Games that count: District play begins

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Three area schools host their gridiron district openers Friday. Harmony travels to Alba-Golden, Mineola faces off against West Rusk and Arp comes to Quitman. Local football fans are warned not to put too much credence into the early predistrict results, as a true second season will begin with Friday’s kickoffs.    

The Harmony Eagles will arrive to Alba-Golden with a huge chip on their shoulder. Starting the 2019 season 0-3, they have already exceeded the number of losses experienced in their 2018 campaign.

A shocking loss to New Diana opened their year. A close game against Elysian Fields and a sound defeat at the hands of West Rusk must be haunting the Eagles, who were the preseason favorite in District 10-3A Division II. 

They will battle an Alba-Golden squad which is desperate to put a complete game together. At times in the predistrict competition, the Panthers have operated like a machine, at others times they have sputtered. Each team is relieved to reach district play and make it count. 

Just up Highway 37, the Quitman Bulldogs will be hosting the Arp Tigers. Both teams will be breathing fire as they each seek their first win of the season. 

The Bulldogs have been whiskers away from starting the season 3-0. In each of their first three games, they can pinpoint moments which let the games slip away

 “The preseason is over and it’s time to start playing for keeps. The week off helped us get healthier, and we have some kids back who have been out with injuries,” Head Coach Bryan Oakes said. “We are looking forward to the challenge of district play. The kids are really hungry for a win and they have been working really hard preparing for Arp.”

Arp comes to town smarting from losses to West Rusk 35-6, Hughes Springs 30-8 and Jefferson 38-8. The Tigers have six offensive and five defensive starts back from last year. They are led offensively by quarterback Trent Jones who had 600 yards passing and 500 rushing last season. Linebacker Robert Greenlee continues to make noise on defense leading the team in tackles after recording 88 last year. 

At Meredith Memorial Stadium the Yellowjackets will be hosting the Raiders from West Rusk High School. The Yellowjackets have been quietly having their typical pre-district experience: ironing out player assignments, installing the offense and sharpening the defense. 

A year which appeared to be a rebuilding year is anything but. The Jackets are ready for district and their early season efforts have raised hopes among the loyal fan base.

The Yellowjackets have been punching above their weight to open the season, with away losses at Wills Point and Canton. They then dispatched Farmersville and Big Sandy, and seem to be hitting on all cylinders.

Competing against the visiting Raiders will be more akin to the competition in the Wills Point contest than that at Big Sandy.  Although West Rusk started the season against three 3A Division II opponents and a rebuilding Palestine Westwood, they built huge winning margins in each of their first four games.  

As Mineola fans recall from last season, the football team from Rusk County can score often and quickly. It should be a classic battle with the Jackets.

This corner of Wood County offers three excellent football-watching opportunities Friday. Emotions should be high with the start of district play, and the match-ups forthcoming could produce some of the best football in East Texas.

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