Episcopal can clinch SPC playoff berth Friday in Fort Worth
The Episcopal football team can clinch one of the four Southwest Preparatory Conference South Zone playoff spots Friday night with a win over Country Day in Fort Worth.
So it’s back to business for a team that was very business-like Friday night in dismantling archrival St. John’s, 45-13, to remain undefeated on the season and maintain their hold, along with also-unbeaten Kinkaid, on first place in the South.
“Clinching that playoff spot is our goal this week,” Episcopal head coach Steve Leisz said. “That’s our focus this week. That’s what the players are talking about. That’s what the coaches are talking about. We need to go up to Fort Worth and get a win over a very good team so we can clinch that playoff spot. We’ve put ourselves in a position to get it with a couple of weeks remaining in the season and we’d like to do that.”
The Knights went to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Zone last Friday with an outstanding performance on both sides of the ball against the Mavericks.
Led by junior running back Tyreik Gray, who rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries while also catching a scoring pass and three more receptions for 88 yards, the Knights bolted to a 21-0 lead at halftime and were never in any danger.
“Tyreik’s special,” Leisz said. “He can really play anywhere on the field and every time he touches the ball he has a chance to do something special, whether we hand it to him or Will (Taussig) is throwing it to him. He played very well Friday night. The offensive line I thought did a good job of giving him some space and then he did the rest.”
He said with the Knights going into a crucial stretch of the season with Country Day this week and Kinkaid next week in a potential matchup for the SPC South championship, the win over the Mavericks was their top performance so far.
“That’s the best we played all year,” Leisz said. “And we’ve played some very good games. But the St. John’s game is a big game for both teams and I thought it was our best game of the year. We were moving the ball on offense. We defended what they were trying to do offensively very well. And we were very productive in the kicking game.”
The Knights got rolling the third time they had possession and scored on their next three ownerships to take control against the Mavericks.
They began midway through the first period by putting together a 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ended with Gray carrying 15 yards for his first touchdown. Kicker Gabe Vogiatzis made the first of his six extra-point kicks and Episcopal held a 7-0 lead in the final minute.
Then after an interception by senior defensive back Ben Burnett, the Knights took over at their own 44. Five plays later, Taussig ran 10 yards for their second touchdown and a 14-0 advnantage.
St. John’s next possession ended on a fumble when a pitch on the option went away and Burnett came up with the recovery. This time at the St. John’s 19, the Knights went 13 yards on a short pass to Gray on second down and then Gray took a pitch to the left, stopped, and headed back into a wide open middle of the field for a 20-0 with six minutes to go until halftime.
St. John’s Jack Britton ran 23 yards midway through the third period to get the home team on the board, but they missed the extra point kick, making it 21-6.
The Knights would then score the next 24 consecutive points to open it up for 45-6 before a Wes Wallace 23-yard touchdown run completed the scoring.
“We were really balanced,” Leisz said of a night in which his team ran for 189 yards and threw for 225 more. “We feel like we can throw the ball and we feel like we can run the ball and the kids have bought into what we’re trying to do so I think we’re starting to play our best football and this is the time to do it. This is a big week for us and it’s a big game for them as well because their backs are against the wall in the South, so we know we’re going to see their best effort.”
Presently Episcopal and Kinkaid leads the South with 2-0 records. Houston Christian, which defeated Fort Worth Country Day last Friday night, along with Country Day and Trinity Valley are each 1-1. St. John’s is a half-game behind each of them at 1-2, but the Mavericks still have time to catch up, they just need to snap their two-game skid Friday night in Fort Worth against Trinity Valley.
So it’s still wide open, but Episcopal, which is the defending SPC Big School champion, can cut the playoff spots available Friday night to three by defeating Fort Worth Country Day,