MESQUITE FOOTBALL DEFENSE

The Mesquite defense will face one of its toughest tests of the season when it takes on Rockwall at 7 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium.

Believe it or not, the football season officially shifts into the second half this week with another round of big match-ups.

The marquee game involving Mesquite ISD teams takes place on Friday at Mesquite Memorial Stadium when Poteet hosts South Oak Cliff in a clash of the two preseason district favorites.

Mesquite and Horn will look to build on district-opening victories against a pair of tough opponents and West Mesquite tries to bounce back and even its district mark at 1-1.

Here is a look at the games:

Who: West Mesquite at McKinney North

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: McKinney ISD Stadium

Records: West Mesquite—2-3 (0-1 in 7-5A Division I); McKinney North—1-4 (0-1)

The Wranglers put forward a spirited effort a week ago in battling Longview even for one half but the Lobos were able to pull away for a 56-28 victory, while the Bulldogs came up on the short end on a 35-18 decision to Tyler, as both teams continue their search for their first district win.

Craig Dale has flourished at quarterback, completing 65-of-115 passes for 997 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Dale has spread the ball around, as Javion Jackson leads the team with 16 receptions for 282 yards and two touchdowns and Gabriel Corona has 15 grabs for 287 yards and three scores.

T.J. Tuner has been a big-play threat, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch (12-245) with half of his 12 receptions going for touchdowns, and Kasen McCoy (7-72, 2 TDs), Jesus Nino (7-53, TD) and Devin Duncan (5-84, TD) have been other good targets.

The Wranglers are largely passing-oriented, but they do try to establish balance with Canaan Dirden (41-165, 3 TDs), Dale (41-141, TD), Elijah Dancy (23-138, TD) and Rodrick Malcolm (21-83, TD).

The West Mesquite defense has been opportunistic and it showed it again last week when Willie Williams returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.

Overall, the Wranglers will look to get back to where they were in the first two games of the season when they allowed only 19.5 points.

McKinney North got off to a good start to the year with a 44-26 win over Westmoore (Okla.), but has since dropped four straight.

In contrast to West Mesquite, the Bulldogs do a bulk of their offensive damage on the ground.

Jadan Smith leads that group with 87 carries for 546 yards and three touchdowns, but defenses also have to be aware of Elijah Alexander (56-286, 2 TDs) and Jayden Walker (52-202, 3 TDs).

Quarterback Gavin Constantine has completed 48-of-113 passes for 677 yards and nine touchdowns, with Kobrin Hendrix being the main target with 23 receptions for 336 yards and five scores.

Who: South Oak Cliff at Poteet

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Mesquite Memorial Stadium

Records: Poteet--4-2 (3-0 in 6-5A Division II); South Oak Cliff (3-1, 2-0)

Last season, the district title essentially came down to these two teams and the popular thought is Friday’s contest could once again decide the 6-5A Division II champions.

Joey Shaw has been the workhorse coming out of the backfield, with 81 carries for 629 yards and seven touchdowns. Jakobey Kahey has added 15 rushes for 127 yards and seven other Pirates have run for scores.

Nicholas Aguilar has completed 33-of-74 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns and Caden Page has also been effective when called upon, going 7-for-10 for 195 yards and three scores.

Jeremiah Batiste (13-189, 2 TDs) and D’Kyri Williams (13-167, 2 TDs) have been the top targets and Shaw is also capable of big plays in the passing game.

The Poteet defense has one shutout on the season, but will look to finish the game strong after having a 21-point lead trimmed to 35-28 in last week’s win over Hillcrest.

South Oak Cliff opened the season with a hard-fought 42-27 loss to powerhouse Duncanville and a forfeit and has outscored its opponents 118-7 in the two games since.

Kevin Henry-Jennings has completed 35-of-56 passes for 723 yards and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

The receiving corps has turned in some big plays, averaging 19.6 yards per catch, led by Randy Reece (14-341, 4 TDs) and Jamyri Cauley (7-170, 4 TDs).

The Bears have also been dominant at times on the ground, averaging 8.5 yards per carry, with Ke’Undrae Hollywood (19-233, TD) and Quaylon Farrar (22-182, 2 TDs) leading the way.

Dylan Brown-Turner has 29 tackles, with two for loss, Ashton Stocker had 16 tackles and Malik Muhammad and Taylor Starling have each added 14 stops.

Last season, South Oak Cliff edged Poteet by one game for the district title thanks to its 27-14 win in the head-to-head meeting.

