GOLIAD - Goliad has very few starters on this year's roster who played against Mathis last season.

But the Tigers haven't forgotten how they lost to the Pirates 28-20 in district play, and had their season come to an end in a 36-22 loss in the Class 3A, Division I regional playoffs.

"These kids kind of remember that," said first-year Goliad coach Bobby Nicholson. "Even though we only have four kids who played in both games, they still remember it."

Goliad will get another crack at Mathis in a key District 15-3A, Division I game Friday night at Tiger Stadium.

Goliad opened district with a win over Cotulla, while Mathis defeated Taft.

"We went back and watched both films of last year's Mathis games this weekend," Nicholson said. "We hadn't looked at them since I got here. Goliad did everything it wanted to do it was just costly mistakes - a couple of interceptions and costly turnovers. Other than that, both teams were doing everything they wanted to."

The Tigers' 35-7 victory over Cotulla was their fourth straight win since they opened the season with losses to Shiner and Refugio, who are both still ranked in the Class 2A state poll.

"Those games made us grow up fast because of the speed of the game," Nicholson said. "The game really slowed down for us after that. For a young group, you either have to get on it or you're going to get knocked off of it."

Goliad starts seven sophomores and had to learn a new offense when Nicholson took over as head coach in May.

"We had to do a lot of learning," said senior linebacker Flaco Pena. "We are a young team, but the way everyone has been putting in work, has helped a lot."

Goliad running back Logan Bland was banged up to begin the season, which put more pressure of sophomore quarterback Rocky Morris.

But Bland, who has rushed for 826 yards and 10 touchdowns, has returned and Morris has made strides in each game.

"I just had to push through it and get it going," said Morris, who has passed for 764 yards and seven touchdowns. "The speed of the game was faster and we've had to adapt to it. We knew we were going to have to go in there, give it our all and play through everything. We're all getting comfortable with each other and starting to get it all."

Goliad's biggest challenge this week will be containing Mathis' slot-T offense, which is more reliant on the quarterback this season.

"The experience we got against Shiner and Refugio has helped us a lot, a lot," Pena said. "That helps us with everything. Just technique, how to cover people and everything like that. After that game, everything slowed down a lot."

Nicholson knows the Tigers are far from a finished product, but must continue to improve going forward.

"We're still making some mistakes that we can't make in big ball games and of course, the next four are pretty even," he said. "We're going to have to gut up starting this week against Mathis. It's two different teams, but still the same rivalry."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com.

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