Red Oak, West Mesquite in must-win matchup

RED OAK (4-4, 3-3 15-4A) vs. WEST MESQUITE (3-5, 3-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday at Mesquite‘s E.H. Hanby Stadium

When we saw them last: Corsicana put Red Oak in a 22-0 first-quarter hole and the Hawks hurt themselves with four turnovers in a 49-10 loss to the Tigers. Courtland Smith’s 58-yard touchdown run in the dying seconds of the third quarter gave West Mesquite breathing room and a 96-yard interception return by Kameron Miles finished Terrell, 27-10.

2010 result: Each team topped 500 yards of offense in West Mesquite’s 59-45 shootout victory at Red Oak.

What’s at stake: Red Oak and West Mesquite are tied for fifth place in District 15-4A and need a win to keep alive hopes of a top-four finish in the standings and a spot in the playoffs.

Key matchup: Red Oak receiver Jeremiah Gaines is averaging 25.5 yards per catch, with 664 yards and seven touchdowns on 26 receptions. Gaines had a 64-yard touchdown catch in last year’s game against West Mesquite. The Wranglers' defense needs to take the quick strike away from the Hawks.

Players to watch: Red Oak junior quarterback Austin VanHove has thrown for 1,570 yards and 12 touchdowns but is coming off a three-interception game. Cameron Bausley has rushed for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns. For West Mesquite, Shateek Nasir has stepped in at quarterback for injured freshman Chason Virgil and posted very similar numbers. Wranglers receiver Eldridge Massington has made 39 catches for 633 yards and six touchdowns.

Prediction: The Wranglers have played the top teams in 15-4A closer than Red Oak and the home crowd has made a difference this season: West Mesquite 27, Red Oak 20.