Unbeaten Kinkaid, Episcopal clash Friday for SPC South Zone lead

The Southwest Preparatory Conference South Zone football championship will probably be on the line Friday night when unbeaten Episcopal travels to undefeated Kinkaid in what could be an epic matchup.

Both schools have clinched playoff berths in the upcoming SPC Big School playoffs after each took easy Zone victories last Friday night to improve both schools to 4-0 in the league. Everyone else in the league has at least two losses, meaning with just two weeks left in the SPC season, Kinkaid and Episcopal are both in.

And when one looks at the numbers, it’s no wonder both have yet to lose a game because simply put – both teams with their fast-paced, sling-it-around-the-field offenses and mentality have yet to be stopped, much less slowed down by anyone.

Kinkaid, which is 7-0 and has had only one close call, got to this spot with a 42-0 victory over Trinity Valley Friday night in Fort Worth while Episcopal, which is 6-0 and has had zero close calls, went to Fort Worth as well and defeated Country Day, 42-0, to also remaining undefeated going into Friday’s game.

In their seven games, led by junior quarterback JT Granato, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns and over 2,400 yards during that time, the Falcons have accumulated nearly 3,100 yards overall. Granato has completed 156-of-255 attempts and he spreads the ball all over the place with four different guys, who can all run, having caught at least 20 passes.

Running back Jacob Matthews, who also leads the team in rushing, has caught 46 out of the backfield, but is averaging 15 yards a catch to lead the team. Sam Mays is second with 39 receptions for 10 touchdowns and 645 yards.

six-foot-8 Senior Mavin Saunders is third with 24 passes caught and seven more scores and Stephen O’Suji has pulled in exactly 20 throws, giving the Falcons one of the more diverse passing games around.

Their low-point total was 36 in their opener against St. Pius and they got to 39 the next week when they rallied for a 39-38 victory over Bellville. Since then, they’ve not been held below 40,outscoring Houston Christian, Country Day, Beaumont Kelly, St. Andrew’s Episcopal and Trinity Valley, 227-54.

In their win over Trinity Valley in Fort Worth, Granato threw five touchdown passes, including two to Sam Mays (6, 50 yards); two to Saunders (48 and 49 yards); and one to Michael Goldak for 67 yards.

But they’ve also shined defensively this season with nearly half the points they’ve surrendered coming in the win over Bellville. In the league, they’ve allowed only 34 points and they held Trinity Valley to less than 80 yards in total offense last Friday night in pitching their first shutout of the season. They also kept Beaumont Kelly out of the end zone, but Kelly scored four points on a pair of safeties in a Kinkaid 40-4 victory.

And they have racked up 10 interceptions to this point with safety Thomas Dillon, another highly-recruited defensive player, having half of them with five. Dillon has taken two back for touchdowns this season.

Episcopal’s numbers are right there as well although they have played two less games, but they have averaged over 460 yards per game and have both an excellent running game, led by flashy junior running back Tyreik Gray, and a solid passing attack, run by quarterback Will Taussig and all his receivers.

The Knights play fast and Taussig also likes to go to all the guys around him like Gray and seniors Colby Jones, Collin Leisz and Preston Heard, who all have are go-to targets at various points in a game.

But the real big threat is Gray, who has rushed for nearly 940 yards on only 69 carries and averages nearly 14 yards a run. He is quick, makes people miss, and does a good job of finding a way to the part of the field where no one else seems to be, giving him a chance to break off long runs. He has scored 17 touchdowns on those 69 rushes so one out of every four carries ends with him scoring on average.

The Knights have also been very good defensively, giving up just 67 points so far this year and linebacker Trey Horne, who had 19 tackles against St. John’s just two weeks ago, along with a veteran secondary has set the standard on that side.

And they are not afraid to take some risks, like putting 11 men in the box against St. John’s to stop the veer and daring the Mavericks to put the ball in the air against experienced defensive backs.

So they each will be playing in the SPC Big School playoffs the first weekend in November against someone out of the SPC North Zone. But first, there’s the matter of who is going to win the South Zone regular season championship.

And this game, with the kickoff set for 7 p.m. Friday, should settle that.