By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 18, 2017) — Dublin faces another tough task Friday night, but that’s become the norm for the Lions, who have faced quite the tough schedule already this season.
Fresh off a 43-21 loss to perennial power Cisco – in their most respectable showing in 20 years against the always-tough Lobos – the Lions readying for a short trip to Eastland. Kickoff at Maverick Stadium Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Mavericks entered District 4-3A Division II widely expected to battle with Cisco for the league crown, but Dublin, with its upstart offense and string of strong second-half performances is one of the district rivals capable of throwing a wrench in those plans.
Not that it will be easy.
“They have a very good football team led by a coach’s son at quarterback,” Dublin head coach Bob Cervetto said of Behren Morton, son of Eastland head coach james Morton. “He’s just a freshman, but he’s pretty dang good. He’s 6-1 and can already roll, and then back there with him they’ve got a kid (David Vasquez) who can really tote the mail. They’re very quick and very solid.”
Behren Morton is playing for the team his dad once helped to a state championship. James Morton, a 1983 Eastland graduate, was a member of the 1982 2A state champion Mavericks and left Midland Lee in January of last year return home as head football coach and athletic director.
Cliff Watkins, a playoff quarterback at Tarleton State in 2003 and a state champion receivers coach at Stephenville High School in 2012, was head coach and athletic director at Eastland in 2014 and 2015, but left to accept the same positions at 4A Glen Rose.
Watkins led the Mavericks to 25 wins in just two seasons, and Morton, especially with his dynamic son at quarterback for this and the next three seasons, appears set to continue that success. The Mavericks were 8-4 last season, falling in the area round to state power Canadian.
Eastland has lost twice, 31-7 to a Wall club expected to compete for a state title, and 21-14 to one of the best Comanche teams in a long time, one that beat Cisco by a point. The Harris Ratings don’t knock the Mavs for facing such tough competition, ranking them 13th this week in 3A Division II.
So how does Cervetto feel about is club’s brief road trip up State Highway 6? The same he feels every time someone turns on the Friday Night Lights.
“What an exciting opportunity,” Cervetto said. “We’re going to roll over there and try to be better than we were a week ago. For the most part, we’ve been able to do that. You get better when you compete against good people, and hopefully one day you look up and realize you’re pretty good yourself.”
Dublin has been good in the second half over the last month. The Lions fell behind by 18 early in the third quarter at Breckenridge, but reeled off 21 straight points to spoil the Buckaroos’ homecoming, 27-24. A week later, Dublin outscored Bosqueville 26-0 after intermission, erasing a 7-point halftime deficit to celebrate a 45-26 win in the Lions’ own homecoming contest.
Even in the loss to Cisco, Dublin matched the strong Lobos 14-14 after trailing 29-7 at half-time.
“I don’t think the good teams we’re playing are falling off any in the second half, I just think our kids have done a good job of getting stronger as games have gone along,” Cervetto said. “We’re proud of that, but now we need to get consistent and play four quarters that way.”
Berhen Morton won’t be the only talented QB under the Maverick Stadium lights Friday. Dublin senior Josh Hanes is, to steal a line from Cervetto, “pretty dang good,” himself.
A 58.4 percent passer for 1,133 yards and 11 touchdowns, Hanes has connected with 11 different receivers this year, none of them with more than 21.3 percent of his completions.
“He’s leading the team and doing a good job of it and I couldn’t be more proud of him. The kids are really responding to him well and that’s helped us come together and have such great chemistry,” said Cervetto.
The leading receivers are Jacob Stanley and Tyshon Hopkins with 17 caches each. Stanley leads the team with 343 receiving yards and 3 TDs, while Billy Dale Mercer has 14 catches for 234 yards and three scores. Hopkins has 225 yards and a single TD.
“Josh has been able spread the ball out to a lot of guys, and that’s what you want is to show you have a lot of weapons so defense has to account for all of them,” Cervetto said.
Hanes can do damage with his feet, too, accounting for another 276 yards and 5 TDs.
And they have to do it soon. There exists mathematical ways to get out of District 4-3A Division II and into the playoffs with just one district win, but in all likelihood, it’s going to take two. They have four chances to pick up those two needed wins, following Eastland with games against Coleman, Tolar and Bangs.
All they control now is their preparation for the first one.
“We’ll get ready to roll over there and see if we can put a good 48 minutes together. If we can contain their quarterback and running back and execute on offense, and do it all for four full quarters, then we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”