Nolan County teams look playoff worthy entering stretch runs

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

With Sweetwater getting an open date this week and the other three area teams still getting ready for the start of district play, now seems as good a time as any to assess their playoff prospects. They are, in a word, great — for all four squads.
Whether any of them can play for a state championship — as Sweetwater did this past year — remains to be seen. But all four seem headed to postseason play based on what they’ve done so far.
Sweetwater and Blackwell are both 6-0 and both are ranked 10th in the state in Class 4A and Six-Man Division II, respectively. Sweetwater has won its six games by an average of 37 points this season while Blackwell has won its six games by an average of 42. Sweetwater is averaging 53 points a game and Blackwell 57, but the Hornets also have two shutouts and three games allowing one score or less.
Sweetwater allowed just seven points against Lamesa and Snyder and only 10 to Wichita Falls — a Class 5A school. Snyder and Lamesa scored very late to avoid being shut out.
Roscoe — which will start 4-2A play on Friday by hosting Roby — is 3-2, while Highland is 4-2 — losing its two contests by a total of just eight points.
Sweetwater is the only Nolan County team who has started district. The Mustangs are 2-0, beating Pecos 63-30 and Lamesa 69-7 so far. Sweetwater is currently tied for the 2-4A, Division II lead with Seminole and the teams will meet at the Bowl on Oct. 27. Sweetwater will first travel to 0-2 Fort Stockton Oct. 20. The Mustangs’ fate will ride on their last three games when they entertain Seminole, go to Monahans and play host to Midland Greenwood. All three of those teams, as well as Sweetwater, are projected to be playoff teams as they were last year.
Seminole (5-1), under ex-Sweetwater coach Kent Jackson, surprised a lot of people by reaching the state quarterfinals last year for the first time in school history before losing 38-14 to Sweetwater. The Indians qualified as the No. 4 district team in 2016, but may be the toughest rival for the Mustangs this year. After a season-opening loss in OT to Lubbock High, Jackson’s team has defeated Idalou (36-10), Snyder (40-0) and Amarillo River Road (56-0) in non-district play and Monahans (30-13) and Greenwood (35-32) in District 2-4A, D-II action.
Monahans (3-2), the 2016 2-4A champion, lost 50-13 to 3A Wall in its opener as well as Seminole but also has close wins over Andrews (41-37) and Canyon (23-21) and a blowout win over Big Spring (45-20). The Loboes, who are 0-1 in district play, will go to Greenwood (1-1) on Friday while Seminole visits Pecos (1-1) and Fort Stockton goes to Lamesa.
Don’t expect Roscoe to be looking ahead on Friday when the Plowboys entertain Roby. The Lions are off to a 5-0 start — this coming after Roby was winless the past two seasons (0-20).
An opening loss would hurt Roscoe’s playoff chances after going three rounds deep under head coach Jake Freeman in 2015 and 2016.
The Plowboys, like Sweetwater, are in a very tough district that also includes Seagraves, which defeated Roscoe in last year’s regional semifinals; Hamlin, another regional semifinalist in 2016; plus Plains and Tahoka. Roscoe’s other district home games will be against Plains on Oct. 20 and Tahoka on Nov. 3. That means the Plowboys will have to play at Seagraves (3-2) on Oct. 27 and at Hamlin when they end the regular season Nov. 10. The top three teams are likely to be Roscoe, Seagraves and Hamlin, though not necessarily in that order.
In 7-1A D-II, a Blackwell-Highland showdown at the end of the regular season Nov. 9 looks like it will decide the two playoff seeds in the district. A year ago, Blackwell fell 52-6 to Highland at the end of the season and missed the play-offs, while Highland went as the No. 2 seed with Loraine No. 1. But the Bulldogs are just 3-3 and have lost to Paint Creek and Klondike the last two weeks after a 3-1 start.
Highland and Blackwell both won last week in their next-to-last tuneups for the start of district play as they defeated Moran and Veribest, respectively. Blackwell goes to winless (0-6) Santa Anna this Friday, while Highland will host Veribest, which is 4-2 despite losing 77-38 to Blackwell.
Highland and Blackwell start district on Oct. 27.