Five players to watch in the regional finals of the Texas high school football playoffs
THROUGHOUT THE 2017 POSTSEASON, WE'LL PICK OUT FIVE PLAYERS PER ROUND TO SPOTLIGHT AHEAD OF CRUCIAL CLASHES FOR THEIR TEAMS.
A lot of people on the Steele bandwagon panicked when the Knights got off to a 1-4 start to the regular season. But since then, coach David Saenz has rattled off nine straight wins behind a stout defensive effort. The Knights are giving up an average of just under 13 points per game since Oct. 13, and that all starts with Caden Sterns in the secondary. Sterns, a Texas commit, is a consensus top five player in the state and is a nightmare for opposing offenses. Sterns ranks second on the team with 90 tackles and he has tallied four interceptions, six pass deflections and two fumble recoveries this year. The Knights will need him to have one of his best games of the year to keep up with Westlake in the Alamodome Saturday night.
5A: Denton Ryan QB Spencer Sanders
HM: Lubbock Coronado QB Qua Gray
Okay, really, it’s asking a lot to pick between these two star quarterbacks – especially when they’re playing against each other. Both Sanders and Gray have been absolute monsters in the playoffs, putting up video-game like numbers while carrying the white-hot offenses all the way to the regional finals. Very few defenses have had any luck slowing either one of these players down this season and both were recently named finalists for the Mr. Texas Football Award. If you plan on attending this game, you’re in for a real treat. Sanders has accounted for 4,356 total yards and 58 touchdowns this season while Gray has racked up 3,764 yards and 50 touchdowns through the air alone. One of these great players will prevail Saturday afternoon in Abilene.
4A: Melissa QB Brendon Lewis
It’s been quite the week for Melissa QB Brendon Lewis. The star sophomore received his first offer from SMU on Monday and has continued to put up big numbers while guiding Melissa through the playoffs. Not too many people picked the Cardinals to advance past Gilmer last week, but the Cardinals’ run game – spearheaded by Lewis and the electric RB Ja’Bray Young – put together a big second half to move on. Now Lewis will need to continue his efficient play in the playoffs if Melissa’s Cinderella run is to continue, as the Cardinals face a tough challenge against an unbeaten Pleasant Grove squad.
3A: Kemp RB Jordan Kempf
Kemp has had this week circled on its calendar since the latter stages of a 50-23 loss to Grandview back on Oct. 13. Now, the Yellowjackets have their shot at revenge in the regional final. Kemp and star RB Jordan Kempf have rattled off seven straight wins since that loss, but know they have a lot to fix to avoid another second half meltdown against the Zebras. Kempf rushed for 267 yards and two touchdowns against Commerce last week and will look to build on that effort to guide the Yellowjackets into the state semifinals.
2A: Mart RB Tyrek Horne
Mart’s Tyrek Horne has rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 24 TDs this season and he’s done it on just 119 carries. He’s averaging more than 15 yards per touch and scores on about every fifth carry. Horne has been the leader of the Panthers’ dominant rushing attack this season without putting too many miles on his legs as the year has progressed. He hasn’t carried the ball more than nine times in a game since Sept. 29, which will come in handy if Mart needs to rely on him more heavily in crunch time – a situation they may find themselves in as they look to avenge last season’s heartbreaking loss to Crawford.
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Brady Keane is a contributing writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.