MAY — The May Tigers scratched, clawed and fought their way into the second round, where they will face a familiar face in a new place.
The District 14 champion Tigers (8-3) will clash with the District 16 champion Leakey Eagles (10-1), led by former Zephyr head coach Shannon Williams, at 7 p.m. Friday in Fredericksburg in Class A Division I Region IV semifinal playoff action.
“This will be the third straight year we’ve met Coach Williams’ team in the second round of the playoffs,” said May 15th-year head coach Craig Steele. “Our kids are pretty familiar with his offensive set and defensive philosophy, but it’s a whole different set of kids from the ones we played in Zephyr the last couple of years. They’re led by Hunter Williams, Shannon’s son, and he’s just a sophomore but he’s having a fantastic year. Being familiar with Hunter a little will help us, but he’s not the same player he was as a freshman last year. Coach Williams may actually be at more of an advantage knowing our kids so well.”
Leakey knocked off two-time reigning state finalist Jonesboro, 66-30, in the opening round of the playoffs last week. The Eagles have won nine straight since falling to Crowell, 34-20, in Week 2.
The Eagles average 52 points and 376 yards — with 300 coming on the ground — per game, while giving up 17 points on average.
Williams has rushed for 1,920 yards and 33 touchdowns while Trace Lackey has contributed 1,000 yards and 21 scores on the ground. Williams has also thrown for a team-best 620 yards and six touchdowns, as leading receivers include Cody Wooten (11-269, 4 TDs) and Michael Taylor-Pannell (10-184, 4 TDs).
“They appear to be a pretty fast team, pretty athletic and with that athleticism and speed they’re actually pretty good-sized kids, too,” Steele said. “They’ll present a challenge to us. We’re going to have to contain Hunter Williams, that’s the key to game for us. We have to make him throw the ball and not let him run all over us, which is easier said than done.”
May is coming off a marathon 94-88 bi-district victory over Robert Lee, a game in which the Tigers pulled off the victory despite missing three starters. The injury situation could be improved for May against Leakey.
“It’d be nice if we had everybody healthy, but it’s that time of year and we’re pretty beat up,” Steele said. “Daniel (Salinas) is a wild card, we don’t really know. It’ll probably be a game time decision. He has a pretty good sprained ankle, but unfortunately it’s not broken like we originally thought. Chris Flenniken wasn’t able to play as much as we hoped with his arm, we’re just hopeful with more reps this week he’ll get more comfortable with the cast and learn how to use it more effectively. It’s just hard for him to be able to do the things he’s done earlier in the year, and it’s frustrating for him. Isidro Salinas should be able to play this week. He had a broken arm and he had an ankle issue, but with another week I think he’ll be much better off.”
In the win over Robert Lee, May overcame three turnovers and finished with 660 yards of total offense — 367 passing and 293 rushing. Daniel Salinas rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with his injury, Rory Bustamante churned out 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Blake Harrell finished with 36 yards and two scores.
Through the air, Bustamante connected on 8 of 13 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns, while Harrell was 6 of 8 for 149 yards and three scores. Salinas also completed a 14-yard toss.
Gage Keckler led May with six catches for 182 yards and four scores, Tyler Wheeler grabbed two touchdown receptions totaling 43 yards, Bustamante caught three passes for 86 yards and a score, Jaden Baker added two receptions for 41 yards and Harrell caught a 14-yard pass.
“From the offensive standpoint we’re a lot more diversified,” Steele said. “We originally had Gage in the backfield at the start of the year, we moved him to the line and he’s really helped our passing game, and Tyler Wheeler’s stepped up in the area, too.
“We moved Blake up from the JV about midseason and it’s helped our passing game because we have multiple players who can throw it from multiple positions. That’s helped us a lot, and helped keep people honest to our run game.”
On the flip side of the ball, the Tigers surrendered 631 yards, including 507 through the air, but forced four turnovers. However, May will face a completely different offense this week.
“We played some kids last week that hadn’t play a lot because of Robert Lee’s overall athleticism, but Leakey can line up in tight and run it down our throat,” Steele said. “We’ll have a different group of kids at certain positions playing this week. The only good thing about the injuries we’ve had this year is we’ve been able to develop some depth because we had to.”
According to sixmanfootball.com, May is a 36-point underdog.
Friday’s winner will face either Gorman (7-4) or Nueces Canyon (8-2) in the Class A Division I Region IV championship game next weekend.