Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson says, “It is what it is” in regard to his top-ranked Hawks playing District 8-4A Division II’s fourth-seeded Nevada Community Braves.
The Hawks (9-1) host Community (5-5) Friday night at Hawk Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
“Community was in the playoffs last year, and I believe it’s the first time in their school history to make back-to-back playoff appearances,” said Gibson. “They’ve had a ton of success with their program the last couple of years. They’ve scored a lot of points this season (35.5 points per game). I think it’s going to be a battle. It’ll be old school, smash-mouth football.”
Gibson figures that will be the case because the Braves love to run the football.
Pleasant Grove’s coach also knows Community’s district was swept by 7-4A last season, and he believes it could happen again this year.
“I think our district is better overall than theirs,” said Gibson. “Gilmer was our fourth-place team last year and beat an unbeaten Sunnyvale team. Sunnyvale is unbeaten again, and ranked among the top four teams in our class. They beat us this past summer in the 7-on-7 championship game.”
Four Community students killed in accident
There was tragedy in Community earlier in the week when four high school students were killed in an automobile accident. That’s going to be on the minds over everyone at Hawk Stadium Friday night. The host school is planning several things to make the Braves’ visit to Texarkana a more positive experience.
However, the Hawks have a different welcome planned on the football field, where Community will face one of Pleasant Grove’s most gifted teams in school history.
Senior quarterback Ben Harmon has thrown 80 touchdown passes during his three-year career for the Hawks out of their run-oriented wing-t formation. He might not add to that total against Community.
Gibson is hoping his team will execute its ground game behind Brigham Young University prospect Bruce Garrett, Logan Johnson and junior Nick Martin. The Hawks come into the game averaging 350 yards per game on the ground.
Community defenders face new challenge
The Hawks’ coach is also counting on his team’s unusually quick approach to the line of scrimmage will rattle Community’s young defenders.
“We may spend lots of time in the huddle, but once we break the huddle we’re going to snap the ball within three seconds,” said Gibson. “That only gives a high school player about a half-second to process where our strength is. Coaches usually have a plan for this, but you’re relying on 15-17 year old kids who might only see this offense once a year.
“We take pride in how disciplined our kids play. We’re trying to create an environment where we shoot for perfection. The kids will mess up sometimes, but we go over and over it until we get it right. It’s not unusual to see our kids sprint down to the lockerroom to be the fastest ones in Texas to dress out for practice.”
The deck appears stacked against Community.