(Hewitt) – The Lifegate Falcons hope to give veteran head coach John Rabon the ultimate retirement gift today – a victory over Granbury North Central Texas in the TAPPS Six-Man Division III state championship game at Midway ISD’s Panther Stadium in Hewitt.
Rabon, a 47-year teaching and coaching veteran who started Lifegate Christian School’s six-man football program from scratch in 2003, will step down at the end of this season, his 15th with the Falcons.
Rabon’s 2017 squad looks to win the second state championship in school history, following in the footsteps of the 2012 team that captured the TAPPS Six-Man Division II crown. Lifegate is back in the title game for the first time since that memorable season after falling in the state semifinals three of the previous four years.
The Falcons (8-3) cleared the state semifinal hurdle last Friday with a 62-16 mercy-rule victory over defending champion Baytown Christian, which followed a 61-13 win over Orange Community Christian in the quarterfinals the week before.
Lifegate enters today with season offensive averages of 54.9 points, 360.8 total yards, 210.4 rushing yards, and 150.4 passing yards per game.
The catalyst in that attack is All-State senior spread-back Cayden Shellnut, who has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,438 yards and 24 touchdowns while gashing defenses on the ground with 1,633 yards and 35 scores in 2017.
Shellnut’s primary cohorts on offense, completing the Falcons’ “Big Three”, so to speak, have been up-backs Myles McCord and Barry Osborne. McCord leads Lifegate with 555 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, and enters today with 329 yards and five scores on the ground. Osborne has totaled 549 yards and five scores through the air while rushing for seven touchdowns.
Defensively, Lifegate has yielded 38.6 points per game and forced 30 turnovers (18 fumbles, 12 interceptions) this season. Shellnut has also been the Falcons’ leader on that side of the ball, recording a team-high 147 tackles to go with four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
McCord (89 tackles, 7 fumble recoveris), Osborne (52 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries), Quinten Shellnut (3 fumble recoveries, two interceptions), Barson Schmidt (3 interceptions), and David Brewer (45 tackles) have also been defensive leaders for Lifegate this season.
Granbury North Central Texas, coached by Mike Hendon, takes a 7-5 record into the state title game after outscoring Tyler Street Christian Academy 98-66 in the first round of the playoffs and advancing past Weatherford Christian 68-36 in the state semifinals.
The Pioneers have been involved in some shootouts this season, averaging 55.7 points per game while allowing a defensive average of 54.3. Their most dangerous player is running-back Caleb Lawrence who finished with 360 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns in the semifinal win over Weatherford Christian.
“They’ve got good size, and they’ve got some speed, especially back in the back with their secondary people,” Rabon said in scouting the Pioneers. “They give up a lot of points, but at the same time, they score more than they give up usually. It’s just going to be a matter of us being patient. For them, they have to do about the same thing – they’re going to have to get a lot of people to the ball as well, so it will be an interesting matchup.”
Today’s kickoff at Midway ISD Panther Stadium is slated for 3 p.m. The game will air live on KWED 1580 AM and Seguintoday.com, with pre-game coverage at 2:30.