James Clemens and Austin meet with region crown in the balance

Tonight’s game will be about a championship at Austin’s new football stadium.

The Black Bears host the James Clemens Jets with the Class 7A, Region 4 championship on the line.

No matter which team wins, both Austin (7-1, 6-0) and James Clemens (6-2, 6-0) will host first-round playoff game in two weeks.

One might think ‘What’s the big deal?’ about this game, but it’s huge anytime a football team can play for a championship.

This is Austin’s first year in Class 7A. The Black Bears won region championships the last two seasons in Class 6A. Three region championships in a row would tie a school record.

“Playing for championships is why you work so hard all year,” Austin senior defensive lineman Kevin Penn said. “After you’ve done it once, you want to do it again.”

James Clemens has never won a region championship in its six years of football.

One of the keys tonight will be which team controls the line of scrimmage. Both teams will want to run the ball. They both will want to throw the ball when it’s to their advantage and not let the opposing defense force them into obvious throwing situations.

James Clemens’ offense revolves around quarterback Jamil Muhammad, who has committed to Vanderbilt.

Austin’s Penn, who has offers from Ole Miss and UAB, could have a big role in the outcome. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder lines up over the opponent’s center. His job is to clog up the middle of the line. Penn does it so well that opponents double-team and even triple-team him in an effort to move him out.

“Nobody tries to block me one-on-one,” Penn said. “It doesn’t work.”

If opponents try to run away from Penn, that usually doesn’t work either. He’s third on the team with 66 tackles.

“I love making plays, but as long as I do my job and occupy the space in the middle, I’m happy,” Penn said. “When I’m double-teamed or triple-teamed, it means the linebackers are free to make plays.”

Inside linebacker Cade Jenkins leads the Black Bears with 114 tackles. Defensive end Donald Orr has 77 and inside linebacker Charles Baker has 65.

“Kevin is a physical, aggressive player who is really athletic for his size,” Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins said. “He’s tough for anybody to handle.”

James Clemens has its own big man in the defensive line in 6-2, 285-pound Daevion Davis.

“He’s one of the best defensive linemen we’ll face all year,” Perkins said. “He’s really good.”

Trying to handle Davis will be an Austin offensive line led by left tackle Jashun McDaniel (6-2, 240). Going into the season the senior was the only returning starter on offense