Mustangs go to Wylie to start district

The non-district portion of the schedule is finally over. On Friday, the serious part begins as Sweetwater and Wylie match identical 3-3 records at 7:30 p.m. at Wylie — with the hope of going 1-0 in District 5-3A and taking an important step toward a playoff berth.For Sweetwater, this will also be a chance to take a step toward re-establishing itself as a district contender for the first time in three years. The Mustangs have just one district win since 2008. So a victory, especially over a perennially-tough Wylie squad, would be huge for the program.Coach Craig Slaughter’s team also is hoping to get its 2011 season back on track. After a 3-1 start in which the defense surrendered just 25 points, the Mustangs have given up 76 the past two weeks while losing to Midland Greenwood and Midland Christian.However, Slaughter said he’s seen much more enthusiasm and a higher level of intensity from his players in practice this week as the team gets ready for Wylie. “We’ve had our best practices of the year. I definitely like how we’re approaching this game,” he said. “The practices have been intense. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t go out and play the same way. This game means a ton for our program. “We’re in a small district. You only get four opportunities and you better make them count. We need to get off to a good start and play with lots of emotion.”Wylie has also been up- and-down this season, but the Bulldogs have played a tougher non-district schedule than Sweetwater. Coach Hugh Sandifer’s squad has wins over Rockdale (35-14), Graham (21-7) and Lubbock Estacado (30-29), the latter thanks to an 80-yard score on a hook-and-ladder play with less than two minutes to play that rallied Wylie from a 29-24 deficit against the Matadors.However, the Bulldogs had a rare lopsided defeat (42-14) in Week 1 to an exceptionally good Stephenville team currently ranked No. 10 in Class 4A, and also lost to 4A Waco High (31-15) and 3A Lucas Lovejoy (21-17) before rebounding this past week to defeat 3A Estacado.Wylie rallied past Sweetwater, 21-10, in last year’s 5-3A opener after the Mustangs had jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.Slaughter said the Bulldogs have shown a big-play ability throughout the first half of the year. Last week’s winning touchdown began as a 9-yard hitch pass from QB Matt McLeod to Richard Bloomer, who then completed the 80-yard play by shoveling it to a racing Garrett Martin to give Wylie an exciting last-minute win.There were few positives for Sweetwater against Midland Christian, but the Mustangs did score 21 fourth-quarter points as QB Taylor Jones had two TD runs and Ryan Linebaugh one. Kicker Tadeo Canon-Masjoan hit all three PAT attempts.Wylie made the playoffs despite a 5-7 record a year ago, but a Sweetwater win Friday would give the Mustangs the early edge. Slaughter knows it will be a war for each of the next four weeks. “There’s going to be some battles in the district this year,” he said. “It will be interesting to watch.”