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Garland, Mesquite meet for first time in playoffs

11/18/2011

No. 10 GARLAND (9-2) vs. MESQUITE (6-5)

6 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium

What: 5A Division I Region II area game

When we saw them last: Garland settled into the playoffs and beat Richardson Berkner 24-7 in the bi-district round at Garland’s William’s Stadium. After Berkner’s first score, Garland’s defense locked down, allowing just two first downs the rest of the game and forcing five three-and-outs. Mesquite beat Belton 35-23 in its bi-district tilt, buoyed by a 300-yard, two-touchdown performance from quarterback Alex Cooper.

Renewing a rivalry: Garland and Mesquite have a rich rivalry as on-and-off former district mates since 1904, but have never met in the playoffs, according to the Garland football website garlandowls.com. A “postseason” game was scheduled in 1935, but was never played due to complaints from parents. Garland holds a 44-23-4 edge in the rivalry. Mesquite tallied a 54-0 win over Garland in 1982, and Garland won by the same score in 1936. The two teams have not competed in the same district since 2003.

What’s at stake: The winner will face the victor of The Woodlands (10-1) and Round Rock Westwood (10-1) in the 5A Division I Region semifinals.

Key matchup: Which quarterback will lead his team to victory? Garland quarterback and Kansas commit Seth Russell is a dual-threat quarterback that can settle into a efficient pass game or run the read option. Alex Cooper is a gunslinger who has gone on a hot streak late in the season and into the playoffs. He’s thrown for 20 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards on the season. The team that can disrupt the other's quarterback will clearly have the edge.

Players to watch: Mesquite wideout Kavaski Ervin is Cooper’s favorite target. Erin caught 13 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown in last week's bi-district game. Junior Session has the ground game covered, rushing for 16 touchdowns and just under 1,000 yards. Garland has an outstanding 1-2 punch in running backs Keylan Spencer and Malcolm Miller. Spencer is a speediy back that can beat teams around the outside. Miller is more of a bruiser up the middle.

Prediction: Garland notches its 45th win in the series, 30-25.