The 17th installment of the Rowlett/Sachse rivalry is certainly unlike any other the teams have engaged in prior.
Of course, bragging rights are always on the line and more often than not, this game has always had big playoffs and district title implications.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s clash will have a different feel.
Both teams had to deal with the month-long postponement of the start of the season. That delay was even longer for the Eagles, who due to a positive case within the program, had to cancel one game and postpone its clash with the Mustangs, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 15. Rowlett did not take the field for the first time until a week ago, when they earned a 45-14 win over North Garland.
Sachse has only three games under its belt, but looked as if it was in midseason form in last week’s 49-27 win over Garland.
In response to the pandemic and possible future delays, 9-6A opted to place the squads into two four-team pods. The Eagles and Mustangs are in the same group along with Garland and North Garland, meaning if there are more postponements to come, the result could affect their possible paths to the playoffs.
Regardless of the outside circumstances, it should once again be a spirited affair when Rowlett and Sachse lock horns at 7 p.m. Thursday at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.
The Eagles were already itching to get back on the field after having their run of 14 consecutive playoff appearances come to an end last season, and after the prolonged wait, they took out some of their frustrations against North Garland last week, scoring 42 points in the first half as they cruised to the victory.
Rowlett did a bulk of its damage on the ground, as Colton Yarbrough scored on his first three carries with touchdown runs of 30, 1 and 37 yards and he finished with eight carries for 103 yards. D’Wonyae Newton also topped the century mark, going for 110 yards and a pair of scores on 10 attempts and Tre Carr added 73 yards on the ground.
Carr picked his spots in the passing game, completing 7-of-15 for 57 yards, with a bulk of those going to Ernest Thomas, who had five receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown.
They will face a Sachse defense that was effective in slowing down Garland’s high-powered attack.
The Mustangs’ front seven controlled the line of scrimmage, generating 12 quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss and two sacks.
That consistent performance also allowed the secondary to do what it does, as they had four pass breakups and got interceptions from Levi Shirley and DeAndre Robb, and strong all-around play from Taylan Landingham and Eli Mekuria.
As good as the Sachse defense was, the offense was just as efficient, rolling up 626 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Alex Orji shredded the Garland secondary, completing 16-of-26 passes for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to Tyler Williams on the first play from scrimmage.
Linemen Ricardo Ochoa and Caden Kirkpatrick each graded out at better than 90 percent, as they paved the way for three Mustangs to top 100 rushing yards. Orji had 12 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns, Kori Jones went for 101 yards and three scores on 15 carries and Brian Okoye had 13 attempts for 110 yards and also turned a short catch into a 42-yard touchdown.
The Rowlett defense will have its hands full, but did post a solid performance in its first action of the year.
North Garland hit the Eagles with a pair of long touchdown passes of 78 and 85 yards. Take those away and Rowlett held the Raiders to 79 total yards, limited them to less than two yards per carry (26-50) and pitched a second-half shutout.
The Eagles have a 10-6 edge in the all-time series, but it has been a rivalry that has featured a number of runs. Rowlett won the first eight meetings, the teams split the next four and Sachse has since run off the last four.
A year ago, these teams engaged in a classic that saw them go back and forth for four quarters before the Mustangs were able to make a late stop on a two-point conversion with 21 seconds left to preserve a 42-40 victory.