Back at the Texas High School Coaches Association’s coaching school in San Antonio in July, Mart’s Kevin Hoffman and Muenster’s Brady Carney joked about the proposition.
Hoffman’s Panthers were the defending football state champions in Class 2A Division I. Carney’s Hornets, meanwhile, won state in 2A Division II in 2017. However, Mart had dropped down to Division II with the UIL’s realignment, setting up the possibility of the two coaches’ teams meeting up in the playoffs.
“We talk every once in a while, and it was a big running joke — ‘Hey, man, if we get to play each other, how about we play at the Star?’ And I laughed and he laughed,” Hoffman said. “We both were like, ‘We’ve got to get there. It’s going to take a bunch for us to get there.’”
Nobody’s laughing now — as Mart (12-1) and Muenster (12-1) have each shown some serious star power in ravaging their way through the 2A playoffs. Now, the two reigning state champs will indeed hook up at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Star in Frisco, the practice home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
One of the fringe benefits of going deep in the playoffs is the quality of facility at your disposal. Obviously, both Mart and Muenster finished last season’s runs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. But throughout the playoffs, Hoffman said he tries to look for opportunities to give his players a unique experience they’ll remember forever.
“They deserve it,” Hoffman said. “Every time I set up in venue to play at, one of the things I want to do is I want to make sure it’s a nice venue. I want a nice field, I want nice fans, I want nice facilities not just for our kids but our fans and our people who come to watch us play. We try to play at those types of places. … Our administration and everybody here was on board with it, and same thing for (Carney). Both of us get a chance for these kids to get to play somewhere really nice.”
Mart hasn’t really missed a beat from its 15-1 championship season of a year ago. In this year’s playoffs, the Panthers have piled up 80, 66 and 64 points, while giving up a total of 30 points in those three romps.
And yet the Panthers’ offense will take on an entirely different look for Thursday’s game. That’s because junior quarterback Kyler Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s win over Grapeland. The diagnosis of a torn ACL was a crushing blow for Martin, who waited his turn behind Jace Terry and had played brilliantly in the Panthers’ first 13 games this year.
But the beat goes on for Mart. Hoffman said that the Panthers will rely even more heavily on the three skill guys that they’ve dubbed the “Dr Pepper boys,” Nos. 10 (Roddrell Freeman), 2 (Shatydrick Bailey) and 4 (Tyrek Horne). The trio has accounted for 3,904 yards and 69 touchdowns on the year.
Freeman, who has not thrown a pass this year, will take over as the starting QB, while 6-foot-4 junior Aiden Gast ascends to the backup position. Freshman Kei’shawn Clater led Mart’s JV team at quarterback this season and provides another option, and Hoffman added that, if all else fails, he could always “put No. 2 (Bailey) back there and No. 4 (Horne) back there and snap it to them and just let them take off running.”
“We’re going to do what we do,” Hoffman said. “It’s next man up. It is what it is, and we’re going to do what we do.”
Muenster will try to counter with its own high-powered attack, led by senior quarterback Parker McGrew, who has passed for 1,839 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for another 931 yards and 15 TDs. The Hornets have won 28 of their past 29 games over the past two seasons.
“They’re big, physical, disciplined, play hard. Never take a play off. Well-coached,” Hoffman said.
Mart has aspirations of acquiring state title No. 7 for its trophy case this year. To do that, the Panthers aren’t going to be mysterious about what they’re doing – they’re going to try to play rugged, stout defense and, on offense, put the ball in the hands of their speedy skill guys like Freeman, Bailey and Horne.
We do the same things that we’ve been doing for years,” Hoffman said. “Everybody knows what we’re doing, but the deal is, you might know where it’s going or which direction it’s going, but you’ve got to stop it.”