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Riding high off a 48-13 beatdown against Crescent in the first-round of the Class A state playoffs, Empire sets its sight on a possible quarterfinal appearance.
Standing in the Bulldogs (9-2, 7-1) way is a road tussle with District 2-A champion Hollis. The Tigers (10-0, 6-0) are fresh off their own first-round blowout, a 49-8 victory versus Oklahoma Bible. The biggest challenge for the visiting Bulldogs will be slowing down a team that coach Tony Roberts said has the most team speed he has faced. Empire knows it won’t be as easy as it was against Crescent.
“Our guys have got to come off the ball, not stand around and attack,” Roberts said. “They got to make sure they know where their blocks are, stay focused and not worry about the size and speed of their defense.”
If the Empire offensive line can open some holes, it has two talented running backs that excel in space. Senior Stephen Price and junior Dillon Twigg rushed for a combined 384 yards against Crescent. With Price’s return to offense last week after being out due to a leg injury, Twigg has received most of the carries this season.
This week, Twigg is most concerned with defense and how, as a linebacker, he can slow down Hollis’ rushing attack.
“Their speed is so fast it’s like a blink of the eye and you can miss,” Twigg said. “The speed is either going to make you or break you. You have to be either be there or they’re going to bust open a big play.”
While Twigg is focused on stopping a few types of plays, mainly tosses and outside runs, Hollis might get a headache if it tries to understand every play Empire will run. Bulldogs assistant coach Stefan Hunt was fitting all of the playcalling sheets in the players armbands in Wednesday’s practice. With close to 200 plays ready for the offensive side of the ball, Price knows it may seemed complicated, but says that it’s not too much to handle.
“Nothing’s too overbearing,” he said. “We have a good set of coaches that really prepare us for the job we have to do.”
If Empire can pull off the road win, it will play the winner of the Wynnewood and Kiefer on the road in the quarterfinals.