The playing field is always a little bit more level, no matter the record, for Aubrey and Pilot Point when they face each other for the Battle of 377 this Friday night.
“It’s the cliché — you’ve got two teams that are seven miles apart and all the players know each other and know each other well. They’ve played each other since PPYSA and you have to kind of throw the records out,” Pilot Point head coach Rob Best said in an interview.
This year’s rivalry is more closely related to a David and Goliath story, however, as the 2-0 Bearcats are traveling to face an 0-2 Aubrey team that has been struggling to put together a cohesive offense thus far in the season.
Pilot Point was ranked 13th in the state in 3A heading into the beginning of the season. Pottsboro, also in the Bearcats’ district, was ranked 7th and defeated the Chaparrals 45-0 in their season opener.
There’s something about a rivalry, however, that keeps teams on their toes. Aubrey head coach Keith Ivy said it starts with focusing on the basics for the Chaparrals.
“For one, we’ve got to take care of ourselves. We obviously always worry about our opponents and game plan for them and do that, but we’ve got to do better ourselves and take care of ourselves. We’ve got to hold on to the football,” he said in an interview.
The Chaparrals are moving into a spread offense after running a wing-T formation for the majority of 2014. Ivy is hoping their more athletic receiving corps will be able to spread out their attack more than in past years.
It’s key, however, that the Aubrey offense keep the Pilot Point offense off the field if they have any hopes of staying in the ball game.
“We’ve got to sustain some drives and keep their athletes off the field offensively, with [DaCoven] Bailey and some of the kids that they have over there,” Ivy said. “They’re so talented that to negate that and to slow it down even, we have to try to control the ball and keep them off the field.”
The Bearcats’ DaCoven Bailey has rushed for 328 yards in the first two games of the season, and has caught eight passes for 118 yards as well. He’s the x-factor in the Pilot Point offense, as well as the key focus for Aubrey’s defense on Friday night.
As for the Chaparrals, they’ve been spreading out their rushing responsibilities between Pablo Vera, Jon Delbosque and Taner Kemmerer. They have a combined 226 yards on the season thus far.
Both teams are relying on the backup quarterback to lead their respective squads, after Pilot Point’s Hunter Balderas and Aubrey’s Grayson Grisso each broke their collar bone during preseason scrimmages.
Quincy Kemp is taking the helm for the Bearcats and Taylor Swarbrick is leading the Chaparrals.
Sophomore Swarbrick is 21 for 37 (56.8 percent) on completions over two games for 149 yards, has thrown one touchdown and three interceptions. He has rushed seven times for 18 yards.
Kemp, also a sophomore, has completed 34 of 44 passes (77.3 percent) for 339 yards and five touchdowns and tossed one interception in Friday’s game against Anna. He has rushed 28 times for 72 yards.
Best said the Bearcats have earned a reputation as a force to be reckoned with, and teams take note of that during preparations. The Bearcats have won 30 of 35 games since 1976. The Chaparrals have won four times and the teams have tied once, in 1986.
“Pilot Point brings out the best in everybody. We have somewhat of a target on our back, because of our historical success,” Best said. “Pilot Point has been highly successful for a very long time, and so I think teams recognize that and they prepare.”
Balderas and Grisso will be watching from the sidelines for Friday’s matchup and both coaches said the best they can hope for is for their quarterbacks to return when district play begins in several weeks.
The Chaparrals know they have a mountain to climb on Friday, and Ivy said they’ll have to do better if they are going to compete against the Bearcats.
“Pilot Point is an awfully good team. They’re athletic as always and present a lot of problems for you on both sides of the ball due to their speed and athleticism,” Ivy said.
It doesn’t mean that the Battle of 377 can’t make for an interesting string of events, no matter how much of an underdog one team may be. Best said he expects to see Aubrey’s best when they step out on the field just a few miles down the road.
“The closeness of Aubrey and Pilot Point adds to that. It’s in the rivalry category and I think their players will prepare at a very high level,” Best said. “Coach Ivy will be ready to go and hopefully we’ll be ready to go to. I think you’ll see the best from both teams and that always makes for an interesting matchup.”