Without any doubt and with little argument, the Corsicana Tigers face their biggest test of the season Friday night in their regular season finale against Ennis, their biggest rival.
Talk about a tough final exam ...
The Lions, who are ranked No. 13 in the state, haven’t lost to a Class 5A team all year, and have won six in a row as they come to Corsicana for the first time since 2016.
The last two meetings have been in Ennis, where the Tigers were upset a year ago when they lost to the Lions after clinching the District 8-5A DII title a week earlier.
This time the Tigers will be big underdogs to an Ennis team that can clinch the district title with a victory.
And to make the task even more difficult, the UIL gave Ennis a bye week and two weeks to prepare for the game against Corsicana, which was forced for the second year in a row to play 10 weeks in a row without a bye week.
The Tigers, whose last break came in August, didn’t look like the same team in last week’s 7-0 win on the road in Forney.
They hope to regroup in time to face the best team they have seen this year.
Ennis is 6-0 in the district race and 7-1 overall with two games remaining. A victory over the 6-1 Tigers (7-2 overall) will clinch the title because even if Royse City (5-1 and 7-1) wins its final two games, Ennis beat the Bulldogs earlier.
The Tigers can win the district title with a win over Ennis and a Royse City loss in its last two games would leave the Tigers and Ennis at 7-1 and Royse City at 6-2, and the Tigers would win the tiebreaker over Ennis because of the head-to-head win.
If the Tigers win and Ennis finishes with a victory over Greenville and Royse City wins its final two games there could be a three-way tie for first.
But beating Ennis will be no easy task.
The Lions have hammered every district opponent and they’re averaging 404.4 yards and 38.3 points a game.
The Lions have allowed only 221 yards and 14.5 points a game, and most of that came in the second half of one-sided games against Ennis backups.
The closest district game the Lions have had was against Royse City, which lost in Ennis, 38-21. Royse City beat Corsicana seven days later in Royse City 27-0.
The Tigers have had a solid season and have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but they simply have not played a team as good as Ennis all year.
The Lions are not only talented on offense, they have one of the most balanced offenses in Texas. They have thrown for 196 yards per game and rushed for 208 every Friday night..
The Tigers have to find a way to stop quarterback Collin Drake, who has completed 100-of-159 passes (62.9 percent) for 1,563 yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions. Drake has also rushed for 485 yards, averaging 6.4 yards a carry, and scored 11 TDs on the run.
His favorite receiver is Laylon Spencer, who has made 39 receptions for 884 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Spencer is a deep threat every time the Lions snap the ball, and is averaging 22.7 yards a catch.
Clayton Jenkins has 17 receptions for 193 yards and Dyllan Santos has 14 catches for 177 yards. Santos has rushed for 126 yards on 26 carries.
Santos, who was the Lions QB last year, was picked by Texas Football magazine as the preseason District 8-5A DII Offensive Player of the Year, but that was before Drake showed up and took over at quarterback.
The Lions have used Drake and three running backs, who have combined to run for more than 1,500 yards, so choose your poison.
Devion Beasley leads Ennis in rushing with 554 yards on 75 carries (7.4 yards a pop) and 11 touchdowns. That’s 25 rushing TDs between Drake and Beasley.
Jarius Jones has run for 358 yards on 69 carries and five touchdowns and Santos has added 126 rushing yards to the Ennis vault.
Simply put, the Lions are loaded on offense and they run hard and hit hard on defense, where seven starters returned from last year’s playoff team. DeRyous Stokes (6-0. 235) and Clayton Jenkins (6-0, 230) are the leaders for an aggressive group that has two shutouts this season and has allowed 42 points in five district games. Royse City scored 21 in the other 8-5A game.
Of course, these are just numbers and even though the numbers mean Ennis is the top team on Corsicana’s schedule they may not have that much to do with the numbers on Friday’s scoreboard.
Corsicana has overcome great odds all year with a young team that lost 92 percent of its offense from the district champ team from a year ago.
No one who saw the Tigers last spring would have picked them to be one of the top teams in the district race, but Hal Wasson has done wonders with a team that was still looking for an identity when the season kicked off in August, a team that has come so far so fast, and a team that has a chance to win a district title, and at least a share of a district crown with a win on Friday.
The Tigers have known this would be their biggest game of the year since last year’s loss in Ennis in the season finale, and after losing to Ennis two years in a row on the road they finally get a home game against their rivals — a home game with a lot at stake.
One thing is clear: Ennis will be the most talented team the Tigers have played this year, and if they beat the Lions, then they will have beaten the best team they have played this year.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.