East opens playoffs against SA Jefferson

Nov. 11, 2011 at 5:11 a.m.

As a 33-year veteran of high school football battles, Mickey Finley knows that once it is playoff time, seeding, records and stats don't matter.

Although the San Antonio Jefferson Mustangs had to win their last thee games to squeeze into the playoffs as a fourth seed from District 29-4A, the Titans can't sleepwalk through their bi-district meeting on Friday.

"They've got all the ingredients of a good football team," East head coach Finley said. "They're just like all of us. When they put it together, they're good and when they don't put it together, they're not very good."

The Titans (6-4) and Mustangs (5-5) will both try to put it together Friday at Eschenburg Field in Floresville as the teams meet in the Class 4A, Div. I playoffs.

The winner moves on to the area round to play either Weslaco East or Alice.

The Titans are coming off a 24-14 win over crosstown rival Victoria West.

Although the Titans won the Battle for the Sword again, it was a mistake-prone game with four fumbles, three of those lost and 75 penalty yards.

Putting the ball on the ground is uncharacteristic for the run-oriented Titans and Finley hopes fumbles from running back Johnathan Garner were an anomoly.

"Johnathan hadn't been a fumbler his whole career," Finley said. "He just had it last week and hopefully that's done with."

The Titans offense should have opportunities to get in the end zone. Opponents average 29 points and 355 yards per game against the Jefferson defense.

Finley said it all goes back to fundamentals and with play makers like Garner and Justin Kalinowski, the Titans can take advantage of missed tackles by the Mustangs.

"Hopefully, that could continue for one more week," Finley said. "We've got some kids that can make you miss."

Garner should eclipse the 1,500 yard mark Friday.The senior is East's leading rusher with 1,494 yards and 16 touchdowns this season to go along with a pair of receiving touchdowns.

Kalinowski remains East's main deep threat. The 75-yard touchdown catch against West was his fifth of the season.

The senior receiver has 394 yards this season.

On the other side the ball, Kalinowski and the Titans defense will have to contend with Mustangs wide receiver Emmitt Epperson.

"He's fast, so the whole secondary is going to have to be fast too," Kalinowski said.

Epperson has 57 catches for 829 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Although the senior receiver has speed, Finley added that Epperson's overall athleticism stood out to him.

"He goes and gets the ball, that's what's impressive about him," Finley said. "A lot of times he's caught the ball, he's been well covered, but he's got a good knack for going up and coming down with the football."

Last year, the Titans made it to the Class 4A regional playoff round before losing to eventual state champion Austin Lake Travis.

The Titans look to pass that mark beginning Friday.

"We got in this position for a reason," Kalinowski said. "That's to win a state championship."



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