Mules back in playoffs

Muleshoe junior Brady Black has ruished for more than 1,000 yards this season. (Staff photo: Rick White)

By Rick White: CNJ managing editor

The Muleshoe Mules have been a football playoff fixture under coach David Wood, making the postseason six of the last seven seasons, including a trip to the state semifinals in 2000.

Perryton has done the Mules one better with seven straight playoff appearances.

Hardly strangers to each other in the playoffs, the teams will meet for the third time in seven years at 8 p.m. (CST) today at Dick Bivins Stadium in Amarillo in a Class 3A Division II bi-district contest.

Wood feels the Mules are back where they belong after missing the playoffs in 2003.

“It’s bittersweet because I thought we could have made the playoffs last year,” said Wood, in his ninth season at Muleshoe. “I feel like we have something to prove.

“We expect to be in the playoffs every year, but it’s nice to be back.”

Muleshoe (8-2) beat Perryton in back-to-back playoff games in 1998-99, including a 50-9 romp in 1999 that veteran coach Gary Newcomb remembers well.

“They whipped up on us like a rented Mule,” Newcomb said.

Perryton (7-2) has been ranked in the Top 10 in Class 3A for most of the season and enter today’s matchup as the 11th-ranked team. The senior-laden Rangers even spent a week at No. 1.

“In my 36 years in coaching I’ve never put a lot of faith in the rankings. They’re for the soothsayers. But it was good for the community and good for the kids.”

Wood said his team’s best chance of upending the Rangers is to put together some time-consuming drives to keep Perryton’s offense off the field.

“We want to try and shorten the game by keeping the clock running,” Wood said. “My biggest worry is that they will wear us down like Cooper did in the third and fourth quarters.”

Lubbock Cooper handed Muleshoe its only district loss, 28-13, three weeks ago.

With their multiple offensive formations and trick plays, Newcomb said the Mules are harder to figure out than “Chinese arithmetic.”

But it doesn’t take Einstein — or Paul Bear Bryant — to figure out Muleshoe will rely on junior running back Brady Black and sophomore quarterback Brant Hamilton. The bullish 6-foot, 195-pound Black went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season in last week’s 29-6 win over Littlefield while the speedy Hamilton has scored an area-high 16 touchdowns.

Led by senior quarterback Bo Merrell, Perryton counters with an offense that averages 378 yards a game. But Perryton will be without the services of leading rusher Tim Oliverez, who Wood said gave the big and physical Rangers a change of pace at running back with his quickness.

Oliverez hurt his knee in last week’s 14-10 loss to unbeaten Canyon.