LORENA, Texas — The Lorena Leopards are always a playoff contender, even in 2020 after dropping from 4A Div. II to 3A Div. I.
The 2-1 Leopards host 4-0 Academy, which Lorena is expected to compete with for a playoff spot in District 11-3A Div. I, according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine, opening district play. That is where 6 News will take Week 5's Friday Night Lights Game of the Week.
Lorena is under the tutelage of longtime coach Ray Biles. For Academy, the 4-0 start isn't just to a season, but an era, as the Bumblebees launch the Chris Lancaster era.
The former Baylor assistant was tabbed as Academy's new head coach in March after a six-year stint as an assistant at district rival Troy.
District 11-3A Div. I is a hornet's nest, loaded with teams capable and likely to make playoff runs including 4A dropdowns Lorena and Caldwell. Troy, Academy, Rockdale, Cameron Yoe and McGregor round out the formidable district.
Lorena started the year with an impressive win against a preseason-ranked Franklin team on the road before falling to a surging China Spring squad in a home shootout in Week 2. In Week 3, Lorena's game at Gatesville was canceled as the team was nearing McKamie Field in Gatesville when it found out one of its players had tested positive for COVID-19.
However, the Leopards were able to return to the field in Week 4 and got a resounding 56-25 win against former district foe Madisonville.
Academy has been equally as impressive, so far. The Bumblebees went on the road against preseason Top-20 3A Div. II teams Rogers and Clifton, beating both. Then Academy went home to beat Groesbeck 45-0 and most recently beat former district foe Lago Vista.
The game will highlight a slate of games that will include every Central Texas team for the first time in 2020, as 5A, 6A and TAPPS schools will open their regular seasons this week.
Weekend sports anchor Kurtis Quillin will be live from Leopard Field with Biles during 6 News at 6 and with the winning team during an all-new Friday Night Lights.
In Week 5's "Flex" Game of the Week, sports reporter Niki Lattarulo heads to Cougar Stadium in China Spring, where the 8th-ranked, undefeated Cougars host Mexia in their final non-district tune-up. China Spring returns to action after being forced to cancel its high-powered Week 4 showdown against 4A Div. I No. 3 Lampasas, due to coronavirus.
The Blackcats are quite possibly the best 1-3 team in the state of Texas entering the matchup, having lost to Cameron Yoe, preseason-ranked Troy and a surging Salado squad.
Sports director Nick Canizales leads an all-new Friday Night Lights in the studio, beginning Friday night during 6 News at 10.
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