Sweetwater wraps up its season Friday when it hosts Brownwood at Mustang Bowl. Or does it? Coach Craig Slaughter sure hopes that’s not the case.
Because for the first time in Slaughter’s three-year tenure, his team is playing for a trip to the playoffs.
Sweetwater (4-5 season, 1-2 district) can also knock Brownwood (5-3, 1-1) com-pletely out of the playoff picture with a win, assuming Wylie also wins Friday over Snyder. The Bulldogs and Tigers are both 2-0 in District 5-3A.
And if Sweetwater defeats Brownwood by 10 or more points Friday, the Mustangs will end a three-year post-season drought. If they win by less than 10, they can still make it to the playoffs if Wylie should win one of its last two games. Wylie plays Brownwood a week from Friday after facing Snyder, where the winner will get a leg up on the 5-3A crown.
“We need a win. Our fate is in our hands,” Slaughter said, adding that there will be no other option. “Any (playoff) scenario starts with us winning Friday.”
If that happens, Sweet-water will spend next week thinking about who it might be facing in the playoffs.
“This game has so much meaning. We told the kids we’ll either be practicing football or we’re hanging it up for the season,” said Slaughter. “The kids have worked hard and they de-serve it. We don’t care who we play, we just want to play some playoff football.”
If Sweetwater makes it, the Mustangs would face a team from District 6-3A in the playoffs. Before coming here in 2009, Slaughter led Clyde’s ‘08 team to an 11-2 record and a district title.Sweetwater would also get an extra week to prepare for a possible playoff game in case everything falls right for the Mustangs.
Slaughter, however, said Sweetwater will need a “monster effort” to defeat Brownwood on Friday, and it will have to come with the status of some key players in question due to injuries.
But for those who can play, Slaughter said, nothing will be held back. “It’s all hands on deck,” he said.
While Sweetwater has the final district bye next week, Brownwood received a bye last week after losing 28-14 to Snyder. The Lions will make the playoffs by beating Sweetwater, but a loss could knock them out should Wylie beat Snyder.
Brownwood will be rela-tively healthy for Friday’s game, Slaughter said. He noted that last week’s bye “came at a great time for them, just like it will for us if we make the playoffs.”
Brownwood running back Stehl Ratliff was held to just 68 yards by Snyder, but he has still gained 718 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns, so slowing him down will be a key for Sweetwater.
The Brownwood offense is guided by quarterback Mitch Stephens, the team’s No. 2 rusher with 490 yards. Stephens also has 637 yards passing. Top receivers are Kevin Vaccaro (13-160) and Cooper Howey (11-241).