Prolific ‘O’s meet tonight

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

Two high-octane offenses meet tonight in Abilene in Round 3 of the Class 4A, D-II playoffs, so it will come down to which defense has the most stops. Sweetwater scores just over 46 points a game and Graham is even better, averaging nearly 53.
In the playoffs, Sweetwater has also averaged 46 points a game while Graham is averaging 57.5.
The 12-0 Steers have only had two close calls, beating Brownwood 54-49 and Wichita Falls Hirschi 42-35 in consecutive weeks back in September. Since then, the Steers have won by an average of 42 points.
Of Graham’s four District 3-4A, D-II opponents, only Iowa Park came within 28 points and the Steers have won their two playoff games by an average of 47 points.
Turnovers have been few for Graham’s offense, which has has just seven — yes, seven — in 12 games.
But Sweetwater’s defense has forced twice as many turnovers this year with 32 (17 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries) to Graham’s 16. To make a state title run again this year it will need to continue to have an edge in forcing turnovers.
Sweetwater will be facing its second straight foe from District 3-4A, D-II following its 32-28 win last week over Vernon.
After trailing at the end of the first three periods, the Mustangs used a 12-0 finish to pull out a tough victory after a dominant 60-14 win over Perryton the previous week. Last week’s close win gave Sweetwater its fourth straight season with at least 10 wins; the Mustangs have compiled a 48-6 mark since the start of the 2014 season.
Graham has a big advantage when comparing the teams’ three common opponents. Both teams easily disposed of Big Spring with Graham winning by 47 and Sweetwater winning by 36. But Monahans defeated the Mustangs by 18 while losing to Graham by 42 last week, and Vernon lost by four to Sweetwater while Graham beat the Lions by 51.
Tonight’s winner will face Seminole (11-1) or Bushland (10-2) next week in the state quarterfinals. Wins by both Sweetwater and Seminole would set up a rematch of last year’s game that was won by Sweetwater 38-14, and would also put the Mustangs in the quarterfinals for the third time in four years, with the lone exception being 2015.
Facing Seminole would also give Sweetwater a shot at avenging a loss to its District 2-4A, D-II rival, which won 28-27 five weeks ago over the Mustangs in an overtime thriller.
The Indians, like Sweetwater, had a close call in the area round as they barely held on for a 29-27 victory over Iowa Park. Seminole led 29-7 at halftime but was outscored 20-0 after that.