Cedar Park has been a true second-half team in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In wins against Magnolia and Ennis, the Timberwolves scored double-digit points in the second half to advance. That won’t be as easy in the regional semifinals when No. 8 Cedar Park takes on No. 1 Manvel Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Waller ISD Stadium.
“We’ve just got to come out and score on the first drive,” senior Luke Policke said. “We’ve got to finish drives. We’ve been able to get to the red zone a lot and just not get any points on the board. If we just finish the drive, it’ll be easier for the defense because they won’t have to hold them every time.”
Manvel is a dual-threat team that has the ability to spread the field using both the passing and running games. The Mavericks average 213.5 passing yards per game and 210.8 on the ground.
Senior quarterback Kason Martin has thrown for 2,059 yards and 30 touchdowns with just three interceptions and three players have rushed for more than 450 yards and at least eight touchdowns on the year.
Manvel gives up just 12.6 points per game and has allowed seven or fewer points in six of its 11 games.
“We know they’re big and strong and fast,” Policke said. “We know we have to hit them really hard and not be soft and keep driving because they’re a good team.”
The Timberwolves and Mavericks clashed in the same round last season with Manvel advancing following a 47-35 win at Kyle Field in College Station.
“It sucked,” senior defensive end Levi Russo-Bell said of last year's loss. “We have them again third round and we’re going to go really hard. You can’t underestimate any team. They’re athletic. It’s my senior year and I want to give everything I have. I don’t want to lose again, so I’m going really hard.”
The season changed for Cedar Park when quarterback Mak Sexton broke his leg during district play. Ryan Fiala stepped in and has been gaining confidence every week. In two playoff games, the junior has 293 yards and four touchdowns.
A trio of senior receivers — Brant McDonald, Payden Sawicki, and Carlos Woolery — have caught five touchdowns in the span.
While the Sexton injury has affected the offense, senior defensive back Gunnar Chriswisser was injured in the same district game against Georgetown and has been out just as long.
His absence has changed the look of the defense, but not the results. Magnolia averaged 39.9 points per game while Ennis scored 37.3 each time out. The Timberwolves held them to 20 and 14 points, respectively.
Chriswisser wasn’t able to play in the playoff game against Manvel last year, either, having done some major damage to his shoulder earlier in the season.
“It still hurt because seeing the faces of the seniors and juniors after we lost... it was just devastating,” he said. “(This year has) been rough. Not getting to finish my senior season again. God has a different plan for me and you’ve just got to accept it and move on.”