3A/2A/1A/6M Preview: Regional Finals
The 3A, 2A, 1A and six-man Texas high school football playoffs continue tonight, and DCTF gets you ready.
It’s playoff time! The Texas high school football playoffs continue tonight in the fourth round -- the regional finals. DCTF’s Greg Tepper previews every game in the state.
DON'T FORGET: DCTF Playoff Central has everything a true Texas high school football fan needs for the playoffs, including brackets, matchups and DCTF associate editor Greg Tepper's complete predictions for every bracket.
IMPORTANT NOTE: With the inclement weather hitting parts of the Lone Star State, all game times and locations are subject to change. We'll be updating DCTF Playoff Central with the latest news of game changes.
3A Division I
Stephenville vs. Lubbock Cooper, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene's Shotwell Stadium
Cooper just keeps on winning, and it’s because they’re good at everything. They play sound defense with Montana Vega and Zak Odom, they have a great passing game with QB Stanton Keane, they run the ball well with RB Dakota Gruben. But Stephenville – fresh off a bananas last-second win over Big Spring – will feature the single-best player on the field (QB Jarrett Stidham) and will be getting star DE Jonah Noah back from injury. That should be enough to push the Yellowjackets into the semifinals.
Tepper’s pick: Stephenville 42, Lubbock Cooper 24
Tyler Chapel Hill vs. Kilgore, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tyler's Rose Stadium
What a bounce-back year for the 2011 champs Tyler Chapel Hill! After a 3-7 season last year, QB Andrew Black, RB Joseph Clark and a resurgent Bulldogs defense has led them back to statewide prominence. But now they face a District 16-3A rematch with state title frontrunner Kilgore, which resulted in a 41-25 Kilgore win. And the biggest problem facing Chapel Hill: Kilgore looks even better than they did back in Week 7, as DL LaDarrin Anthony is leading the defensive charge. This figures to be closer, and if Chapel Hill can force some turnovers, we could see this turn upside-down.
Tepper’s pick: Kilgore 38, Tyler Chapel Hill 28
West Orange-Stark vs. Carthage, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Beaumont ISD Stadium
This is why we watch the playoffs: to see storied powerhouses duke it out. West Orange-Stark has been vintage West Orange-Stark all season, as the defense led by star DB Deionte Thompson has been as advertised. The running game with Chris James has churned and churned, and while it may not be sexy, sling-it-around-the-field football, it’s your granddad’s football, and it’s good. Carthage, though, looks like a buzzsaw. QB Blake Bogenschutz, RB Tevin Pipkin and WR Tee Goree provide a menacing trio of offensive firepower, and the defense has been sorely underappreciated all year. West Orange-Stark has to keep the score low, but Carthage hasn’t been held under 39 points all season.
Tepper’s pick: Carthage 41, West Orange-Stark 24
Gonzales vs. La Grange, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bastrop
Another rematch from earlier this year, as La Grange toppled Gonzales in Gonzales 48-19 back on October 11. Can Gonzales win the rematch? QB Alyas Ramirez has been superhuman of late, and the defense hasn’t been half-bad either, so the Apaches have their reasons for thinking they can spring the upset. But La Grange has been as good – maybe better – than they were back in October, as RB Rodney Filmore and QB Dillon Davis have taken the Leopards’ offense to the next level. Expect this one to be closer, but barring another other-worldly day from Gonzales’ Ramirez, it’s hard to see a different result.
Tepper’s pick: La Grange 42, Gonzales 28
3A Division II
Graham vs. Shallowater, 7 p.m. Friday at Sweetwater
This is the kind of 3A matchups we dream of when the brackets come out. Both teams feature offenses that border on the ridiculous, with Graham’s QB Ben Davis and WR Bryce Reeves lighting up the West Texas sky, and Shallowater RB Jarek Black having another incredible season (and don’t forget about QB Wes McCutcheon). Together, they’re averaging a combined 93.5 points per game. So, offense won’t be a problem. That leaves the defense, where Graham looks to have a pretty substantial advantage. Spur Hearne and Hunter Hughes have been lights-out all year for the Steers’ defense, and unless Shallowater can force a few big turnovers, the Steers look to be stampeding on.
