Cedar Park is in an unfamiliar position this week.
When the Timberwolves hit the road to face off against Hutto Friday night, they’ll play the role of underdogs. The undefeated Hippos are No. 2 in the most recent coaches poll and received votes in the statewide AP poll. Cedar Park comes in at No. 9 in the coaches poll after winning five straight games.
“They’ve earned the recognition that they have and the respect that they have based on their performance to this point,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “It’s well-deserved on their part and it’s our job to go and steal a little bit of that thunder. It’s going to be a fantastic game.”
This game has been circled on calendars since last season when the Timberwolves won 35-25 en route to a district title. Preseason predictions had Hutto beating out Cedar Park for the title this year, but to Abseck, preseason talk is irrelevant to the game.
“Our guys have been pretty good about just going and playing the game because all the rest of it is just talk,” Abseck said.
Friday will put the high-powered Hippo offense against a Cedar Park defense that has been playing well the last month of the season.
The Hippos average more than 50 points a game this season, with 320.4 yards through the air and 159.8 rushing yards in five games. Hutto opened the district schedule with a 78-14 beatdown of Connally and followed that up with a 38-14 win at Georgetown on Oct. 5.
Hutto quarterback Chase Griffin, a UCLA pledge, has thrown for 1,607 yards and 25 touchdowns this season through the air and 106 yards and five scores on the ground.
Senior receiver Caleb Forrest (659 yards, 10 touchdowns) is Griffin’s favorite target. Running back Chux Nwabuko, who recently committed to Texas Tech, has 318 yards and one touchdown to lead the Hippos’ rushing attack.
“You want to take them out of their comfort zone and make them do some things they don’t necessarily do well,” Abseck said. “They’re a talented group and I don’t think you can expect to just shut them down because they have a lot of talent. It’s really just about eliminating their big plays.”
Defensively, the Timberwolves have allowed just over 20 points a game this season and have given up 14 or fewer points in three of the last four games.
Cedar Park held Georgetown’s explosive quarterback Jackson Sioson to 148 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 122 rushing yards — most of which came on a 67-yard run — and a rushing touchdowns last week. The Timberwolves also had a pair of interceptions.
On the defensive line, Benn bell has 23 tackles for loss and Jacob Munoz has 20. Noah Morales leads the team with 43 tackles and Tammer Alzer has 41 tackles and a team-high two interceptions.
“Defense is the area that we came in with the most experience and same thing for them offensively,” Abseck said. “It’s a battle of strengths on that side. I feel like offensively, we’ve gotten better as the year has gone on.”
Ryder Hernandez has five straight games with at least 200 yards passing, including a 348-yard, two-touchdown performance in his first start of the season, a win against San Angelo Central on Sept. 14.
Carson Neel (814 yards, nine touchdowns) and Brandon Breed (448 yards, six touchdowns) have been the two leading receivers. Both of them caught a touchdown in the win against Georgetown last Friday night.
The Timberwolves will have a bye next Friday before ending the regular season against a pair of teams that dropped to Class 5A this season, hosting Pflugerville on Oct. 11 and on the road against Manor, the other team currently undefeated in District 11-5A, Division I.
For Abseck, Friday is a neat opportunity for two Central Texas teams to get some exposure across the state.
“It is the biggest game of the season so far based on that it’s this week and it’s two teams that at this point have won all their district ball games,” he said. “Our team is excited about the challenge.”