Mustangs take on fierce rival to start 4-3A action

On Friday, the real season begins for Sweetwater. After three weeks of play-ing non-district games on the road and a week off to let some injuries heal and get in some extra practice, the Mustangs are home for their District 4-3A opener.And what better way to kick off district play than to face your biggest rival?This year’s Sweetwater vs. Snyder matchup could be the most competitive in awhile as both teams enter the game with 2-3 records. In addition, this will be the first time the head coaches — Sweetwater’s Shane Mobley and Snyder’s Aubrey Sims — have opposed each other during the rivalry.It will be the 63rd time the teams have met since 1925, and Sweetwater has a 36-25-1 advantage (see the all-time results in Thursday's Sports page). But Snyder has won the last three games by an average score of 50-9. However, another blowout seems unlikely based on how the teams fared in non-district.After starting 0-3, Snyder has won its last two games, edging both Lubbock Esta-cado 25-22 and San Angelo Lake View 20-14.The Tigers’ biggest im-provement in recent weeks has come on defense. Snyder surrendered 154 points in losing to Amarillo Caprock (57-70), Lubbock Cooper (21-35) and Brownwood (14-49) to begin the year.Sweetwater has lost two straight after a 2-1 start, but the losses came against a very good Class 2A team (Wall) and an always-tough Brownwood squad.For Snyder, Mobley ex-pects his team’s best effort — and also Snyder’s — on Friday. “I think everybody on both teams will play above their ability just bec-ause it’s such a rivalry,” he said on Wednesday. “But we have one goal. If we beat Snyder, it’s just one game that we need to win. Winning this one is big.”Sweetwater and Snyder, along with 2-3 Monahans, are the only district teams with losing records so far. No. 2-ranked Wylie and Big Spring are 5-0 and will face each other on Friday in Big Spring, while 4-1 Midland Greenwood hosts Monahans in the other matchup.Monahans was the only team in the district to play last week as the Loboes lost to Canyon 24-14.It’s been a tough year in-jury-wise for the Mustangs, but a couple of the injured players, linebacker Ty Davis and lineman Chase Saund-ers, are healthy again. Another lineman, J.D. Davis — older brother of Ty — is also expected to see limited action against Snyder.Mobley also said Mar-quees Jenkins, Sweetwater’s leading rusher, would play after sustaining a high-ankle sprain against Brownwood two weeks ago. Snyder has two danger-ous runners in quarterback Brandon Davis (728 yards) and D’Vincent Allison (592), who has really come on during the team’s surge. Allison had 223 yards against Esta-cado and followed that with 167 yards vs. Lake View, in-cluding the game-winning touchdown on a 4-yard run with 1:27 to play.Davis, who was a starter at running back last year, has also completed 43 of 83 passes for 534 yards and six touchdowns.Sweetwater hasn’t run as much as Snyder but has still been effective as both Jen-kins and Ryan Linebaugh, the team’s top two rushers, average over seven yards per carry. The Mustangs have also had near-perfect offensive balance so far, averaging 183 yards rushing and 179 yards through the air. Sweetwater had just 225 total yards vs. Brownwood after getting over 300 in each of its first four games, but fared much better in the second half as the Mustangs had 170 yards in the final two periods. Jenkins had 38 yards on six rushes before getting hurt, and Sweetwa-ter’s passing game was also solid against the Lions.Sophomore quarterback Kaegan Jeffrey, the team’s No. 3 rusher, has also been very effective throwing the ball. He has completed 54 of 101 passes for 712 yards and five TDs with only two picked off. Against Brown-wood, he threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Kaleb Hoover in the fourth quarter, and finished 14-of-29 for 160 yards and no interceptions. Bray Amos (23 catches, 360 yards, three touchdowns) and Hoover (15, 232, 2) have been Sweetwater’s top receivers this season.