The Athens Review
Malakoff Tigers (4-1, 1-0) at Eustace Bulldogs (2-3, 1-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday, Bulldog Stadium
(Malakoff leads series, 20-12)
The University Interscholastic League’s biennial realignment is always one of the most anticipated events for high school coaches and athletes.
But in 2010, there was a little extra buzz around the Henderson County area. Eustace High School was preparing for a drop to Class 2A, and it seemed like common sense the Bulldogs would be paired in a district with another nearby school, Malakoff.
Instead, Malakoff went south, Eustace went north and the 13 miles between the two campuses grew two years wide.
The UIL finally got it right during its 2012 realignment, bringing the schools together in District 7-2A. They meet Friday night at Bulldog Stadium, with the winner taking a huge step toward making the playoffs.
It will be the first meeting between the teams since 2007, when the Bulldogs claimed a 39-0 win over the Tigers. Eustace has won seven of the last 10 meetings.
The 33rd meeting could be a doozy.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Tigers and Bulldogs were working through injuries to key players. Eustace lost running back Tyler Folsom — a 1,600-yard rusher last year — during the season opener against Canton. He missed two games.
Malakoff, meanwhile, has watched quarterback Tate Taylor, running back Damontes Dowell, defensive lineman Jesse Ochoa and linebacker/kicker Cesar Garcia miss time due to injury.
Most have returned, with Taylor and Dowell turning in big performances during last week’s 40-12 win over Grand Saline in the district opener. Dowell, who had missed three games, ran for 150 yards and four touchdowns, while the hard-charging Taylor threw a touchdown to Stephan Wolfe.
Passing the ball is something the Bulldogs don’t do often.
Eustace — which threw 22 passes all of last season — has already put the ball in the air 17 times through five games this year. But the Bulldogs seem determined to gain almost all of their yards on the ground. They average 392.4 rushing yards per game and have had more than 500 yards on the ground in two games.
Five Eustace backs have recorded 100-yard games — Folsom, Jalen Seahorn, Jesus Barcenas, Adam Carson and Steven Stine. Seahorn, a transfer from Galena Park North Shore who has a 200-yard game to his credit already, leads the team with 465 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
Barcenas is right behind Seahorn with 445 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Folsom, who went for 110 yards and two scores in last week’s 45-0 win over Kemp, has found the end zone a total of four times.