Pasadena, Texas–Picture a pay-per-view event featuring two heavyweight boxers.
In one corner lies a perennial heavyweight championship contender, one that some feel hasn’t won the title often enough but one that is certain to gain definite nods of respect and even strike fear into opponents. Call the boxer “Mustang.”
In the other corner lies an upstart fighter, one that hasn’t been around as long as the other one but a contender that has certainly made a name for itself as very capable creating havoc. It wasn’t all that long ago they were in a match with the championship on the line. Call the boxer “Hurricane.”
The two boxers have crossed paths before, with each one winning a match before going on to either compete directly for the heavyweight championship or the right to play for it.
The UIL Division I Region III high school football playoffs is not all unlike a Don King production of the 90’s, as the Galena Park North Shore Mustangs will take on the Fort Bend Hightower Hurricanes with the teams doing battle for the third time in the last four seasons. The region is chop full of heavyweight contenders, so there’s no guarantee that this matchup will produce the winner of the state championship but it should provide far more back and forth action than the typical King produced early round fiasco.
In 2007, North Shore defeated Hightower in the Division I Region III Finals 33-9 before losing to Converse Judson in the state semifinals while the Hurricanes exacted their revenge the next year, defeating the Mustangs 28-21 in the second round on the way to finishing as the state’s Division I runner-up.
“Nothing’s changed–they’re still very athletic, explosive on offense, and good on defense,” said North Shore head coach David Aymond about Hightower. “The fact that they beat a very good Clear Springs team attests to how good they are.”
Hightower is coming off a thrilling 41-35 overtime win over the aforementioned Clear Springs team that legitimized them to many observers who wondered if this year’s team was as good as they have been in the recent past.
“Clear Springs is as good as they come and for us to get a playoff win over them is very gratifying and it shows we should be able to hang with just about anybody,” said Hurricanes head coach Barry Abercrombie.
In the win, the Hurricanes let the Chargers gain 404 yards and 22 first downs but did an admirable job of stopping the Chargers when they had to, particularly on Springs’ final two possessions. Hightower’s defense prides itself on giving up small gains but not allowing big gains (i.e. bending but not breaking). This has inspired some to yield them the nickname of the “Aluminum Curtain,” an obvious play on the “Steel Curtain” defensive units of the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 1970’s.
“Our main mantra on defense is ‘make them snap it again’ and it was really evident the other night when very easily on that last drive we could have let them score again,” Abercrombie said. “Before Ed’Marques [Batties] blocked the field goal [on the final play of regulation], we just kept making them snap it again and if you keep doing that then good things will happen.”
While the Hurricanes may have the defense to hold their own with North Shore, it will be the offense that at the very least allows them to keep up with the Mustangs. They are led by quarterback Bralon Addison, whose blend of traditional quarterback play and athleticism makes him a pain for any defensive coordinator to deal with. Against Springs,’ Addison completed 11 of 21 passes for 133 yards and 1 touchdown and ran for 120 yards on the ground and 1 TD.
“The first thing you have to do in defending them and hoping to stop them is account for the quarterback,” Aymond said.
To the contrary of that idea however, Abercrombie pointed out that the Hurricanes possessed even more weapons such as Batties, who made several crucial plays in last week’s win, and Clyde Lee.
“We have several other guys that can make plays for us so if they want to try and take Bralon away then it will create an opportunity for someone else,” he said.
North Shore is led by it’s trademark stifling defense and by players such as quarterback Keenon Gibson, who like Addison is also a dual threat at QB. He averages 213.2 yards of total offense per game but 97.0 of those on the ground. The Mustangs have struggled offensively at times but starting with that aforementioned defense, which has only allowed more than 21 points in one game since their 44-6 loss to Katy in the opening week (a 35-28 victory at Port Arthur Memorial on October 8) North Shore is as hard to get the upper hand on as any team in Texas.
Some would point to their surprisingly close 17-10 win over Deer Park last Friday as a reason to not take them seriously but in addition to the fact that Gibson was slowed down by an ankle injury, Abercrombie knows better than to underestimate North Shore.
“They’re the real deal,” Abercrombie said of the Mustangs. “They’re a complete football team–they’re well coached, they’re well disciplined and well have our hands full.”
Although there won’t be a Michael Buffer sighting for this heavyweight showdown, the game between these budding rivals is set for 7 p.m. at Pasadena Veterans Memorial Stadium. The winner likely advances on to play state powerhouse Katy, who will play Cypress-Fairbanks this weekend, in the following round.