Mount Vernon surprising favorite over Rabbs in regional semifinal game

Mount Vernon
Atlanta football coach Matt McClure leads the Rabbits into Thursday's regional semifinal with Mount Vernon at Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium in Longview.


LONGVIEW, Texas – Mount Vernon is labeled a favorite over Atlanta in their Region II-3A Division 2 semifinal by at least one organization. The two schools clash for the second time in 2018 Thursday at Pine Tree High School’s Pirate Stadium (7:30 p.m. kickoff).

It has been said it’s hard to beat a good team twice in the same season, maybe that is what someone is thinking. Atlanta won the first encounter on a muddy field, 41-22. This game was originally scheduled for Friday, but was moved because there was rain in the forecast.

“Both teams are familiar with each other, but I’m hopeful of a different type game this time,” said Atlanta coach Matt McClure. “We played in a monsoon last time on a muddy field. I know both teams have gotten better. The teams that continue to get better late in the season are the ones that can make a playoff run.

“We’ve improved offensively, defensively, and on special teams. I’m really excited about the way we are playing. We’ve beaten two really good teams (West Rusk and Kemp) in the playoffs. We’ve got to put the first encounter with Mount Vernon out of our minds, because if you lose now, you go home.”

Season records mean little in this game

Season records mean little going into this game. The Tigers are 9-3, while Atlanta stands 7-5. However, the Rabbs started the season 0-4, losing to Gilmer, Gladewater, Pleasant Grove and Liberty-Eylau. Atlanta dropped a lopsided decision to Jefferson in district, scoring impressive wins over Mount Vernon, Hughes Springs and Hooks.

The Tigers’ schedule was nearly as challenging, but Mount Vernon has also finished strong, including playoff wins over Tatum and Dallas Madison.

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Quarterback Andrew Samples leads Atlanta into Thursday’s playoff game with Mount Vernon.

McClure believes the play of quarterback Andrew Samples will be the key to the Rabbs’ success. Samples has been brilliant for several games, also playing in the secondary and on special teams.

“In our last two games Andrew has thrown for seven touchdowns, and he rushed for 100 yards last week,” said McClure. “He’s really playing well, and is so valuable for us. Andrew is just a really good football player and leader. We made some defensive changes going into district. Our defensive front is really been playing good football.”

The winner of this game advances to play Gladewater or Malakoff.