ANNA – The Anna Coyotes knew they faced a supreme challenge this season with three of the state’s Top 10 Class 4A teams residing in their new district. After a solid 4-1 start, including a district win, Anna has seen that reality play out in recent weeks with shutout losses to highly-ranked Paris and Melissa. With their bye week now in the rearview mirror, the Coyotes find themselves needing two wins in their final three games to make the playoffs. And that slate includes always tough Celina on Friday at Anna ISD Stadium, a road trip to No. 2 Argyle and the district finale versus currently winless Sanger at home.
Before a bye week practice on Oct. 18, Anna head coach Jason Heath discussed his team’s situation. “We knew going in this was going to be a tough stretch for us,” he said. “I think our kids’ effort is there. The execution hasn’t been there. That’s what we’re focusing on - being better at executing. Offensively, we haven’t been able to put points on the board. You go back and watch the game film, it’s just one guy here and there not getting a block. The big thing is getting behind the chains. The defenses we’re facing in Paris and Melissa, Argyle and Celina, those are very good defensive teams and we can’t get behind the chains with penalties or losses on plays.”
Heath added, “We have kids that have been injured and kids that have had to miss for this and that. It comes down to the next guy being ready to go. We can’t sit here and make excuses. We’ve got to be able to play and perform.”
How are the Coyotes responding to the recent setbacks?
“I think, practice-wise, everything’s been good,” Heath said. “We have the 24-hour rule around here. … We’re going to forget about it whether it’s a win or a loss and move on and start preparing for out next opponent.
“The bye week falling when it did, it gives us a chance to kind of get healthy in certain areas. But it also gives us time to go back and reteach some things that we haven’t necessarily had practice time to work on.”
Anna’s nicked-up running back corps, especially, has benefitted from the bye. “I feel like we’ll be back to where we were at the start of the season, as far as running back-wise,” Heath said. “It’s still a day-to-day process for some of them — especially with the ones where you’re dealing with ankles and stuff like that. It can just take one wrong move here or there and you kind of re-aggravate it. We’re being cautious with that but, health-wise, we’ve been pretty lucky this season.”
Junior Dorian Allen, who’s seen limited action of late due to injury, leads Anna rushers with 459 yards on 58 attempts — nearly eight yards per carry - with five touchdowns. Next is senior Warren Mason with 344 yards and two TDs on 62 carries. Senior quarterback Junior Rodriguez has connected on 58 percent of his passes (44 of 76) for 538 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions. He’s also rushed for 211 yards and three TDs. Senior wideout Emmonte Davis has 17 catches for a team-high 314 yards and he’s found the end zone six times. Senior Noah Palshaw has a team-high 21 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, junior defensive back Abner Dubar is the Coyotes’ top tackler with 53 stops, including 34 solos and three for a loss. Allen and Jacob Odom have an interception apiece.
“We’ve had a bad couple of games but we just need to bounce back,” senior offensive tackle Brandon Bridges said. “We came into the bye week looking to make something out of it because we really needed it to work on all the things we need to do, all the little things. This week’s emphasis has been on being physical. If we’re not physical, we’re not going to get anywhere. … Making the playoffs is always a big goal for us. We want to get more than that, but if you make the playoffs anything can happen.”
Added junior defensive tackle Rasheed Readus, “Our mindset now is probably, like, angry – but we’re looking to improve. This bye week is a great way for us to improve. We’re conditioning every day to make sure we don’t get tired for this next game. This next game [versus Celina] is a big one to make sure we get into the playoffs.”
“I think this week we’re more locked in, we’re ready to go,” senior linebacker Trey Cook said. “The coaches have been talking to us all week about how this is our playoff game. This is big-time, this is going to set the tone. So we’re all focused, we’re ready to go and we’re excited.”
Anna’s match with the Bobcats (4-3, 2-2) should indeed be one of high energy and determination as both teams battle for that fourth and final playoff spot. Besides putting some points on the board, the Coyotes will have to find a way to corral strong-as-an-ox Celina running back Logan Point who roamed for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the Bobcats’ 7-point loss to Melissa on Oct. 19.
“It’s three games,” Heath said. “You win two of them, you put yourselves in a position to be in the playoffs. Nothing is going to be bigger than this game we have with Celina. We know they’re a tough team with a lot of tradition there. If you can’t get up for these next three weeks you probably shouldn’t be out here.”
Anna at the bye
Record 4-3, 1-2 district
Total points 133 / 19 per game
Opp. total points 192 / 27.4 per game
Rushing Yards 1,288
Opp. Rushing Yards 1,476
Passing Yards 538
Opp. Passing Yards 768
Total Yards 1,826
Opp. Total Yards 2,244
Rushing TDs 10
Passing TDs 7