Last year, McBee advanced further than it ever had in the football playoffs. The Panthers set a school record for victories with 11.
Then they ran into a team destined for its fourth consecutive state championship and lost 35-8 to Christ Church in the Class A Division I Upper State final.
This year, the teams are meeting in the second round, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, once again at the Cavaliers’ Carson Stadium.
“They’ve got everybody back,” Christ Church coach Don Frost said, “so, yeah, we know about them.”
McBee has 16 starters back from its 11-2 team, and the Panthers are 10-1. They were 8-0 and No. 1 in the state until losing to Lamar in Week 9.
The Panthers righted the ship by beating C.A. Johnson, 65-8, the next week and then St. Joseph’s, 21-0, in the first round of the playoffs.
In last year’s Upper State final, McBee running backs Dashonnell Wright and Jordan Fair rushed for 140 and 89 yards, respectively, but Christ Church, leading 7-0 at halftime, pulled away in the second half.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Fair, who was chosen for the Shrine Bowl, and Wright are two of the many Panthers who are back this season.
“We’re going to have to make sure we do the basics, take care of the football and wrap up and tackle,” said Frost.
With Fair and Wright heading up a strong rushing attack, McBee is averaging 50.2 points per game, and the Panthers are allowing 10.6 points.
Christ Church is averaging 33.4 points behind quarterback Jeffrey Johnsen, who has passed for 1,202 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 310 yards and six scores. Radford Swent is the Cavaliers’ leading rusher, having gained 760 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Braxton Westfield leads Christ Church with 28 receptions, five for touchdowns.
The Cavaliers are allowing an average of 12.2 points per game.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Christ Church is 64-3, having played the equivalent of nearly seven 10-game seasons over five years.
“We feel like that’s helped us,” Frost said. “That’s practice time. We’ve been able to utilize that and build on that.
“But it comes down to one game. It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty basic. You know what’s in front of you. Now you have to execute and do what you need to do.”