Tepper’s pick: Graham 42, Shallowater 26
Gladewater vs. Argyle, 6 p.m. Friday at Dallas' Kincaide Stadium
Argyle’s reward for dispatching a terrific team from the District of Doom (Gilmer, from 16-3A)? Another terrific team from the District of Doom! Gladewater has been mowing down people thanks in large part to the defense, led by all-everything DL Daylon Mack and LB Clint Sorrels. Argyle, by now I’m sure you know, features a potent attack with do-it-all Ian Sadler, QB Brandon Boyzuick and RB Nick Ralston (who’s really been great lately). That’s the really fun matchup: Gladewater’s D against Argyle’s O. But the other side looks like it’s in Argyle’s favor, and that should decide this one.
Tepper’s pick: Argyle 38, Gladewater 21
Fairfield vs. Rockdale, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD Stadium
The funny thing about Rockdale is that they’re one of the teams in the 3A DII bracket that can probably match Fairfield score for score. QB Clayton Gibbs, WR Pearce Loth, RB Elijah Brooks and the Tigers offense has been extremely prolific all year, and could probably go toe-to-toe with RB Larry Rose, QB Jacob Gallegos and the Fairfield attack. But this game isn’t offense-vs.-offense; the defenses are involved, and Fairfield’s has been simply sensational. There’s a reason that Fairfield has won its games by an average score of 58-9: Devin Eggins, Jeremiah Simpson and company are really, really good as well. If this becomes a shootout, Rockdale’s got the ammunition to hang in, but Fairfield’s defense likely won’t let it get that far.
Tepper’s pick: Fairfield 42, Rockdale 17
Sinton vs. La Vernia, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Victoria
Are you paying attention to what Sinton QB Tyler Handson is doing as a junior? He’s got 2,387 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground, and another 1,479 yards and 11 TDs passing. He’s been unbelievable, and he’s a big reason why the Pirates are here. The reason La Vernia is here? A crushing defense that held Port Isabel to 14 points last week – 38 points below their season average. DE Zach Beach, LB Coby Bullard and DT Esteban Vijil draw another tough test with Handson this week, but between the defense and the sturdy running game of Vince Gill and QB Colby Sims, the Bears look like they’ll roar into the semifinals.
Tepper’s pick: La Vernia 32, Sinton 24
2A Division I
Wall vs. Eastland, 6 p.m. Saturday at Brownwood
It’s unbeaten vs. unbeaten! It’s Wall’s devastating flexbone option offense taking on Matthew Majors, Brant Bailey and a largely-good Eastland defense! It’s Eastland’s superstar QB Josh Moylan getting a shot at the appropriately named Wall defense of DB Brent Matschek and DE Marcus Michalwicz! It’s two of West Texas’ very best teams at any level duking it out on the field named after one of the greatest coaches of all time (Gordon Wood)! Are you excited yet? You should be. Expect a great one, but Wall’s defense – allowing just 11.6 points per game – looks like the tipping point.
Tepper’s pick: Wall 31, Eastland 27
New Boston vs. Daingerfield, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mount Pleasant
These two teams might as well just get an apartment together. This is the sixth time in four years that New Boston and Daingerfield will play one another. Six times! In 2010, Daingerfield swept New Boston in two games. In 2011, New Boston edged Daingerfield in the regular season, then Daingerfield exacted revenge in the playoffs. In 2012, they only met once: a 6-point Daingerfield win. Earlier this year, Daingerfield put a hurtin’ on New Boston, 40-16. What happens in the sequel? The key for New Boston will be to stop the Daingerfield passing attack, as QB Keris Alexander sliced and diced them in the first meeting. The best way to do that may be to keep them off the field, using RB T. Q. Dedmon and that running game. More often than not, these two teams have given us classic East Texas battles; expect nothing less.
Tepper’s pick: Daingerfield 34, New Boston 27
Franklin vs. White Oak, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Palestine
I’m still shaking my head over White Oak’s upset of Newton last week. What a win! If they’re going to get past Franklin, they’ll have to do it in much the same way: big plays from QB Dylan Gale and WR Jansen McCurdy. The defense was pretty good against Newton; it’ll have to be great against Franklin, since they feature QB Dylan Smitherman, RB Morgan Brewer and a big offensive line that loves to push people around. Maybe I’m looking too closely at recent results, but considering Franklin was held to a season-low 28 points last week, and White Oak’s been on point with its big play offense of late, I think I believe in the Roughnecks.
