When Terrell and Forney renew a District 15-4A rivalry on Friday night, the motivation for both teams will be similar.
Forget geographic familiarity or Kaufman County bragging rights. These teams need a win.
The game, which will be homecoming for the Tigers at Memorial Stadium, will feature the only two winless teams in the district standings clinging to hopes of entering the playoff picture.
"Every game is a must-win for us. We're going to approach them all that way," said Terrell head coach Darrell Jordan. We're trying to get our first win."
After consecutive blowout losses to open district play, the Tigers (2-3, 0-3) led into the second half of a 28-21 defeat at Red Oak last week.
In particular, Terrell will look for another strong effort from its defense, which forced four turnovers against the Hawks and generally held the Red Oak playmakers in check.
"I could not have been happier," Jordan said. "We stopped the run and defended the long ball. That was a pleasant surprise. They played well enough for us to win."
On offense, the Tigers committed five turnovers against Red Oak, including four fumbles and an interception. That allowed the Hawks to rally from a halftime deficit to take a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"We put ourselves in a situation last week to win," Jordan said. "That makes it very frustrating, when you know you gave the ballgame away."
The five turnovers would have been bad enough, but the timing often was worse. For example, Terrell twice fumbled a handoff on the first two plays following a defensive takeaway, giving the ball back to the Hawks.
Jordan said one emphasis in practice this week will be on ball control and ball security in an effort to cut down on miscues against Forney.
One thing that Jordan said won't change much is the mix of rushing and passing plays for the Tigers. They rushed for 229 yards (including 154 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Shea South) but only had 94 passing yards on nine of 26 completions.
As a team, Terrell has completed just 25 of 75 throws in the past three games, and hasn't surpassed the 100-yard mark in passing since a Sept. 2 win over Greenville. The Tigers have only two touchdown passes on the year.
"We're going to continue to stay balanced. We're going to throw it 50 percent and run it 50 percent. We're not going to get away from it," Jordan said. "Our plan to take what they give us. We're not going to force anything, but we want to throw the football."
Forney (1-5, 0-4) has lost five straight games since a 34-7 win over Waco University in its season opener. The Jackrabbits have been blown out in consecutive games by Mesquite Poteet and Waxahachie, being outscored by a combined 107-53.
"We've been playing pretty good ball at times," said Forney head coach Kevin Rush. "We just can't finish a ball game. We just need to play four quarters of football."
The Jackrabbits are led by dual-threat quarterback Patric Youngman, who leads Forney with 434 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also has thrown for 790 yards and six scores, with five interceptions, in Forney's short passing game.
Clayton Chadwick has 72 rushes for 365 yards and three touchdowns to go along with a team-high 22 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
"They're fast and they're big up front, and they're going to run the football," Jordan said. "We're going to have to stop the run. If we can stop the run, we feel good about the pass."
The two teams enter Friday's matchup with similar yardage numbers on both offense and defense. Terrell has a slight edge on offense, and Forney on defense.
"We're going to try and move the ball and keep it away from them," Rush said. "They've got a lot of big-play capability as always. We've got to cut down some of those big plays and keep it a close ball game for four quarters."
The teams have a recent history of close, low-scoring games, including last year's 24-21 road win by the Tigers on a Josh Simmons field goal in overtime.
Terrell and Forney have been district rivals every year since 2004, with Terrell winning the past two seasons after five straight victories in the series for the Jackrabbits.