Crosstown foes Dickson, Lone Grove set for district clash on the gridiron

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
A pack of Longhorns make a group tackle earlier this season. Lone Grove welcomes Dickson to town Friday night for a district clash.

It may not be noticeable at first glance, but the Dickson and Lone Grove high school football teams have more similarities than differences. One squad may be in better shape in this year’s District 3A-2 standings, but both are facing growing pains under a new leader.

“We’re both trying to get our kids to understand what it takes to win,” said Comets head coach Matt Suffal. “Coach (Curtis) Cole is trying to get his guys to fight for four quarters and we’re trying to teach our kids that the time you take a play off, that’s when you’re going to get burned. We’re both trying to build championship cultures and I think we’re both headed in the same direction.”

That’s to be determined during the next few seasons, but the district foes are focused on 2021 as they meet Friday night in Lone Grove.

Both teams enter the matchup coming off a loss, with the Longhorns looking to bounce back from a tough one. They started fast on the road against Kingston, but momentum shifted the wrong way in a 29-17 loss.

“I feel like we’re getting better and we’re making strides, but the biggest thing is we’re starting to see how practice is getting better,” Cole said. “And the better we have practices, the better the games are. That was the same thing with last week, we had a better week of practice and we got off to a better start. But if we can’t take care of the football, we only shoot ourselves in the foot. Offensively and defensively, we can’t give up the big play.”

It’s safe to say that’ll be the difference maker again as Lone Grove focuses on stopping a pair of playmakers.

“Dickson’s fullback Johnny Smith is one they really want to establish a running game with and get him going,” Cole said. “Jzavionn Bennett is kind of their big-play guy. He’s the one they try to get in space and make things happen with. We have to make sure we always have eyes on him and where he’s at.”

The same can be said of Lone Grove’s Caden Gilmore and Braxton Sparks as they’ve accounted for most of the scoring over the past few weeks. The pair scored both touchdowns against Kingston and the Comets know there are similarities.

“We’re kind of evening matched against Lone Grove,” Suffal said. “Their strengths and our strengths both are with each other. That’s where I lean and go. You never know what exactly is going to happen because it just depends on the breaks in the game at that point in time.”

The Longhorns feel the same way and they believe it’ll come down to the battle in the trenches to decide who walks away victorious.

“It’s very equally matched up front, but we have to get better,” Cole said. “There’s no doubt about that. With the size of some of their guys, it can cause us problems. We have to make sure that we’re doing things right. Just getting our hands involved, making sure we’re firing low off the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage.”