3A/2A/1A/6M Preview: It's go time
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By Greg Tepper // TexasFootball.com
State championships. State semifinals. Some of the best teams in the state going head-to-head.
It’s getting cold, but the football action in the small school classifications in Texas is really heating up.
We’ll crown three champions this weekend, and set the matchups for another five state championship games. And every one of these games is must-see.
Without further ado: your small-school preview for Week 15 of the Texas high school football season.
Class 3A Division I State Final
Alvarado vs. Tyler Chapel Hill, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Cowboys Stadium
Oh boo hoo, there’s only one amazing state championship game in 11-man football this week. Whatever shall we do? When you get to the state finals, there are no flukes; both teams deserve to be here because they’re complete teams, though they do it in completely different fashions. Alvarado relies on running the ball behind a stout offensive line with RB Wayne Onderdonck, but that’s not to say that QB Kenny West isn’t capable (the guy’s thrown for 1,374 yards and 19 TDs, plus run for another 7 scores). But to me, the real star on Alvarado is a defense – led by do-it-all DB Tyler Bates, LB C.J. Johnson and DL A.J. Castillo – that has become even better in the playoff than it was in the regular season, which is saying something considering the Indians surrendered just 7.5 points per game in the regular season. But Chapel Hill…well, they’ve been here before. The runners-up from a year ago are looking to seal the deal this time around, and they’re not without their own weapons, specifically QB Avery Saenz, who engineered a dramatic comeback against West Columbia last week to get them here. And RBs Andrew Tucker and Jay Reagan are capable of beating you, too. To me, this game comes down to how well the Chapel Hill defense stops up Alvarado; points are going to be at a premium against the Indians, and it’s up to guys like DL Colton Moorehead and DB Deavereon Dean to get Alvarado off the field and get the ball back in the hands of their offense, which is their best asset. I expect a razor-thin margin in this game, but ultimately, it’s hard to pick against that Alvarado defense right now.
Tepper’s pick: Alvarado 24, Tyler Chapel Hill 21
Class 3A Division II State Semifinals
Monahans vs. Argyle, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Abilene Wylie
If you want a contrast in style, look no further than the showdown in Abilene tonight. After seeing Argyle take down Gilmer last week and seeing the QB in person, I can report that the Austin Aune Experience is for real, especially considering his dynamic weapons in WR Ian Sadler and TE Chadd Bossow. But Monahans is almost the complete opposite of that, relying on a steady, clock-control offense of running the ball with RBs Pedro Cano and Byron Scharf. That’s because they want to lean on their defense, which has been sensational all year, to win them games, guys like DL Tivo Armendariz and DB Payton Marcum. Argyle’s defense can be beaten, but it’s also got two of the more punishing linebackers I’ve seen all year in Carston Bossow and Antonio Griffin. To me, it’s pretty simple: if the score is in the 20s, I like Monahans; if the score is in the 30s and above, I like Argyle. And right now, I’m riding the Eagles train.
Tepper’s pick: Argyle 34, Monahans 27
Coldspring-Oakhurst vs. Wimberley, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Bastrop
It’s kind of a shame that these two teams aren’t meeting in a state final, because they’re the complete package. Coldspring-Oakhurst kind of sleepwalked through the first few rounds, but woke up with a bang last week, with RB Sherman Gilbert going off – accounting for 222 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, plus returning an INT for a score. And if the offense gets back on track, the defense is good enough to carry them to a title behind LB Kedrick Harrison, DT Chance Andries and SS Colton Monroe. It has, plain and simple, been one of the most dominating units in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Wimberley’s been dominant…all year! The defense is devastating right now, forcing six turnovers last week behind the play of Colton Fonville, Brennan Blakemore and Nick Alana. And the offense, though it’s been slowed a few times, is humming now behind RB Dennis Smith and QB Brady Lambert. Another game that’s very close to call…but I’m going to lean toward Coldspring-Oakhurst only because of the defense. Then again, if Wimberley wins, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.
Tepper’s pick: Coldspring-Oakhurst 27, Wimberley 24
Class 2A Division I State Semifinals
Muleshoe vs. Melissa, 7:00 p.m. Friday, Sweetwater
Let’s go west, shall we? For two straight weeks, Muleshoe has received huge games from WR Saul Elizalde – last week, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown for a second consecutive game, and added a pair of TD receptions for good measure. And, of course, there’s always RB Isaac Baca, who can beat you in a variety of different manners. But the Melissa defense has been an absolute force of late behind LB Chris Smith, DL Vic Hollingsworth and DB Brad Bush. And – as crazy as it sounds – with the offense rolling under QB Wes McQueen and WR Michael Ellis, there’s no reason to think that Melissa – Melissa!—can’t win it all. It’s up to the Muleshoe defense, guys like CB Eric Orozco and DB Ray Martinez, to be better this week than it was last week against Eastland. If the Mules show up defensively, I like their chances, but points will be hard to come by in this one.
