PORT LAVACA – Calhoun fullback Steve Johnson has been waiting to play Corpus Christi Calallen since the Wildcats ended the Sandcrabs’ season last year in the quarterfinals.

Johnson used the loss to fuel his junior season and so far he’s lived up to personal expectations.

Johnson has rushed for an area-leading 1,916 rushing yards, while scoring 24 touchdowns and hopes to continue his dominance Friday night when the Sandcrabs face the Wildcats with the District 15-5A, Division II championship on the line.

Calhoun, which is ranked No. 8 in the state poll, would clinch a share of the district title and the top seed in the playoffs with a win, and would be either the second or third seed with a loss.

Calallen can clinch the outright district championship with a win, or would be the second seed with a loss.

“This is what we’ve been working for,” Johnson said. “A chance to play Calallen for the district title and now it’s here. Everything we have been working for is here.”

The Sandcrabs (7-2, 5-1) enter Friday night averaging 56 points per game.

Calhoun’s offense has been led by Johnson and quarterback Conner Kestler, who has rushed for 1,148 yards and 28 touchdowns.

“The guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” said Calhoun coach Richard Whitaker. “A lot of the kids are back from last year and they’re playing with a lot of swagger and confidence. We’re also playing well as a team. These kids get along well and that’s big for any team.”

Calallen has had its own share of success by compiling an undefeated record at 9-0 and a 6-0 mark in district play.

The Wildcats are ranked No. 3 in the state poll and enter Friday night averaging 32 points per game, while their defense is holding opponents to 13 points per contest.

“Practice has been intense this week,” said Kestler, who was named the Class 5A Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week. “Calallen has one of the best defenses in the state. We played them last year twice and we lost both times. We have a sour taste in our mouth.”

Calhoun’s defense has held opponents to 23 points per game behind linebacker Cade Kveton and defensive back Jarius Stewart, who has recorded six interceptions.

“I love what our offense has been doing and it takes the pressure off the defense,” Kveton said. “Our defense has been coming together every week, and we’re hoping to shut these guys out.”

Calallen is led by running back Charley Hill, quarterback Jarrett Garza, Jeremiah Earls and Colten Callaway, who leads the defense with 74 tackles.

Hill rushed for 217 yards last week against Alice.

“Last year gave us a bitter taste in our mouth,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows what it was like to lose to them twice so this game has been in all of our minds. When we lift weights, watch film and go to sleep, this is all we think about. To get the opportunity to play them again is amazing.”

The Wildcats lead the all-time series against Calhoun 10-2.

The last time Calhoun defeated Calallen was 2012.

Whitaker and the Sandcrabs are determined to end the drought, which would deny Calallen coach Phil Danaher the 400th win of his career.

“It’s a tremendous task to go up against one of the best programs in Texas,” Whitaker said. “Our kids have been working hard, and they’re excited for the opportunity. They’ve had to play great all year to put themselves in this situation and hopefully we will make the best of the opportunity Friday.”

Rey Castillo is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached at rcastillo@vicad.com, 361-574-1240 or on Twitter @reycastillo361.

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