From the earliest seven-on-seven workouts in spring to the Friday nights in the cool and misty winds of fall, head coach Carl Abseck had one goal in mind for his Cedar Park squad: take it back.
They wanted nothing more than to avenge their loss of the 2018 district title. On Friday night at Gupton Stadium, the Timberwolves finally took it back.
Cedar Park rode a first-half offensive explosion to knock off visiting Manor 49-24 in its regular-season finale, clinching the outright District 11-5A, DI championship and setting the program’s sights on the postseason picture.
“It’s awesome. These kids and coaches have worked extremely hard over the last seven months to get to our stated goal,” Abseck said. “It’s great to see this whole thing come to fruition and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
For the 12th consecutive season, the Timberwolves will be playing beyond the regular season. They begin their quest for a state title with their bi-district matchup against McCallum at Gupton Thursady at 7 p.m.
“We’re gonna enjoy this tonight, but tomorrow, we have to get to work on studying our opponent,” Abseck said. “We just have to have that singular focus on beating the team in front of us, and if we do, good things happen.”
Cedar Park has not lost in the bi-district round since 2009, and they will enter next week’s bout with a 9-1 regular-season record, including a 6-0 mark in district competition. McCallum, from District 12-5A, DI, boasts a 5-5 overall record and a 4-3 mark in district play.
The game served as a playoff warmup for Abseck’s squad, who rested their starters from the third quarter on to prepare for the bi-district round of the state postseason.
Ryder Hernandez continued his dominant season with 159 yards and five touchdowns on 12-of-21 passing, as well as 38 rushing yards and a touchdown on five carries. Before backups entered the game in the second half, Cedar Park’s defense allowed just 10 points and less than 150 total yards against a Manor team that had scored 30 or more points six times this season.
The Timberwolves came out of the gates strong in the first quarter. After forcing a Manor punt following the initial kickoff, the Cedar Park offense drove downfield and scored when wideout Gunnar Abseck caught a three-yard floater from Hernandez.
Abseck and Hernandez would connect again on a 10-yard touchdown pass just over five minutes later. In the second quarter, the offense continued its domination of the Manor defensive unit, as Hernandez fired a 22-yard bullet to Josh Cameron for his third passing touchdown.
Hernandez was far from finished, later flicking a one-yard shovel pass to Daniel Hernandez before Manor found the end zone for the first time, on a Tahj Brooks 21-yard sprint.
Hernandez, a second-year starter, ran for a 25-yard touchdown later in the first half, before finishing his performance with a 30-yard lob pass to Cameron for the receiver’s second touchdown catch of the evening. Cedar Park led 42-10 at the half.
Brooks would run for two touchdowns in the second half for the Manor offense, one of which was an 80-yard burst up the middle. Cedar Park reserve halfback Jonathan Stockwell countered with a 16-yard score with under three minutes left in the game.
“Our offense is all about execution and we have been executing at a high level over the past few weeks,” Abseck says. “We just have to stay focused on the objective every week, and we can have success on that side of the ball.”
This will be the second consecutive year the Timberwolves have been at home for their first-round postseason matchup, after edging LBJ in 2018.
What McCallum brings to the turf, and how the Timberwolves have to prepare for it, Abseck and crew will soon find out.
“Experience definitely matters, and we have that championship pedigree, but the mentality just has to be winning every week, one game at a time,” Abseck said. “I don’t know much about them, but they have an outstanding offensive line and a very good, tall wide receiver that we’ll have to prepare for.”
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