Tepper’s pick: Melissa 24, Muleshoe 23
Tatum vs. Hempstead, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Waco ISD Stadium
All year, I’ve known that Tatum has a high ceiling. And on a number of occasions, I’ve been befuddled to see them fall short of that ceiling. But maybe coach Andy Evans’ crew has finally found the right mixtures, as they’re on a roll right now, especially offensively with QB Jalen Overstreet and WR Nate Pickett. But ultimately, Tatum’s going as far as LB Kiano Lucas, DE Laderion Johnson and that defense will take them, and man, do they face a tall task this week against Hempstead. This is a Hempstead team that just took Blanco – one of the premier defenses In 2A – to the woodshed behind big days from QB Obie Wilder and RB Archie Taylor. And don’t forget big-play-threat Trent Momon. Here’s the question, though: can the Hempstead defense repeat the task it pulled against Blanco, using LB Ronnie Jones and company to hold Blanco to just 13 points? The stars are on offense, but this game’s won on defense. When it’s said and done – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I’m taking the unpredictable-but-super-high-ceiling of Tatum.
Tepper’s pick: Tatum 33, Hempstead 32
Class 2A Division II State Semifinals
Cisco vs. Corsicana Mildred, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mansfield’s Newsom Stadium
So, then there’s this one. A clash of two red-hot teams that – let’s be honest – nobody expected to be here. Cisco first really turned my head by taking down defending champ Idalou and that devastating defense, using the sensational running game of QB Colton Gayle and RBs Mason Reed and Hayden Lewis to gash opponent after opponent. And that’s saying nothing about the defense, which held Holliday’s offense to just 115 total yards last week behind the Gassett brothers, Spencer and Dustin. As for Mildred, they’ve very quietly put together an absolutely sensational run, and QB Nic Shimonek is really hitting his stride. Alongside RB Logan Shelton, that’s a tough offense to crack. But the real story for Mildred is that defense, which has been elite all year, allowing just 6.2 poitns per game with DB Daniel Donoho and DT Thomas Finigow. Again, a razor-thin margin, but as managing editor Travis Stewart put it, if Cisco could find a way to crack Idalou’s defense, I think it can find a way to crack Mildred’s.
Tepper’s pick: Cisco 24, Mildred 21
Lexington vs. Refugio, 7:30 p.m. Friday, San Antonio's Heroes Stadium
I’m done doubting Refugio. I had my trepidation about the Bobcats, who were bludgeoning opponents at a record rate, because of the strength of schedule, but in the last two weeks, they’ve used RB Malcolm Franklin, RB Draigon Silvas, WR Lynx Hawthorne, DL Donald Trevino and DE Justin Padilla to blow past excellent Poth and Sonora squads. Next on their agenda: Lexington and the scintillating QB Kogan Garrett, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another four scores last week. The defense has been good all year, but it’ll need to be great – paging FS Josh Murray and DL Will Holcomb – to slow down the dynamite Refugio attack. But like I said: I’m done doubting Refugio. I think they’ll win this one, just like they have the previous 12.
Tepper’s pick: Refugio 31, Lexington 24
Class 1A Division I State Semifinals
Stamford vs. Mart, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Brownwood
This is, plain and simple, a matchup of two of the most dynamic signal-callers in all of 1A, as Stamford’s Hagen Hutchinson goes head-to-head with Mart’s Leonard Williams. Hutchinson has been absolutely phenomenal, capped by last week’s seven-touchdown performance in a win over Seymour, and Williams has been every bit as good, rushing for 193 yards and four scores last week. Though now the game has an emotional factor: KWTX-TV in Waco is reporting that Williams’ home burned down last night and while everyone is OK (thank goodness), you have to wonder where Williams’ head will be. This one, ultimately, comes down to defense, and I trust Mart’s defense just a touch more than I trust Stamford’s.
Tepper’s pick: Mart 33, Stamford 30.
