Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck and Rouse head coach Josh Mann know precisely what they’re up against when their teams face off.
Mann has been at the helm of the Raiders since the school opened in 2010, while Abseck has been leading the Timberwolves since 2015. The Leander ISD rivals meet up for the ninth straight year Friday night at Gupton Stadium in the first game of District 11-5A-DI play.
“It helps because you know who their kids and their personnel are,” Mann said. “The downside is they’re Cedar Park and they’re really good. They do a great job in the way their coached and how the kids play.”
The two teams have an identical 2-2 record after non-district play, with Rouse boasting wins over Vista Ridge and Weiss and Cedar Park winning two straight games against San Angelo Central and Katy Cinco Ranch.
“They’re a district rival and they’re in our in our school district so you always want to beat those teams,” Abseck said. “But most importantly, it’s the first district game and the fact that it’s Rouse is the icing on the cake.”
Cedar Park beat San Angelo Central 37-22 on Sept. 14 and held on to beat Cinco Ranch 14-13 last Friday night.
Quarterback Ryder Hernandez and Brandon Breed connected on touchdowns of 32 and 68 yards, Cinco Ranch missed an extra point in the fourth quarter and Caden Combs intercepted a pass on the final drive to seal the win for the Timberwolves.
Abseck said the biggest thing he took away from the game was the fight in his team. Up again a school with a much bigger population and a massive offensive line and solid defense, he said the Timberwolves didn’t give up even if the game didn’t go the way they would’ve like most of the time.
Cinco Ranch scored an average of 32.3 points per game before being held to 13 by Cedar Park.
“I think they feel good, but it’s one of those deals that every week, it’s about improving,” Abseck said. “Wins and losses make you feel better on the outside, but in terms of improving, that’s the name of the game. That’s why you schedule the teams you do.”
This week provides a different challenge as Rouse is one of the best running teams in the district, averaging just over 230 yards a game.
Senior Tavian Tate leads the Raiders with 340 rushing yards, quarterback Ethan Moore has 268 yards and junior Mylan Mitchell has 258 yards on the ground. They’ve combined for 12 total touchdowns.
“It’s really hard to run the ball when you’re on the ground, that’s our philosophy,” Cedar Park senior defensive end Jesiah Whittington said. “We’ve just got stop them before they get out of the gate.”
Rouse was still working on getting more stable as the non-district schedule wraps up.
There were flashes for the Raiders against state-ranked A&M Consolidated as they scored on the Tigers in the first half and were able to get the running game going a little bit, combining for more than 200 yards and a touchdown.
“There have been some lapses and we’ve got to close them in order to compete in this district,” Mann said. “Consistency is huge.”
Mann said the Raiders have blocked a kick in every game this year and they’ve combined for nine turnovers.
But going up against the Timberwolves, and in district play to boot, presents a whole different array of mental challenges for Rouse to overcome.
“The biggest thing about playing against Cedar Park is controlling the environment and controlling yourself,” Mann said. “Play the guy in the helmet and not the logo on the side because that’s what they want you to do. If we can stay focused on our jobs, we should be fine.”