The cards are all on the table for the Wylie Pirates.
Wylie (3-3, 3-6) faces North Garland (2-4, 5-4) with the final spot in the District 9-6A playoffs on the line. Head coach Jimmy Carter knew Wylie had to win one final game, but after the loss to Sachse, there is no margin for error. Wylie has some advantages heading into the game, and they’ll have to take advantage.
For the Pirates, there’s a very clear path to the postseason — win and you’re in. If Wylie loses and Lakeview Centennial defeats Rowlett, North Garland is in. If Wylie loses by less than 13 and Rowlett defeats Lakeview Centennial, then scoring differential comes into play and Wylie still reaches the postseason.
Finally, the last scenario is if Wylie loses by 14 points or more and Rowlett defeats Lakeview Centennial, then Wylie, Rowlett and North Garland will have a coin toss to determine the final playoff team.
With all of this at stake, here are the three keys to Wylie defeating North Garland at Wylie ISD Stadium on Friday night.
1. Contain the quarterback
The brightest spot from the surprise North Garland team has been at quarterback. Sophomore Godspower Nwawuihe leads the team in both passing yards and rushing yards this season. He’s also contributed 27 total touchdowns to only three interceptions. Nwawuihe is a talented player that helps make the offense click. He led the Raiders with five touchdowns in their most recent win against South Garland.
There is a recipe for slowing him down. In the North Garland loss against Naaman Forest, Nwawuihe had a difficult time against the Rangers’ defense. He finished the game with his lowest yardage output for the season, averaging just 4.45 yards per play on 40 dropbacks and carries.
Wylie’s defensive line had its best performance of the season against the rushing attack of Lakeview Centennial and will need to do it again to find success against the Raiders.
2. Hit big plays in the passing game
In North Garland’s loss to Naaman Forest, the Rangers had three different receivers average 27 yards per reception. They were able to hit the big plays on the Raiders’ defense, with all six of their touchdowns on plays 27 yards or more. Against South Garland, Tyreon Key was able to score two touchdowns from long passing plays.
North Garland gives up big plays, so Wylie will need to capitalize. In the last two games, Wylie has long touchdown runs by Blake Fuller. His 54-yard run iced the win over Lakeview Centennial. If Wylie can connect on big plays in the running and passing game, they’ll win.
3. Win the turnover battle
Against Sachse, Wylie lost the turnover battle with two turnovers on offense and one on special teams. Unfortunately for the Pirates, all three turnovers resulted in touchdowns for the Mustangs as well. For Wylie to beat North Garland, they’ll have to win the turnover battle against a team with mixed success on taking care of the football.
To start the season, North Garland has turned the ball over just four times in four games. Since then, the Raiders had five turnovers combined in losses to Garland and Rowlett and three turnovers in a win over South Garland.
With two explosive offenses on the field, taking the ball away and winning the field position battles could be a huge advantage one way or another.
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By Kyle Grondin • [email protected]