Argyle coach Todd Rodgers said last week following the Eagles’ Class 4A Division I area round win against Kennedale that by this point in the season, it’s tough for all the remaining teams the deeper they go.
The Eagles will square off with a 12-0 Stephenville squad at Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield on Friday in the Class 4A Division I regional semifinal. Argyle comes into Friday’s matchup as the defending 4A champion and knows it’s still the team to beat.
“We lost a game to Melissa, and they beat us handily 21-0,” Rodgers said of the Eagles’ lone loss of the season. “So, I think it’s only reasonable that we lost a little confidence and lost a little swagger about our football team and the status of our football team. I think we’ve done a fantastic job of trying to rebuild that with the wins that we have stacked up since that week.”
The Yellow Jackets held on to beat Paris last week 22-10 behind a 110-yard performance from running back Julian Iribarren and 125-yard night from wide receiver Reece Elston. Each found the end zone once, while quarterback Ryder Lambert passed for 228 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re very talented football team,” Rodgers said. “They’re a very complete football team. They have great special teams. They have great offensive unit with very skilled skill players, big linemen, just towering linemen. And then they have a stingy defense. They they’re doing a lot more things defensively. And I think that’s played into their success.”
However, Argyle has proved to be a legitimate force defensively all season and particularly through the first two games of the playoffs. The Eagles have allowed an average of 214 yards offensively to their opponents thus far while also racking up five turnovers.
“We’re going to take away their best players and make their lesser players beat us,” Rodgers said. “So, if they have two wide receivers, we want to try to take them and pressure them a lot. Then basically make the quarterback throw to alternate receivers and make them beat us.
“It’s a pretty standard mindset from a defensive coordinator position — take away the things they do well and make them win in another way.”
Offensively, the Eagles have shown they can win several different ways. In the bi-district round against Wilmer-Hutchins, Argyle compiled 307 yards of offense and 49 points. They followed that up last week with 27 points and 298 total yards.
Either way, the Eagles have presented a balanced attack with 51% of their yards through the first two games coming through the air, with the rest on the ground. That included a strong effort from quarterback Jett Copeland last week, who passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 73 yards rushing and another score.
“Every game we go into, we want to establish some form of run, and then a vertical passing game,” Rodgers said. “It’s very difficult for defenses to be aligned to stop both, and so we have to discern at some point what they’re going to give us and what we’re willing to take. And then we look and see what kind of adjustments they’ve made, and we adjust accordingly. But I think that’s the essence of a good offense, is being able to adapt and adjust quickly in the game.”
But make no mistake, neither Rodgers nor Argyle believes that they are in an underdog scenario as an 11-1 team against a stout Stephenville team.
“I don’t know that we go in with an underdog mentality. Stephenville is a quality opponent,” he said. “And I think that we know what the standard is. And we’ve had four good practices up to this point. And I believe that we’re doing the things that we need to do to prepare for the very best in Texas.”