Prairie View (7-3) at River Oaks (5-5), Friday, 7 p.m.
Meeting for the second time in three weeks, Prairie View and River Oaks square off Friday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the MAIS Class 2A playoffs.
River Oaks won the first meeting 28-18 in Bastrop on Oct. 13, en route to the District 5-2A championship.
When the 12th-seeded Spartans (7-3) visit the No. 5-ranked Mustangs (5-5) for the rematch, the stakes will be higher.
"To be honest, I would rather be playing somebody else, but the bracket is the way it is," Prairie View coach Bo Barton said.
Barton isn't complaining too loudly about the Spartans' draw, though.
"It was a great ballgame the last time, and I expect a great ballgame this time," Barton said. "We're excited to be in the playoffs. We started with 13 players and wondering if we were going to win any games. Then we started out 4-0, and thought we might have a chance to win five or six games. Now, here we are in the playoffs. Our kids are excited about it because this is what they have been working for all year. It's time to lay it all on the line and see what we're made of.
"A lot of teams have put up their pads, and a lot of seniors have played their last ballgame. Fortunately, we're in. This is what we've worked for since June 1, and here we are."
As of mid-week, Friday's weather forecast was a bigger topic than the rematch. In fact, several area games have been moved to Thursday due to the threat of heavy rain.
"It's going to be a great night to play football," Barton predicted. "It's going to be muddy and nasty, and that's what you think of when you think about football.
"You can't control the elements, but we can control what we do, and we need to do it right."
Attempting only one pass in the initial meeting, the Mustangs rushed for 282 yards and held a 52-40 edge in offensive snaps. Fullback Tyler Avery was the Mustangs' workhorse, carrying 27 times for 156 yards, including a game-clinching 26-yard touchdown scamper with 6:16 remaining.
In Barton's eyes, Tyler Hitt's 25-yard fumble return was the pivotal play. Hitt caught the loose ball in the air after a big hit in the backfield by teammate Michael Hollman to give the Mustangs a 22-6 halftime lead.
"Basically, the winner of the last game was the team that didn't turn the ball over," Barton said. "They didn't turn the ball over, and we turned it over for a touchdown. We have to find a way to protect the ball."
River Oaks clinched the district title last week with a 42-0 win over Glenbrook. Prairie View, meanwhile, handled Claiborne Academy 40-6.
"You want to be playing your best ball going into the playoffs," Barton said. "We're healthy, we're playing hard and we're playing fast. We cleaned up a lot of mistakes last week. We have to play mistake-free to beat River Oaks. They are extremely well-coached. They have a big fullback, a big offensive line and they play extremely well on defense."
Barton was particularly pleased to see the Spartans convert all five 2-point conversions against Claiborne after going 0-for-3 vs. River Oaks.
Prairie View is led offensively by sophomore running back Layton Rainbolt, who has rushed for 951 yards and 16 touchdowns on 116 attempts while averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Rainbolt is also the team's second-leading receiver with 25 catches for 388 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Hayes Crockett has completed 93-of-168 passes for 1,448 yards with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. A dual threat, Crockett is the Spartans' second-leading ball carrier with 766 yards and 11 TDs on 124 attempts.
Senior Tanner Caldwell (37 receptions, 522 yards, 6 TDs) and junior Layton Woodard (14-287-2) are Crockett's primary receivers.
Senior tackles Cole Kinnaird and Austin Harper lead the way for the Spartans up front.
Linebackers Austin Carroll (94 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles), Jacob Farrar (80 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks) and Blake Ray (59 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 FF, 4 fumble recoveries) pace the defense. Among the Spartans' other key defenders are senior end Kolton Farrar (52 tackles, 3 TFL), senior tackle Jacob Walker (34 tackles, 4 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 FF) and senior cornerback Kentrell Spencer (42 tackles, 3 INTs).
Avery (150 carries, 909 yards, 9 TDs) and Cody Tindall (24-329-4 in 4 games) have helped River Oaks average 257.4 yards per game on the ground.
Topping the Mustangs' tackle chart are linebackers Rico Gonzalez (97 tackles, 4 TFL) and Hollman (71 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack) and end Samuel Alexander (66 tackles, 12 TFL, 6.3 sacks) top the Mustangs' tackle chart.
Friday's winner will advance to play the No. 13 Amite School Center-No. 4 Newton County winner in the quarterfinal round.