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Bobcats enter district on high

By TYLER CLIFTON tclifton@marshallnewsmessenger.com
Oct. 9, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Hallsville has won four of its first five games for the fourth time in the seven-plus seasons of the David Plunk regime and fifth time since 2004, but the end results have been mixed ones, and the Bobcats hope their most recent surge leads to a playoff berth such as Plunk's first two teams of 2005 and 2006 and not their 5-5 mark of 2008.

The Bobcats have been a much different team with four straight wins since their 35-18 season-opening loss at former district rival Whitehouse. They have two convincing wins against Van and Lindale and a pair of close victories at 2010 Class 3A state champion Henderson (21-20) and against Lindale (31-28).

Most teams wouldn't want a bye week after such a string of success, but Plunk believes otherwise.

"We're finding ways to win, and we hope to continue taking the same attitude to the field with us this week," Plunk said. "It was a good time to catch our breath, and we have a few kids who are coming back from some minor injuries. It was nice to get our legs underneath us heading into the start of district."

Hallsville travels to rival Marshall on Friday night attempting to go 5-1 for the first time under Plunk. The Bobcats got over the hump of having won only once in the game's brief 12-season history last year and ended a seven-game losing streak in the series. They now travel to a venue where they've never won, as they're 0-6 all-time at Maverick Stadium and must clear the hurdle of becoming the first team to do so.

It's a far different story than 2011, when Hallsville limped into its encounter with the Mavericks at Bobcat Stadium, took an early 21-0 lead and prevented overtime with a game-winning field goal to hold on for the win after Marshall chipped away at its deficit to tie the game and just miss forcing overtime.

This will also be one of the rare occasions if not the first time they will ever have entered this game favored to win, but Plunk doesn't want to create anymore mental barriers for his team in a rivalry game.

"There's enough history behind the two of us to know we better be ready to play on Friday night," Plunk said. "We understand what Marshall can do, and it's all about starting district play on a positive note no matter who we're up against. Our kids have done a good job of putting outside factors to the side, taking care of business and not worrying about who is the favorite but simply playing winning football."

Friday also marks the first of two road games to begin district play, but no matter the locale, Plunk is focusing on the present and winning the first one before any thoughts of Pine Tree enter the mind.

Hallsville is actually a scoreless fourth quarter against Whitehouse away from being undefeated and has improved weekly on special teams while combining strong offensive and defensive play for the current string of success which has the Bobcats practicing every day on an emotional high entering Friday night.

"It's all about starting off strong and continuing to come out and do what we've done when it deals with being balanced in all phases of the game," Plunk said. "We've done well offensively when it comes to being able to run and throw the football, and we've had strong defensive performances as well. There have been times where we've had letdowns on special teams, but we're getting better there every day."

The Bobcats have taken the talents of both quarterbacks and ridden them to successful results, with senior Austin Toney giving the team a strong arm and poise in the pocket, while Macailyn Wilder gives Hallsville another option with his legs to combine with the strong running of senior Thaddeus Fagan.

Andre Jones is the Bobcats' biggest threat at receiver along with Jesse Navarro and sophomore Jacob Walker, who is also Hallsville's quarterback of the future. The offensive line led by left tackle Hayden Wall has paved the way along with left guard Will Kornman, center Logan Bailey and the right side of guard Hunter Anderson and tackle Trey Gillespie as well as tight end Travis Teodorczyk.

End Coby Bradford leads the way defensively with 9.5 sacks and along with senior linebacker Cayden Ferrill is the backbone of this Bobcat group along with two other senior linebackers in Santos Estrada and Roderick Boyd along with Wilder and Navarro in the secondary.

"Marshall is explosive, waiting to click on all cylinders and enters this game with a clean slate just like we do," Plunk said. "We don't want them to have their breakout game on Friday night against us and must be ready."

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