GARDEN CITY — Garden City head coach Vance Jones remembers the last time his Bearkats lost vividly.
It was to Throckmorton in the beginning of the 2009 season and Jones remembers his players naturally being upset.
More good than harm came from that loss, though.
“That loss was probably our motivation to work harder to get to play them again,” Jones said. “After the game, they said ‘Coach, we can beat them.’ They worked hard and that was the driving engine that helped us get to that point and once we beat them, we said ‘Hey, maybe we have a shot to go all the way.”
The Bearkats did get another shot at Throckmorton en route to the 2009 state title, beating the Greyhounds in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last year. That added to the win they had in the second round of the 2008 playoffs.
The two teams will add another chapter to the series at 7 p.m. Saturday at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, but this time, everything is on the line in the UIL Six-Man state championship game.
Garden City players weren’t willing to talk too much about the last time the Bearkats lost a game. As far as they are concerned, all focus is on what happens against Throckmorton Saturday.
They’ve practice like that, too.
This week has proved to the Bearkats how helpful experience can be. Going through the week of the state championship game as the defending champions is a lot different than doing it for the first time.
“It’s definitely different,” said Reggie Halfmann, who is one of the anchors on a defense Jones said has immensely grown. “Being through the whole experience once, the nerves just aren’t quite as high the second time around.”
Garden City receiver Brett Chudej said this week has been as normal as any other week during the season and everyone is relaxed, but focused.
Jones wouldn’t have it any other way. He let his players know this is the part they should enjoy the most.
“I think everyone is pretty relaxed right now,” he said. “We started out the week that way. The hardest part is getting here. We got here now just relax and have fun. I think we’ve had a good hard week and they’ve had fun at it.
“Because like I told them, there is no guarantee they’ll ever be back.”
When Jones and his players talk about Throckmorton, explosive, talented, tough, standout and talented are just some of the words used.
Jones said Saturday’s game will be a matchup of two very similar teams. The Bearkats have Josh Colunga and Throckmorton has Michael Everett.
Halfmann said the defensive game plan for Saturday’s is simple: limit Everett as much as possible. Against Aquilla in the semifinal last week, he had 19 carries on 256 yards and five touchdowns.
But as much as the Bearkats want to limit Everett, the need for Throckmorton to do the same against Colunga is just as vital to the Greyhounds’ success.
That’s when quarterback Blayne Batla thrives, connecting with Chudej, Aaron Long or Brian Hirt, among others, who are open as a result.
“They’ll probably try to stop Josh as much as anything,” Batla said. “Maybe they’ll leave some guys wide open.”