GILMER (9-3) VS. WACO CONNALLY (12-0)

Time: 7 p.m., tonight

Stadium: Eagle Stadium, Allen

Coaches

Gilmer: Matt Turner (5th season, 52-16)

Connally: Shane Anderson (5th season, 30-25)

Last week: Gilmer 56, Fairfield 35; Connally 54, Spring Hill 14

Up next: Tonight’s winner will meet either Pleasant Grove or Sunnyvale in the Class 4A, Division II, Region II final. Pleasant Grove (11-1) and Sunnyvale (12-0) meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco.

WHEN GILMER HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Gilmer: RB Darrell Bush (165 carries, 981 yards, 4 TDs) ... QB Mason Hurt (140-262-18, 2,124 yards, 18 TDs) ... WR Dylan Fluellen (38 catches, 642 yards, 6 TDs) ... WR Eddie Ray (31 catches, 493 yards, 8 TDs) ... WR Jaydon Griffin (21 catches, 339 yards, 3 TDs) ... ATH DJ Shead (49 carries, 345 yards, 6 TDs) ... QB/ATH Brandon Tennison (65 carries, 322 yards, 7 TDs; 12 catches, 163 yards) ... OL Devon King ... OL Blake Olivares

Connally: CB Korie Black (2 INTs) ... CB Jordan Nichols ... LB Trey Walker ... DB Kavian Gaither (INT) ... DB John Barron (2 INTs) ... DL Albert Morales ... DB Perrish Cox

Keys: Gilmer’s ground game will need to come up big as the Cadet secondary is stacked with Black, an Oklahoma State commit, Nichols, who has pledged to North Texas and Gaither, the two-way standout that has Division I attention and projects as a defensive back at the next as well. Gilmer is averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground and doing that will enable Hurt and his weapons out wide, led by fellow underclassman Fluellen and Ray, to keep Connally on its toes.

WHEN CONNALLY HAS THE BALL

Players to watch

Gilmer: LB Grant Couture (101 tackles, 12 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 FF) ... LB Malik Williams (5 TFL) ... DL Matthew Burton (91 tackles, 11 TFL, 4 sacks) ... DL Brycen Jimmerson (12 TFL, 2 sacks) ... CB Marshae Spraglin (4 INTs) ... CB Jaydon Griffin (2 INTs) ... S Davion Smith (10 PBU, INT) ... S DJ Shead

Connally: QB Kavian Gaither (45-73-3, 881 yards, 10 TDs; 198 carries, 1,662 yards, 21 TDs) ... RB Jay’Veon Sunday (239 carries, 2,093 yards, 33 TDs) ... WR Je’Juan Forward (13 catches, 344 yards, 5 TDs) ... OL Trent Pullen (6-2, 271)

Keys: It’s no surprise what is coming from Connally and that’s the one-two punch of Gaither and Sunday in a potent ground attack. Pullen, an Oklahoma State commit, leads the way up front. Gilmer’s defense has progressed and been stingy of late. The Buckeyes have a number of weapons in the front seven, including a big year from Couture at linebacker as well as Northwestern State commit Williams. Jimmerson and Burton lead the defensive line and will need to win some battles. Playing gap sound as well as open-field tackles will be crucial for the Buckeyes.

Did you know: Gilmer is in the third round for the 13th-straight year and last advanced to the state quarterfinals in 2016 ... Connally is in the third round for the first time since 2005 and advanced to the regional final that season ... Connally averages 38.3 points and 426.1 yards (75.8 passing/350.3 rushing) per game while allowing 21.4 points and 220.8 yards (95.2 passing/220.8 rushing). The Cadets are 12-0 against opponents with a combined 54-69 schedule, including six playoff teams and two still playing in the postseason ... Gilmer averages 36.1 points and 398.3 yards (177 passing/221.3 rushing) and allows 18.9 points per game. The Buckeyes are 9-3 against opponents with a combined 68-54 record including six playoff teams and three still playing

Twitter-sized preview: This has the makings off a big third-round clash and, on paper, appears to be an evenly-matched one as well. Gilmer is going to need to execute at a high level on both sides but especially on defense against a potent Cadet ground game to help its offense out.

Hayden Henry