Gatesville hadn’t won a playoff game since 2001. It hadn’t gone undefeated in the regular season since it won the Class 3A state championship in 2000.
Both of those streaks are broken.
The Hornets defeated Alvarado 48-28 Nov. 16 to collect the school’s first playoff victory since 2001, when it defeated Taylor 21-7.
In order to do that, the Hornets scored 20 straight points to end the game and recovered two onside kicks in the fourth quarter, including one it returned for a touchdown.
Seemingly. Gatesville (11-0) can do no wrong.
That karma is put to the test again today when the Hornets travel to Weatherford to take on Vernon (9-2) in the Division II-3A area round at Kangaroo Stadium at 2 p.m.
“I think this is a very determined team and they have invested a lot,” said Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper.
“With the onside kick, they say it is better to be lucky than good, but (Sebastian Corrales) is good at it too. We work every week as a unit (on that). The kids prepare themselves not just over the course of a week, but over the course of six years.
“Winning builds confidence and confidence leads to wins. It is a great Catch-22.”
Gatesville’s offensive production against Vernon, as always, relies on quarterback Cole Edmiston.
The senior has passed for 2,277 yards and 24 touchdowns already this season and has run for 847 yards and 16 touchdowns. But, if teams just try to key on Edmiston, the Hornets unlock their other weapon, running back Jake Kee.
The junior has run for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Edmiston’s main target is Tyler Janes (36 receptions, 777 yards), but has also gotten production from Danny Byrd (34 receptions, 337 yards) and Matthew Wallace (25 receptions, 353 yards).
“We have to take care of the ball. That has been a big part of our success and when you take care of the football you can maintain drives.
“We also want to get out to an early lead and put them behind the eight-ball.”
But, the offensive fireworks the Hornets used to score 48 points on Alvarado is not what has fueled their season.
That has been the defense. Gatesville is allowing less than 300 total yards per game — 174.8 on the ground and 115 in the air.
However, Vernon is a rush-heavy offense capable of testing Gatesville’s run-defense. Headlined by junior Robert Thomas (1,005 yards and 14 touchdowns), the Lions have four runners with at least 495 rushing yards this season, and three of those have posted at least 10 touchdowns.
In last week’s 55-28 bi-district victory against Springtown, however, Vernon displayed balance as senior quarterback Brandon Urquizo completed seven of eight passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Orlando Haymon (178 rushing yards and three touchdowns) paced the Lions’ ground game to 289 yards.
Haymon is one third of a trio of backs for the Lions, including Robert Harris, who leads Vernon with 1,005 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season. Danny Valverde is the third member of the group. Valverde has run for 788 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“They have very good skill-type guys and we have to be able to contain them and not have the big break away play,” Cooper said. “We need to contain them at the line of scrimmage and make them drive for large chunks of yards.”