Tepper’s pick: White Oak 38, Franklin 34
Cameron Yoe vs. Hallettsville, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Texas State
It’s a bit hard to believe that one of these teams will go home tonight. A combined 15-1 on the year, they’ve been fantastic all year in different ways. Hallettsville’s calling card is a knock-your-lights-out defense led by do-it-all DB Dalton Herrington and LB Justin Reeves. They can move the ball pretty well, too, especially when QB Nate Kowalik is locked-in, but coach Tommy Psencik will tell you they’re defense-first. Yoe is built in reverse: the offense is the star, with QB Jacob Kopriva, WR Coltun Shuffield and RB Traion Smith. Of course, having LB Somari Wright anchoring your defense always makes you a threat, but the offense is the star. Hallettsville’s D vs. Yoe’s O is the sexy matchup, but it’ll be Yoe’s defense – a unit that may be better than the one that took home a state title last year – that will carry the day, in my opinion.
Tepper’s pick: Cameron Yoe 34, Hallettsville 31
2A Division II
Canadian vs. Cisco, 2 p.m. Saturday at Wolfforth Frenship
This is the kind of game that deserves to be played in the state championship, and yet here we are. Two of 2A’s most elite offenses square off, as QB Ben Arbuckle, WRs Boston Hudson and Braiden Galla of the Air Canada attack take on QB Colton Kent and Cisco’s steady assault. But don’t get starry-eyed by the offensive numbers: both of these teams can play defense, and play it well. Canadian hasn’t given up more than 22 points in a game this week, with Manny Salas and Cory Chidester leading the charge. Cisco, meanwhile, arguably has a better defense than offense, with LB Mason Reed, DE Vernon Owings and DB Kotie Hoover anchoring what’s been Division II’s most consistent unit. The onus is on Canadian to match Cisco defensively. Those expecting a shootout may be disappointed; this one will come down to defense.
Tepper’s pick: Cisco 28, Canadian 26
Leonard vs. Cooper, 2 p.m. Saturday at Wylie
Isn’t football funny? Leonard is in the middle of its best season ever – they’ve never made it to the state quarterfinals before this year – and they just keep finding a way to win, be it from their running game with Solomon Titus and Ryan Nixon, or from its defense with Garrett Wismer and Jon Rosenbaum. But to make their first semifinal in program history, they’ll have to go through a Cooper team that has been as dominant as anyone we’ve seen in 2A this year. And though they score more than 51 points per game on average, it’s nothing tricky: it’s just ground-and-pound offense, with the Wing-T soaring behind Damarcus Robinson, Jeremy Mims and Ira Franklin. The challenge is two-fold for upstart Leonard: slow the Wing-T attack just enough, then find a way through a devastating defense of Colby Early and Brandon Chandler. An uphill climb, to be sure, but Leonard’s entire season has been one big upset.
Tepper’s pick: Cooper 38, Leonard 21
Waskom vs. Corrigan-Camden, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Carthage
East Texas never disappoints, and this battle of unbeatens for Region III supremacy is the icing on the cake. Old school football fans are drooling over the running games in this one: this game will feature five 1,000-yard rushers (Waskom’s Kevin Johnson, June Bug Johnson and Dillon Benton; Corrigan-Camden’s Keegan Mitchell and Malyk Johnson) and two offenses that average a combined 874 yards per game on the ground. As always with these types of games, it’ll come down to defense and – surprise! – stopping the run. That’s Waskom’s advantage here: the defense of LB Chandrin Amie, DL Justin Spurlin and LB Mike Reason should give the Wildcats the slightest of edges, and continue what has already been the best season in program history. Of course, in this type of weather, it could come down to which team has the better ball security.
