It will be a match-up of two programs with a ton of tradition when Calhoun (0-4) hosts the Gregory-Portland Wildcats (2-2) Friday night in the Sandcrabs’ final pre-district game of the season.

Head Coach Richard Whitaker said the injury bug has hit this season in a manner that is among the worst he’s ever experienced.

Still, the Crabs have had a “next man up” mentality and have been one possession away from winning each of their last three games, all of which came down to the fourth quarter.

In addition to three starters suffering broken bones, starting quarterback Jayce Campos and fullback Alek Luna were both unavailable last week. A handful of others have missed time as well.

“It’s been every week, and it’s been different kids,” Whitaker said of the injuries. “That’s what’s been crazy, is the constant has been Aaron [Martinez], David [Lopez], and Leo [Sanchez], with the broken bones. The one positive we had Friday night was getting Colton Curlee back. He got hurt in the Stafford game and hadn’t played any until the second half against Yoakum. And then he goes out and has eight tackles. So that was a very positive thing. He’s got a nose for the football. He wasn’t 100 percent, but hopefully, we’ll get Jayce and Luna back. And then Ricky Martinez got stepped on early in the game and hurt his heel. But hopefully, by this week or next week, we’ll get more and more of those kids back healthy and give ourselves more of a chance going into district.”

The Wildcats are coming off a 52-27 loss to a talented Boerne squad. They’ve also defeated CC Carroll and Victoria East this season.

G-P is averaging 32.5 points per game this year, despite losing their starting QB in the opener.

Sophomore Reed Dooms has stepped in under center and completed 70 percent of his passes while tossing 10 TDs thus far.

They’ve lost to Calallen and a really good Boerne team, who is one of the best teams around right now. Gregory-Portland presents a lot of challenges for us. The last message I had for the kids Saturday was, ‘let’s focus on ourselves.’ We’ve got to clean up the turnovers and mistakes. Until we do that, we don’t give ourselves as much of a chance. So that will be our focus this week, executing what we do. Getting better.”

Offensively, the Wildcats operate from a spread attack. Whitaker said he expects G-P to attack in the run game with senior tailback Dalvin Batts, who is averaging 113 yards per game.

“They do like to run a lot of zone reads,” Whitaker said. “They’re playing their backup quarterback, but he seems to be a pretty good passer. He throws the ball really well. He runs well enough to be a threat. They have a dynamic running back. He is very talented, one of the best in South Texas. He’s a big threat and has had some big runs this year. They’re physical on the offensive line and do a great job up front. I would imagine after last week they’re going to try to attack us on the ground, then if they get isolation on the outside, throw it around a little bit. But it’s a matter of us focusing on ourselves and cutting down our mistakes.”

Whitaker said the Crabs will mix it up at quarterback against the Wildcats to ensure Alex Parker is prepared if an injury occurs to starter Jayce Campos during district play.

“Moving into this week, we know that Jayce is going to be healthy, but we want to get Parker some reps just to help him grow, so we’ll probably play both of them,” Whitaker said. “Just to keep both of them fresh and healthy. That way, if we do get in a position where we need him, he’ll have enough snaps under his belt and have confidence in himself.”

Defensively, the Wildcats have imposing size.

“They’re an outstanding football team and have some good-looking kids,” Whitaker said. “We talk about every week about some of the teams we’re playing, but they’ve got a defensive end who’s about 6-3, another 6-3 linebacker, they’ve got some great looking athletes. It’s a solid program and they do a great job.”