Garrison vs. Mason, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Waco's Floyd Casey Stadium
On the DCTF Radio hour this week, I described Garrison’s defense – which features Tucker Stokes and C.J. Henderson – as “pesky.” Managing editor Travis Stewart viewed that as an insult, but it’s not: it’s only to say that the Bulldogs force you into mistakes that you usually don’t make. And when they do that, they give guys like RB Nathan Burkhalter and QB Dustin Strahan a chance to beat you. Can they force the steady-as-she-goes Mason Punchers into mistakes? Shiner was an outstanding team, and Mason pasted them last week, getting 123 yards and four TDs rushing from iron man David Mora and using a strong defensive effort from DT Zane Graves and LB Nic Navvarette. If you get down by two scores to the Punchers, you’re toast, because they’ll sit on the ball with ball-control and defense. For that reason, I’m trusting Mason in this one…but Garrison has made teams trip over themselves before, and it could happen again.
Tepper’s pick: Mason 26, Garrison 14
Class 1A Division II State Semifinals
Wellington vs. Munday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Childress
The mascot matchup of the week across the state, as the Wellington Skyrockets take on the Munday Moguls. But mascots aside, these are also two super-elite teams in Class 1A. Wellington’s defense won the day against Springlake-Earth last week, which isn’t surprising for a team that boasts DB Dustin Castillo, LB Marcus Garcilla and LB Charles Warren. And it’s Warren and RB Francisco Cruz who lead the ground game, but they’ll need more from QB Klark Ashmore to get past Munday, who is red-hot. The Moguls pulled off the upset of the week last week, knocking off Windthorst on the back of three kickoff returns for touchdowns! You can’t count on that every week, so they’ll need to get the offense going again behind dual-threat QB Dee Paul, and have DT Blanford Paul ready to stuff the middle against the powerful Wellington offensive line. I know Travis disagrees with me, but I’m riding the Wellington defense in this one.
Tepper’s pick: Wellington 27, Munday 20
Tenaha vs. Burton, 7:30 p.m. Friday, A&M Consolidated
Tenaha is every bit as dominant as we thought they’d be in the preseason, but it’s not for the reasons we thought. Yes, QB Reginald Davis has been sensational, but the emergence of RBs Joshua Wilhite and Jaquinn Henderson has been a big boost, and a salty defense anchored by LB Keitron Smith has kept Tenaha unscathed. Now comes an interesting defensive challenge in Burton, who always features dynamic QB Xavier Bethany but has been boosted by the resurgence of RB Juwan Mathis, who ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns last week, plus returned an interception for a touchdown. They’ll need a lot of that to beat Tenaha, and the problem I see for Burton is that while their defense is stout (just ask LBs Keatron Tarver and Brian Fisher), when they’ve lost, it’s been because of an inability to stop the run. Advantage: Tenaha.
Tepper’s pick: Tenaha 34, Burton 23
Six-man Division I State Final
Borden County vs. Throckmorton, 2:00 p.m. Saturday, Abilene
Point of transparency: Throckmorton will forever hold a special place in my heart (along with Abbott) as the first teams I saw in live six-man action last week. And what’s impressive about Throckmorton is how they wear you down: their depth is impressive, and when it counts, they’ll use their defense to make key stops in the second half. It also helps to have SB CJ Hantz, who racked up 381 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns last week in the win. But here comes Borden County, a preseason favorite who has been every bit as impressive as we thought, with RB Austin Field and QB Tanner Richey forming a dangerous combination. But as it always is with six-man, it’s about making those key stops, and with Richay and LB Quint Shafer leading the way, I just think that despite my affinity for Throckmorton, Borden County’s the pick to hoist the trophy.
Tepper’s pick: Borden County 56, Throckmorton 44
Six-man Division II State Final
Motley County vs. Richland Springs, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Abilene
Motley County is a really, really good team. Their defense, led by Britt Simpson, forced five turnovers last week against Valley, which is borderline absurd for six-man standards. SB Aaron Rogers and RB Augy Chavez are as potent an offensive one-two punch as you’ll find in six-man. They’re simply amazing. But here’s the problem: you need to treat Richland Springs like you treat Lake Travis up in 4A. You have to play a complete game, start to finish, and catch a couple breaks to beat Denim Reeves, Chance Bush and company. They’ve mercy-ruled 13 of the 14 opponents they’ve played this season. They play the best defense in the state. They are, quite simply, the best six-man team in the state, and it’ll take a near-flawless game from Motley County to beat them. And while they’re capable of it, I like RS to repeat.
Tepper’s pick: Richland Springs 76, Motley County 48
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