(Bryan) – If the Lifegate Falcons hope to play for the TAPPS Six-Man Division III state championship next week, they’ll have to knock off the team that eliminated them last year en route to the 2016 state title.
The 7-3 Falcons meet 6-3 Baytown Christian tonight in a rematch of last season’s state semifinal at Allan Academy in Bryan. The Bulldogs defeated Lifegate 67-22 in the 2016 meeting on the same field, and went on to cap a 13-0 season with a 65-54 win over Wichita Falls-Notre Dame in the state championship game.
Baytown Christian graduated most of its key players from last year’s title team, and the Bulldogs’ rebuilt roster managed to finish second in District 7 behind Brazosport Christian during the regular season before defeating Bulverde-Living Rock 59-14 in last Friday’s playoff opener.
Though Lifegate lost several of its 2016 leaders to graduation as well, the Falcons returned their most valuable offensive weapon, spread-back Cayden Shellnut. The senior has been one of the top performers in the state this year, entering tonight with season totals of 1,516 yards and 31 touchdowns rushing to go with 1,325 yards and 21 scores passing. Shellnut has also sparked the Lifegate defense with team-highs in tackles (127), interceptions (4) and defensive touchdowns (2).
Myles McCord and Barry Osborne have been the primary compliments to Shellnut in the Falcons’ attack. McCord has piled up 261 rushing yards, 546 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns. Osborne enters tonight with 491 receiving yards, four touchdown catches, and seven scores on the ground. Defensively, McCord has totaled 73 tackles and a team-high seven fumble recoveries, and Osborne has recorded 49 tackles.
Lifegate head coach John Rabon says defensive discipline against multiple Baytown Christian formations will be a key factor in advancing past the Bulldogs tonight.
"They run a multi-set offense,” Rabon said. “They come out in all kinds of different sets. They're trying to make us line up wrong, get us in the wrong alignment, and take advantage of it, so we've been working real hard this week recognizing sets and trying to get in the same spot. They live on the run and the short pass, and they run out of the spread and tight, so they do a lot of things on offense that we're just going to have to be ready for."
The opening kickoff at Allan Academy in Bryan is slated for 7 p.m.