LaVega Paris (copy)

La Vega defensive end DeMarr Hayes, along with Demarrquese Hayes (10) and tackle Ericq Speight (52), bring down Paris’ Zykius Jackson in last week’s triumph by the Pirates.

With a berth in the Class 4A Division I state semifinals on the line, La Vega has a lot of reasons to beat a powerhouse Argyle squad.

But the chief motivation is a 31-29 loss at Arygle on Sept. 7 in a game that slipped away from the Pirates in the fourth quarter when Bo Hogeboom threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Alex Gonzales with 22 seconds remaining.

Emotions will be high for both La Vega and Argyle in Friday’s rematch in the region finals at 7 p.m. at Midlothian.

“They gave us our first loss, so we want to revenge ourselves and make sure we’re victorious and be here Monday,” said La Vega senior safety Jordan McKinney.

These two teams aren’t strangers in the playoffs, since the Pirates held off the Eagles in a 33-31 thriller to capture the 2015 Class 4A Division I state title.

The Eagles have rolled to a 13-0 record this season, but they were tested in last week’s 26-22 win over Celina. The Pirates are 11-2, but have won 10 straight after a 20-17 loss to Austin LBJ on Sept. 14.

La Vega coach Don Hyde believes Argyle beat a young Pirates’ team that was still trying to find itself in the second week of the season.

“Certainly we’ve gotten better and they’ve gotten better,” Hyde said. “The difference is we had a lot more room for improvement than they did because they had older kids on the field and we had a lot of younger kids on the field. I think that’s the biggest factor. I think we’re both really good football teams.”

The Pirates will try to pound the ball and control the clock with their talented trio of running backs, including John Richards, Jar’Quae Walton and Elisha Cummings. In last week’s 38-20 win over Paris, Richards rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Ara Rauls scored three touchdowns.

“I feel like we’ve really grown together as an offense and it comes down to the offensive line controlling the trenches, the backs hitting the hole and getting the right reads, and we just doing what we do to play La Vega football,” said Pirates lineman Jaelyn Maladdie. “We come in with all confidence, we feel like we’re rolling right now, we feel like we can’t be stopped.”

La Vega’s defense has been superb all season, making opponents dig for everything they get.

“We’re going to do what we do defensively,” Hyde said. “The problem is they run a lot of run-pass option stuff that forces your linebackers to step up and they throw behind them. So you’re forced to either play man-to-man coverage or give up some stuff. We’ve got to pick which situation we want to be in and live with the outcome.”

The Pirates will try to slow down an explosive Arygle offense that features the passing of Hogeboom, who has amassed 3,242 yards and 42 touchdowns. In the first game against the Pirates, Hogeboom hit just 13 of 39 passes but threw for four touchdowns.

Argyle has a solid running game led by Tito Byce with 1,460 yards and 26 touchdowns and Noah Lang with 615 yards and nine scores. The Eagles’ top receiver is Dillon Carter with 50 catches for 1,308 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“They’ve got good players and they’ve got a scheme they’ve been running for a number of years,” Hyde said. “They’ve got a good coaching staff that has had longevity there. Anytime you’ve got longevity, good players and a good scheme, you’re going to be successful.”

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