The final exam for Cedar Park is about to begin.
For the last six weeks, the Timberwolves have been battling in one of the toughest districts in the state. After finishing as the No. 2 team, they begin the postseason Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Gupton Stadium against Austin LBJ.
“It’s kind of like going to school because the whole point is for one year to build on the other,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “It’s the same thing in a football season. We’ve been prepared by the teams that we’ve played,” Abseck said. “You’ve had to learn to play to your strengths and learn from the different schemes that teams have had to run at you.”
Cedar Park started the season with back-to-back losses to Vandegrift and Cedar Ridge, the two top teams from District 13-6A before rattling off five straight wins. After a lopsided loss at state-ranked Hutto, the Timberwolves beat Pflugerville and Manor to close out the regular season.
The Timberwolves had the second-best offense in the district, averaging 33.7 points per game, and the No. 3 defense, allowing just over 22 points each time out.
Largely considered to be one of the best districts in the state, now is the time for the lessons the Timberwolves learned during the season to pay off.
“In our district, they’re going to get tested every week because of the offensive talent that’s there,” Abseck said. “We’ve gotten better as the year has progressed and we’ve adjusted to the personnel that we have and understand what they do well and fixing the thing we need to.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryder Hernandez has thrown for 2,292 yards and touchdowns with four interceptions. Senior receiver Carson Neel has 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving and the rushing corps has a combined 1,175 yards and 11 scores.
But it’s the vaunted ‘Black Rain’ defense that will be pressured on Friday night against the Panthers.
LBJ enters the playoffs averaging more than 54 points per game, tops in District 12-5A-DI, and it has won four games in a row. The Jaguars have scored 60 points in three of their last four games.
Their only defeat of the season was a 52-35 loss at Dripping Springs in which the Jaguars were snakebitten by turnovers.
“They score a lot of points this year and they haven’t given up many either,” Abseck said. “They’re talented on offense and defensively with some really good athletes. They have some guys that play on both sides so they get can get stretched. But they’re talented, no doubt.”
Cedar Park has been synonymous with the playoffs, having made the postseason every year for the last decade. In each of the last two seasons, the Timberwolves have advanced to the third round.
This is the time of year when the Timberwolves can really hit their stride.
“This is why we do all the things you do from January to this point,” Abseck said. “I think the kids are all excited about starting the playoffs and getting an opportunity to go to the playoffs. Half the teams in Texas would change places with you and for us, it’s about having that laser-like focus. You don’t get a chance for a bad day.”