By TONY EIERDAM
With just four District 6-3A games remaining coming into today’s contest at Lake Worth, the Mineral Wells Rams desperately need a win to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The top four teams in each district in Class 3A qualify for the state playoffs.
The Rams (0-6, 0-1) and Bullfrogs (4-2, 1-0) will kick off at 7:30 p.m. today at Kittrell Stadium on the campus of Lake Worth High School.
The Rams are coming off a 24-21 loss to Castleberry last week in the district opener, while the Bullfrogs defeated Fort Worth Diamond Hill last week, 60-7.
Despite the two teams coming into the contest under different circumstances, Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said last week needs to be forgotten, by both clubs.
It’s over,” Lawrence said. “Win or lose, in district you have to move on to the next opponent. Some teams treat it differently.
“Some teams can’t come back the next week after a big win – they keep hanging on to that – while others have trouble rebounding after a loss.
“We have had good workouts all week, and our kids seemed to have bounced back.”
The Rams downfall in last year’s 39-14 loss to Lake Worth was a failure to stop the Bullfrogs’ rushing attack. Returning is the leading rusher for Lake Worth in last year’s game, Tim Woods, who gained 111 yards against the Rams last year and has 179 yards on 25 carries this season.
The Bullfrogs are led in rushing by quarterback Kelton Versey who has rushed for 588 yards on 114 totes.
“We had a hard time stopping the run against Lake Worth last year,” Lawrence said. “They had success with the zone read (quarterback option), and Lake Worth has a tough offense to defend.
“Hopefully we have made the right adjustments to take care of it (today). Lake Worth is still running the same packages they did last year.”
The Bullfrogs will see a different Rams defense this season as compared to last year. But Lawrence said no matter what defense a team runs, it still has to tackle consistently to be successful.
“The bottom line for our defense is we will have to tackle better than we have, and we have to get off the field,” he said. “We switched to a 4-2-5 defense because of what happened against them last year.
“This is a game we need to win, and you could call it a ‘must win’ situation. Hopefully, with the work we have done and the schemes we have come up with will work.”
Offensively, the Rams are hoping junior quarterback Caleb Acosta turns in another strong performance. Last week against Castleberry, Acosta completed 12 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Caleb did a good job in the passing game last week,” Lawrence said. “That TD pass he threw to Chris Rapp was an absolute bullet.
“Hopefully, Caleb will build off of last week’s performance and our passing game will continue to improve.”
The Rams had a statistical setback in their normally strong running game last week – gaining just 60 yards on 20 carries – but part of that was due to the fact that Acosta was hot and the receivers were getting open.
Lawrence feels the running game will need to get back to how well it performed in the last three non-district games in order to beat the Bullfrogs.
“Without a doubt our passing game was helped by our recent success in the running game,” Lawrence said. “Of course it all starts up front with (offensive linemen) Enrique Gamboa, Jacob Pilkington, Aaron Hite, Trent King and Jacob Boyd, and those guys are playing well. Also doing a great job blocking are our tight ends and slot backs McCain Mason, Ty Tarver and Patrick Folkner.
“We have to continue to finish drives, and we still need to eliminate turnovers.”
For the second time this season the Rams will play on a grass surface, but Kittrell Stadium is known for having the smoothest, tightest surface in the Metroplex.
“That field is always in good shape and the recent rain won’t affect it,” Lawrence said. “I expect it to be in really good shape again this year.”
Sometimes coaches can sound cliche’ when addressing the importance of special teams play.
But special teams proved not only a factor last week, but was also a highlight on both sides of the ball.
The Rams stayed in the game thanks to a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by DaShawn Hicks, and Castleberry won the game on a late field goal.
And even after the field goal, Hicks almost ran another kickoff back on the ensuing kickoff.
Lawrence feels special teams could once again play a large role in the outcome of the contest.
“The way I would prepare for DaShawn is easy – I just wouldn’t kick the ball to him,” Lawrence chuckled.”But seriously, we work hard on special teams, and it’s a huge part of the game.
“Sometimes special teams go absolutely unnoticed, and at other times when you get a bad snap, miss a field goal or they run a punt back like Hirschi did against us and special teams stick out. Or like we saw last week.
“Except for the Hirschi game, we have been solid in special teams. I have been real proud of those kids, and hopefully we will continue to do well in those areas.”