Tepper’s pick: Waskom 34, Corrigan-Camden 28
East Bernard vs. Refugio, 7 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio's Farris Stadium
And one year later, here they are, in the exact same spot. Last year, East Bernard stormed onto the statewide consciousness with a convincing win over Refugio in the Region IV final, knocking off the unbeaten Bobcats en route to a state title. For Refugio: a chance for revenge. For East Bernard: a chance to prove last year was no fluke. Refugio’s firepower is well-documented – newly crowned Most Prolific Passer In Texas High School Fooball History QB Travis Quintanilla has been sensational again this year, and he’s got plenty of weapons across the field – but East Bernard’s offense, even without last year’s star Ty Slanina, still packs a wallop. QB Grant Aschenbeck has stepped in magnificently in the Slot-T offense alongside Cedrick Perkins, and that’s trouble for Refugio, considering they just gave up nine rushing touchdowns to Rogers in last week’s 73-72 OT win over Rogers (the highest-scoring 11-man playoff game in Texas high school football history). Meanwhile, East Bernard’s defense may be even better than last year’s bunch, giving up just 82 points all season. Unless Refugio can find a way to suddenly stop the run, last year looks like no fluke.
Tepper’s pick: East Bernard 48, Refugio 36
1A Division I
New Deal vs. Stamford, 7 p.m. Saturday at Snyder
Did anyone have a more exciting win last week than New Deal, who won its game in monumental upset fashion over unbeaten Stratford courtesy of a last-second touchdown? The Lions’ running game has been solid all year long behind Ladareon Hunter, Demetrius Jackson and VJ Gamez, but what makes this team so dangerous is its defense, specifically Xavier Hernandez and the aforementioned Gamez, who have picked off a whopping 18 passes between them. That’s the key for New Deal against the defending champs Stamford: force key turnovers. That’s the Bulldogs are barking once again, as QB Bo Wimberley and WR/DB James Washington (perhaps the best player in 1A) continue to hum. The Stamford defense will be tested, but LB Ty McLemore and company have faced and passed every test. New Deal may need some more heroics to pull this one out.
Tepper’s pick: Stamford 42, New Deal 28
Goldthwaite vs. Hico, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Brownwood
Tasty storylines galore in this Region II final. For one: Hico only has one loss on its tremendous season…and it’s to Goldthwaite, who stormed back from a halftime deficit to win back in October. But both of these teams have changed since then, and it’s safe to call this game a coin-flip. Can Goldthwaite’s wishbone attack – which ran for 393 years in their first meeting – continue churning with Joseph Paddock and Dakota Perry? Can Hico’s high-powered offense get in gear behind QB Hunter Wood, RB Duane Hyles and company? If Hico’s going to win the rematch, they’ll need to find an answer for star DL Jaggar Parrish; he’s been a menace all year, and can single-handedly destroy a gameplan. This one is almost too close to call, and emotions will be running high. But at some point, you wonder if Goldthwaite is playing with a little extra motivation – like, for example, legendary coach Gary Proffit’s retirement at the end of the season.
Tepper’s pick: Goldthwaite 32, Hico 28
Bosqueville vs. Mart, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco La Vega
Mart coach Rusty Nail is one of the nice guys that make covering Texas high school football so much fun. So when he called me out on Twitter last weekend for picking his Panthers to lose to West Sabine, I knew that this was my way of taking my medicine. But the point is well-taken: the Panthers are on a tear right now, and its offensive outburst against West Sabine can’t be oversold. QB De’Nerian Thomas has been electrifying, as has RB D’Marcus Cosby. Now comes a team with as much firepower as the Panthers in Bosqueville, and if you haven’t seen what QB CJ Collins is doing this year, you’re missing out. He’s been terrific, and having RB Greyson Gonzalez as a complement is gravy. There’s also a tantalizing matchup along the offensive and defensive lines: can Mart contain Bosqueville DL Trent Andrews? Can Bosqueville neutralize LB Collin Nail? In this Central Texas showdown, it could go any which way – and the weather may play a huge factor – but at this point, perhaps out of fear for my Twitter credibility, I’m taking coach Nail’s side.
Tepper’s pick: Mart 36, Bosqueville 31
Thorndale vs. Shiner, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Buda Hays
It’s a good thing there are no style points in football, because this one is going to be low-down, ugly and bruising, just the way these two teams like it. Thorndale QB Riley Schaefer is a solid threat, but the Bulldogs’ biggest strength is defensively, where they’re allowing just north of 14 points per game and just took down a Ganado team that, in many ways, is built like Shiner. The Comanches, on the other hand, have been rolling since their win over Mason, and RB/LB Jacob Stafford is the perfect poster boy for coach Steven Cerny’s brand of football: a hard-nosed two-way player who can both break away for a touchdown and lay the lumber on an opponent. The elements shouldn’t play too much of a factor in this one; this weather plays into their style of play. The biggest difference will be who can find any traction offensively against their defensive counterpart. 14 points might win this one.
