Once again, the Hays Rebels are in the playoffs, though in not quite their usual comfort zone.
The Rebels go to Saturday’s Class 4A Region 3 Division II first-round playoff game with a 4-6 record, their first losing record during a regular season since 1985. They made one other appearance in the Region 3 playoffs, and it did not go well, as they lost, 26-14, on their home field last year to Magnolia.
But they’re in the playoffs, and that makes everything new. Their opponent Saturday at Georgetown High School (2 p.m.) is none other than the Huntsville Hornets, who lost their District 18-4A opener to Brenham, 30-14, and ended up in a 6-1 tie with Brenham for first place.
The Rebels will rely on their defense, which allowed only 212.4 yards per game within District 17-4A as they finished on the wrong end of a first-place tie with Del Valle at 4-1. Huntsville poses a unique problem in quarterback Justin Gilbert, a senior who has emerged as a dangerous threat.
“Their quarterback may be the best athlete we’ve ever seen,” Hays football coach Bob Shelton said. ” … He throws the ball decently, but running is where he scares you. He plays cornerback on defense, punts and runs back kicks. He’s a good football player.”
In his six District 18-4A games, Gilbert rushed 71 times for 585 yards, and completed 29 of 58 passes for 501 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
At 7-3 overall, Huntsville can take advantage of a weak defense, and its own defense has operated pretty consistently. In six District 18-4A games, the Hornets gave up 270.5 yards per game.
Shelton said a lot of that has to do with the prowess of Huntsville’s defensive front line. And with an athlete like Gilbert at corner, the Hornets can defend the pass.
Though the Rebels have made their living on the ground during District 17-4A games this year, Shelton said his team will need to mix its offense against Huntsville.
The Rebels rushed for 267.4 yards per game within District 17-4A. However, they have attempted to incorporate more of the passing game in the last two weeks. In the first three Hays district games, quarterback Sam Breyfogle threw only 22 passes, completing 18 for 402 yards with no interceptions and three touchdowns. In the last two games, Breyfogle has thrown 30 passes, completing 20 for 364 yards, one interception and four touchdowns.
As always, though, the Rebels will make a commitment to running the ball. Trace Gandy leads the team with 821 rushing yards to go with 359 receiving yards. Anthony Garza has rushed for 713 yards. Torrance Smith has touched the ball 72 times on offense and scored 14 touchdowns. Smith has rushed for 304 yards and 13 touchdowns, and caught passes for 282 yards and another touchdown.
The Rebels, who have averaged 332.8 offensive yards per game this season, figure to move the ball about as usual. The larger question is whether they can contain Gilbert.
“If you can stop him, you would control their offense,” Shelton said.Email | Print