Who: Mesquite at Rockwall

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium

Records: Mesquite—3-2 (1-0 in 10-6A); Rockwall—3-2 (0-1)

Rockwall entered the season as the favorite to win the district, but after one week, the Yellowjackets are looking up to Mesquite in the standings as the Skeeters won their third consecutive game with a 16-6 victory over Skyline.

Outside of their 49-35 win over Arlington, the Skeeters have relied on tough, low-scoring games like the one last week.

Quarterback Chance Edwards has completed 55-of-91 passes for 649 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception.

Edwards has done a good job spreading the ball around to Jamarion Woods (15-243, 4 TDs), Gervin McCarthy (12-205, TD) and Justin White (12-0).

The Skeeters have been able to employ a balance on offense, as Anthony Roberts has 70 carries for 348 yards and four touchdowns and K.D. Lee has 37 attempts for 193 yards and a pair of scores.

The Mesquite defense has been good, allowing only 22.6 points per game. Last week, they turned in their best performance of the season, holding Skyline to 117 total yards and forcing a pair of turnovers.

That effort was led by lineman Marlon Thompson-Leatch, who recorded eight tackles, three sacks and five quarterback pressures.

That defense will face perhaps its biggest challenge to date against a Rockwall team averaging 55.6 points per game.

There was some talk that the Yellowjackets were a top-10 team in the state after impressive victories over Cedar Hill, Jesuit and Lake Travis, but that has cooled a big as they have dropped consecutive games against Highland Park (52-31) and Rockwall-Heath (79-71).

Braedyn Locke has completed 101-of-155 passes for 1,613 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Caden Marshall had a monster game last week with 10 catches for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns and for the season, he leads the team with 29 receptions for 533 yards and four scores.

Marshall is not the only receiver Mesquite will have to worry about, as the Yellowjackets also feature Noble Johnson (26-496, 6 TDs), Brennan Ray (21-303, 3 TDs) and Aiden Meeks (19-238, 4 TDs).

Rockwall has a formidable ground game as well, with Zach Hernandez, who has 147 carries for 875 yards and eight scores.

The Yellowjacket defense has had its moments but it might have something to prove after giving up 775 yards in last week’s loss to Rockwall-Heath.

Who: Rockwall-Heath at Horn

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: E.H. Hanby Stadium

Records: Horn—1-3 (1-0 in 10-6A); Rockwall-Heath (4-1, 1-0)

The Jaguars got off to a rough start to the season with three straight losses, but enters this game feeling much better about themselves after snapping that skid with a 25-6 victory over North Mesquite in their district opener.

Horn will have to be on its game once again this week against one of the most explosive offenses in the state in Rockwall-Heath.

Marquis Edwards spent the first three games at quarterback, throwing for 442 yards and one touchdown, but Darrius White got the call last week and he responded to the challenge, completing 9-of-20 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown and rushing 17 times for 137 yards and a score.

White also leads the Jaguars in rushing for the season with 34 attempts for 296 yards and four touchdowns, while DeAndre Felton has added 122 yards and a score on 28 attempts.

Horn has a go-to wide receiver in Chris Dawn, Jr., who has 14 catches for 284 yards, while Justin Underwood has made six grabs for 91 yards and a touchdown.

If White’s offensive impact was not enough, he is also tied for the team lead in tackles with 31, including seven for loss, while D.J. Coleman also has 31 stops with three for loss.

Bradley Amawayi (30 tackles), Nathaniel Rainey (27 tackles) and Calvin Wright (23 tackles) have also been active, Tarance Johnson has recorded a pair of sacks and Jordan Lester has two interceptions.

Horn held North Mesquite to 224 total yards and forced four turnovers last week, but they will have to be in top form this week against a Rockwall-Heath offense that was nearly unstoppable in a 79-71 overtime win over rival Rockwall last Friday.

Josh Hoover is one of the state passing leaders, completing 90-of-126 passes (71.4 percent) for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hoover has one of the best 1-2 punches to throw to win Jordan Nabors (27-631, 6 TDs) and Jay Fair (23-456, 5 TDs).

As big as those numbers are, the Hawks are a balanced group, as Zach Evan has 95 carries for 724 yards and 13 touchdowns and Brittan Snider has added 53 attempts for 447 yards and five scores.

As good as Rockwall-Heath’s offense has been, it has had to be that prolific at times, as the defense as given up 42.4 points per game.

Still, the Hawks do have playmakers on that side of the ball, including Peyton Williams (37 tackles, 3 TFL), Layne Horak (32 tackles), Alan Crawford (29 tackles) and Jax Rapier (29 tackles).

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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