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Erik Contreras’ mouth has been full of metal for most of the season.

The top right guard was hit in the face by a soccer ball as he threw it off campus.

At first, Contreras thought he had knocked out a tooth, but he fractured his jaw.

His mouth was sealed shut with metal and he couldn’t speak well while recovering on a liquid-only diet.

“It was more the mental aspect that I had to deal with,” Contreras said. “I was dealing with the fact that I couldn’t play in the team. It bothered me, and I knew I was coming back, and I just had to be ready to leave when I was cleared.

In its first postseason game since 2019, Kingwood Park (7-3) will visit Dallas-area foe Lancaster (8-2) for a bi-district Region II-5A playoff game. Division I at 7 p.m. Friday at Humphrey Tiger Stadium.

Left tackle Erick Zapata and Contreras have playoff experience dating back to their 2019 freshman season. Both are four-year-olds and center Trent Savage, another senior, has played in college since his sophomore season.

The trio of veteran Panthers weigh 826 pounds in the trenches and are growing every day.

“It’s amazing because we know the great things we can do together as a line,” Contreras said. “With all of us healthy, we can do great things on the pitch for our team. It starts with us up front, and we have to protect and open holes for the running game.

After fracturing his jaw following the District 8-5A Division I opener against Porter, Contreras missed six games. He returned to the pitch last week against Port Arthur with the district title on the line.

The Panthers had their chance to win the district but trailed the Titans 24-21.

Now it’s time for the playoffs and Savage is thrilled to face a talented Lancaster team.

“It’s crazy to see that we’re finally all healthy and playing together this season,” Savage said. “We all know each other growing up since we were little. Now we have a chance to write our own story here in the playoffs. It’s what we’ve been waiting for and now it’s upon us. We’re in the playoffs playoffs and now we can control how far we go.

Throughout their time playing for the Panthers, each of the talented offensive linemen has been injured and not all have been on the field at the same time.

Now Savage, Zapata and Contreras are all healthy and looking for a special playoff run as seniors.

The offensive line, which also includes junior right tackle Tucker Lee and senior left guard Tate Derhagg, is ready for its clash with the Lancaster defensive line.

“It will definitely be one of our biggest challenges this year,” Zapata said. “I have full confidence in my guys, and I think we can pick up the slack and manage them. We have to set the tone and be aggressive when we step onto the pitch. It’s win or go home now.

Zapata, Savage and Contreras plan to play football after high school.

The 6-foot-2 Zapata has a Division I offer from Texas Southern. The 6-3 Savage has offers from San Angelo State, Houston Christian and Arkansas Tech while the 6-foot Contreras has an offer from East Texas Baptist.

If you asked Zapata, Savage or Contreras who the best offensive lineman is, you would get three different answers.

Contreras thinks it’s himself because he works hard every day and he’s just the competitor in him to be the best.

Savage says it’s Zapata due to him being just a monster and commanding everyone’s respect. Zapata says it’s Savage because of his technique and his flexibility to play other positions on the line.

“It’s even better to make the playoffs with this team because we’ve seen how much we’ve improved over the past four years,” Contreras said. “This team has a chance to do something special and it starts with us from the start. They’re my brothers and we’re excited to be playing in Dallas.

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