Both Plainview and Lubbock High have struggled to find success much longer than either program ever expected.
For the Bulldogs it’s been six years since their last playoff appearance in 2006. While it seems an eternity for the coaches who have been around that whole time, it’s nothing compared to the 37-year absence that has been draped around the Westerners like a wet blanket.
But when the biennial UIL realignment was announced in February, suddenly both programs were given a ray of hope with the formation of a six-team league in which four teams qualify for the postseason. Only two of the six teams in the new district made the playoffs in 2011.
There’s still five weeks to go, but the playoff push for both teams starts at 7 p.m. today at Lowrey Field, where the Bulldogs and Westerners clash, the victor earning a huge upper hand in the race for the postseason.
“We need this one,” LHS running back Brandon Hernandez said. “We need to start district off with some momentum and keep playing hard to the end. If we can get this win then we’ll know we’re on the right track toward the playoffs.”
Plainview (2-3, 0-0 in 4-4A) comes into the game already with a good head of steam, having won two straight before last week’s bye.
That included a win over previously unbeaten Caprock, followed by an avenging defeat of Dumas, which defeated Plainview by one point last season.
With two wins, the Bulldogs are at a point they’ve been in three of the last four seasons, but they have never been able to take the next step. Plainview hasn’t won more than two games in a season since its last playoff appearance.
Head coach Marcos Hinojos, however, is confident this year’s team has the makeup to make push in district play.
“We haven’t had that third win in this program in quite awhile, and we haven’t started district 1-0 in six years,” said Hinojos, a former assistant coach in his third season leading the Bulldogs. “Those are the things we’re fighting for that are important to us. Those are the things this program wants so badly. When you’ve been there before, it’s something that’s so addictive that you do whatever it takes to get back there. This team, hopefully, realizes that.”
Plainview is built around a strong running game with the tandem of seniors Daniel Miller and Shirmar Jennings. Miller is fourth in District 4-4A in rushing with 521 yards and seven touchdowns, while Jennings has rushed for 342 and a score. In between them is quarterback Wes McCutcheon, who has rushed for 455 yards and four touchdowns and thrown for 519 yards and seven TDs.
“We’ve gotten to where we’re playing four quarters,” said Hinojos, whose team dropped three straight to begin the year. “The first three games we’d play a quarter and a half or maybe two quarters of good football against teams that know how to play for four quarters. We’ve started games well and now we’re finishing games well.”
That was a point LHS coach Jason Strunk thought his team had reached after it’s win two weeks ago over Andrews. But turnovers and penalties killed the Westerners last week in a 20-point loss to Perryton.
Work this week in practice has been to shake those mistakes, because the next three weeks could decide Lubbock High’s fate. After Plainview, the Westerners go to Hereford next week then host San Angelo Lake View — three straight games against the teams with a combined 3-12 record it expects to battle for a playoff spot.
“This three-game stretch we’re heading into now probably is a season-defining stretch for us,” Strunk said. “We’re not just handing anything to Frenship and Monterey, but we’re playing teams these first three games that will define where we’re at, and we’ve got to find a way to crack through.”
The Westerners are driven by the passing game. Senior quarterback Layven Armendariz leads the district with 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns, and senior receiver Bam Jackson is the top pass-catcher in the league with 26 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Hernandez chips in 436 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
Like Plainview, it’s been six years since LHS won more than two games in a season, but it’s also been three years since it’s won more than one. Strunk is confident, however, this team is ready to turn the corner.
“I know it sounds crazy, but we’ve come so far that we’re at a point now where we’re beating ourselves. No one is crushing us,” Strunk said. “It is progress, as crazy as it sounds. We’re beating ourselves and we will learn from it.
“The bottom line is at 7 we’ll kick it off and then it will come down to 17-year-old kids making plays.”
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at Lubbock High
7 p.m., Lowrey Field, Lubbock
Radio: KKYN 106.9 FM (Plainview); KKAM 1340 AM (Lubbock)
Records: Plainview 2-3, 0-0 in 4-4A; Lubbock High 1-4, 0-0
Plainview vs. Lubbock High
Idle Last week lost to Perryton 48-28
377.2 Total offense 296.6
386.8 Total defense 302.4
27.0 Points scored 18.4
39.8 Points allowed 28.0
RB Daniel Miller Player to watch QB Layven Armendariz
(521 rushing yards, 7 TDs) (1,047 passing yards, 8 TDs)