Rain poured sideways at Williams Stadium in Garland as the Garland Owls hit the field for practice Tuesday afternoon. The rain gave the practice a kind of movie-like quality that inspired players to hit even harder and yell even louder after making a big play.
However, neither the Owls (6-3, 4-2 in district) nor their Thursday opponent, Sachse (5-4, 3-3 in district), need any additional motivation for the biggest game of their season.
"Every year there's a game that you've got to win to get in the playoffs," Garland head coach Jeff Jordan said. "Sometimes it's Week 7 or 8; sometimes it happens to be Week 10. This year, it happens to Week 10. Win and we're in, so we're in playoff mode now."
Both teams sit on the playoff bubble with one spot left in District 10-5A behind South Garland, Rowlett and McKinney Boyd, who have already clinched. Thursday's matchup will be the tiebreaker, sending the winner to the playoffs.
Garland's offense will look to running back Jordan Spencer to get everything started. Spencer has rushed for 1,118 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season, averaging 6.25 yards per carry.
However, the key to a successful game will be the play of quarterback Seth Russell. Russell went down with a broken finger early in the season, and Jordan said he is about three games and a scrimmage behind where he needs to be at this point of the season but is quickly catching up.
"Last week especially [Russell] took a big step forward grasping what we're trying to do and getting used to the speed of the game," Jordan said.
On the other side of the field, Garland's defense will have its hands full with the Sachse running game, lead by running back David Wesley. Wesley gets the vast majority of plays called his way during the game, tallying 195 carries this season for 1,433 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"[Wesley is] a really good player," Jordan said. "You've got to get a lot of bodies to the ball because one guy usually doesn't bring him down. You're not going to stop him completely, but as long as we can slow him down and keep him under control, we feel good about our chances."
To support its run game, Sachse will run several plays out of the wishbone formation, a look not often seen anymore on the high school gridiron. Jordan said his team has seen the formation before and will be able to adjust to what they are taught.
The District 10-5A play-in game takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Garland's Williams Stadium.