Nocona knows that although it hasn't lost a game this season, it enters tonight's Region II-2A Division II state quarterfinal as the underdog.
Corsicana Mildred advanced to the state semifinals last year and has won its 11 games by an average of 54 points.
The Eagles boast a Division I-caliber quarterback and a dangerous rushing attack, but the Indians haven't been a perfect 12-0 without overcoming adversity like in last week's 15-13 win over Gunter. They'll try to keep their historic season alive at 7:30 p.m. in Aledo.
"I definitely think we can play with them. If we played like we did against Gunter, we'll get killed," Nocona coach Brad Keck said. "We've got to play better than that. We'll have to play our best game.
"I told the kids Saturday morning that you got a gift from God. You got a gift, and now what are you going to do with it?"
While Nocona scratched out its regional playoff victory, the Eagles thumped Clarksville by 30 points. The closest game Mildred has played this season was a 38-14 win over Cooper in the area round as its only loss was a 70-22 setback against Centerville.
Senior Nik Shimonek, an Iowa commit, has passed for 2,167 yards and 30 touchdowns, but Keck said Mildred running back Draylon Sterling (1,784 yards, 32 TDs) is the Eagles' biggest playmaker.
"He reminds me a lot of Tate Fenoglio," said Keck, comparing Sterling to the Indians' workhorse. "He's quick and runs downhill well. Their quarterback is a big kid who throws well, but they throw a lot of short, high-percentage stuff."
While Mildred's offense looks to be humming along, Nocona's defense has risen to the occasion when called upon this year. The Indians are allowing 12.3 points and 194 total yards a game and stopped Gunter three times inside their 30-yard line in the fourth quarter last week.
"I can't say enough about our defense. I will be shocked if they scored their average against us," Keck said. "Our defense hasn't given up anything like that this year."
Keck believes his offense can get back on track after Gunter kept the Indians in check the last three quarters. Fenoglio (2,074 yards, 21 touchdowns) and quarterback Hayden Hill (738 yards, 11 TDs) are the leading rushers.
Sterling also is Mildred's top tackler with 101 stops at strong safety. Jeremy Ballard has 11 interceptions on the season.
"Time of possession will be a big thing. If they don't have the ball, they're not scoring," Keck said. "We've got to use the clock and sustain drives. That's going to be difficult — we can't make mistakes."
The winner advances to the 2A Division II state semifinals against either Colorado City (10-3) or Sonora (10-3). Those district runners-up play at 7 p.m. today in San Angelo.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Beat Whitewright, 55-47
Beat Muenster, 19-13
Beat Archer City, 64-0
Beat Ponder, 33-7
Beat Valley View, 24-8
Beat Alvord, 43-0
Beat City View, 42-9
Beat Holliday, 14-13
Beat Jacksboro, 34-14
Beat Henrietta, 20-0
Beat Edgewood, 40-23
Beat Gunter, 15-13
Corsicana Mildred (11-1)
Beat Como-Pickton, 51-7
Lost to Centerville, 70-22
Beat Frankston, 41-6
Beat Blooming Grove, 62-0
Beat Rio Vista, 56-7
Beat Millsap, 77-0
Beat Tolar, 56-18
Beat Rice, 79-0
Beat Dallas Life Oak Cliff, 72-0
Beat Scurry-Rosser, 83-0
Beat Cooper, 38-14
Beat Clarksville, 44-14
Pigskinprep.com says: Mildred by 17.