraine

JAYTON vs. Chillicothe

STRAWN vs. Walnut Springs

BROOKESMITH vs. Cherokee

Friday:

CLASS 4A

EL PASO RIVERSIDE vs. Big Spring

Brownwood at KENNEDALE

STEPHENVILLE vs. Fort Worth Benbrook

Levelland at SWEETWATER

CLASS 3A

PILOT POINT vs. Clyde

JIM NED vs. Paradise

CLASS 1A

KNOX CITY vs. O'Donnell

WATER VALLEY vs. Baird

Benjamin vs. MATADOR MOTLEY COUNTY

BLACKWELL vs. Sierra Blanca

THROCKMORTON vs. Trinidad

Morgan vs. GORDON

FANNINDEL vs. Lueders-Avoca

RICHLAND SPRINGS vs. Blanket