ARGYLE — In February, when the University Interscholastic League released its realignment of Texas high schools, Argyle coach Todd Rodgers and Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor laughed at the possibility of facing off in the postseason for the third straight year.
Almost 10 months later, it’s no laughing matter.
Argyle and Gilmer will meet at 7 tonight at Mesquite’s Memorial Stadium in a Class 3A Division II regional semifinal. The winner will play the winner of tonight’s Celina-Henderson game that will be played across town at Hanby Stadium.
In 2010 and 2011, Argyle convincingly knocked Gilmer out of the playoffs. This year, both teams carry identical 11-1 records and won their respective districts — Argyle in District 10-3A and Gilmer in 16-3A.
“It’s a lot of pressure on us,” Argyle running back Nick Ralston said. “They have a lot of revenge in their hearts, and we have to really come out and play. They’re really going to be ready.”
Last season, Argyle topped the Buckeyes in a 51-35 shootout as the teams combined for 937 yards of offense.
“They’re going to be well-coached, they’re going to be very athletic, physical football players and there are really not many unknowns,” Rodgers said. “It just comes down to kids making plays.”
Against Atlanta last week, Gilmer slowed the Rabbits’ attack, holding Oklahoma State pledge Corion Webster to 59 rushing yards.
Gilmer senior Trey Washington has orally committed to SMU and junior linebacker Josh Walker has orally committed to Texas A&M.
“They are definitely the fastest team that we’ll have faced all season,” Argyle linebacker Sam Sizelove said. “We just have to get them stopped from the start, let our offense get out and do our work on them and make sure we give our offense the ball as much as possible.”
Argyle will be without one of its biggest playmakers tonight. Junior free safety Connor Wilson is out for the season because of a hip-related injury, Rodgers said. Wilson is second on the team in tackles and leads the Eagles with eight interceptions.
Wilson was injured in the fourth quarter of Argyle’s 42-14 win over Melissa last week and was rolled off the field in a stretcher.
To replace Wilson, Rodgers said he will rotate in two freshmen at the position. Gage McCook and Drew Estrada will split time in the secondary after starting on both offense and defense for the junior varsity team.
“We lost one of the team’s leading tacklers who allows the other 10 [players] to play freely and openly,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to ask everybody to do a little bit more to take the pressure off the kids we’re putting in there now.”
After a 2011 season that saw Argyle advance to the 3A Division II state championship game, the Eagles have to beat Gilmer once again.
“If we beat them, it will give our team a lot of confidence,” Ralston said. “It will motivate us and we’ll capitalize on our win, and the state will know that we’re the real deal.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com.