Tonight’s game against Preston Hollow rival Thomas Jefferson probably isn’t the most important game remaining on the schedule for Hillcrest, as it seeks a playoff spot and a chance at the District 11-5A title.
Matchups against fellow contenders Woodrow Wilson and Carrollton Newman Smith in the next couple of weeks are more critical in that regard.
But the contest against the Patriots at 7 p.m. at Franklin Stadium is an opportunity to assure a winning season for the Panthers (6-1, 2-1) and work out any kinks prior to the two-game stretch that could define their season.
As it has all season, Hillcrest will ride the arm and legs of dual-threat quarterback Arico Evans. The senior has rushed for 910 yards and eight touchdowns, including 258 yards and two scores in a 30-20 win over Bryan Adams last week. Evans also has 10 touchdown passes this year, and has returned a kick for a score.
But the Panthers aren’t a one-man show, as demonstrated by a defense that has yet to allow more than 20 points in a game this season.
Hillcrest’s annual rivalry with TJ has produced lopsided results in the Panthers’ favor dating back more than a decade. Hillcrest has shut out the Patriots in each of the past three seasons, including 54-0 a year ago.
That’s not likely to change this time around, although the Patriots (2-4, 1-2) rallied late for a 15-14 win over Conrad last week to snap a three-game losing streak. Prior to that, TJ was outscored by a combined 110-6 in its first two district games.
One bright spot for the Patriots has been junior quarterback Kendrick Bright, who has rushed for four touchdowns this season and thrown for two others.
Other key games this week:
Holland Hall (3-4, 3-2) at St. Mark’s (4-3, 3-2)
7 p.m. Friday
After surging into SPC divisional contention last week, when QB Matthew Placide and RB Justin Jones keyed a 47-19 win over Fort Worth Trinity Valley, the Lions face another big matchup in their postseason quest. The Dutch have won three straight games, including a 28-10 victory over Greenhill last week.
Irving Nimitz (3-3, 2-1) at Jesuit (4-2, 2-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
The Rangers bounced back from a loss to Skyline with a 56-29 domination of Irving last week, when QB Bo Schneider passed for 431 yards and five touchdowns, and Matt Slovak rushed for three scores. They will look for a similar result against the Vikings and QB Jimmy Clark, who fell to Skyline last week.
ESD (6-1, 2-1) at Houston Kinkaid (4-3, 2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Eagles will try to rebound after a 35-14 loss to Bellaire Episcopal last week that snapped a six-game winning streak and dropped ESD out of the SPC divisional lead. Things won’t get much easier with a road trip to face the defending league champion Falcons in a matchup of two high-scoring offenses.
W.T. White (4-2, 2-1) at Skyline (6-0, 3-0)
7 p.m. Thursday at Forester Stadium
The Longhorns and QB Jackson Fults posted a 57-7 win over Sunset last week to put themselves in playoff contention in 9-6A. A difficult late-season stretch begins with the explosive Raiders and QB K.C. Johnson, who has thrown for 14 touchdowns with no interceptions. RB Daleon Ward has rushed for 11 scores.
Lubbock Trinity (0-6) at Parish Episcopal (5-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Behind QB Tom Stewart and RB Dominic Williams, the high-powered Panthers posted their most dominating win of the season last week with a 62-8 thrashing of Fort Worth Southwest Christian to remain unbeaten in TAPPS district play. Now Parish steps outside the district to face the struggling Lions.