Tepper’s pick: Shiner 16, Thorndale 13
1A Division II
Wellington vs. Seagraves, 6 p.m. Friday at Lubbock's Jones Stadium
The Potential Shootout of the Day comes to us here, where Wellington and Seagraves boast two offenses that are white-hot right now. Seagraves RB Cory Kyle – if you haven’t heard – was a man possessed last week against Booker, running for 386 yards and four touchdowns to pace the Eagles’ 546-yard assault on suddenly wounded Booker (who lost star QB Hunter Lile and WR Jared Reagan during the game). Wellington, meanwhile…maybe you’ve heard? QB Klark Ashmore has been brilliant, RB Terry Gilbreath has been arguably even better, and the weapons they have at their disposal make you start to wonder if they’ll ever lose. Of course, there is another side of the ball, and that’s where Wellington’s advantage appears to grow – the Skyrockets’ defense, anchored by star LB Edgar Tellez, is surrendering just 11 points per game on average. It’s the playoffs, and anything can happen, but Wellington looks like a clear favorite.
Tepper’s pick: Wellington 44, Seagraves 24
Albany vs. Muenster, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mineral Wells
Holy defense, Batman! This battle of unbeatens pits two teams that are not used to getting scored upon against one another, as Muenster – led by monster DE Cole Walterscheid – has allowed just 8.8 points per game, and Albany – anchored by LB Justin Jones – is giving up just 7.7 points per game. Can you imagine an 8-7 game? Well, it probably won’t come to that, but 14 points really may win this one. Who will strike those one or two huge plays that will provide the offensive difference? Muenster RB Clint Sidwell? Albany WR Lewis Kelly? An unsung hero? Expect a score about as low as the temperatures.
Tepper’s pick: Albany 13, Muenster 10
Tenaha vs. Bremond, 7 p.m. Friday at Athens
If familiarity breeds contempt, I imagine Tenaha and Bremond are awful ornery with one another. This is the fourth consecutive year that these teams will hook up in the playoffs, with Tenaha taking the last two en route to title game appearances (including a championship in 2011). And really, these teams are built similarly: big-play potential offensively (QB Cade Grych most prominently for Bremond, RB Chavis Gregory and WR Keontas Davis for Tenaha) and a defense that doesn’t let you breathe. Bremond features one of 1A’s most versatile players with Harrison Hull, who is a receiving threat, a running threat, a special teams threat and a defensive threat, as well as DL Colby Wilganowski, a monster on the defensive front. Tenaha’s got DL Denzelle Williams, a menace in his own right, and LB Jacoby Ivy, a true leader in the middle of the defense. I’ll be honest: I have no feel for this game. It could be 100-0; it could by 7-6; it could be anything inbetween. But in the end, I think the weather will tamp down the offenses, and you just don’t pick against a streak.
Tepper’s pick: Tenaha 24, Bremond 21
La Pryor vs. Falls City, 6 p.m. Friday at San Antonio's Ferris Stadium
If you believe in the hot hand, then you’re going to love La Pryor, a team that should’ve been long dead weeks ago. But the Bulldogs have found a way to win week in and week out, riding the breakout campaign of sophomore RB Ben Bliss and senior Christopher Gonzales to pace the offense. And the defense, led by another sophomore, LB Justin Hinojosa, has been just as responsible for the Bulldogs’ rise as anyone. But Falls City is an entirely different animal. The Beavers aren’t just beating people; they’re mauling them. RB Justin Twine, QB Dean Gaskamp…and that’s just the offense. The defense has been among the best units at any level in the state, using LB Eric Wiatrek and DL Tyler Malcolm to simply shut down opponents from the start. Does La Pryor have enough magic left to pull off what would be the biggest upset of the year?
Tepper’s pick: Falls City 48, La Pryor 20
It’s time for the six-man state semifinals, with teams battling for a spot at next week’s state championships at AT&T Stadium! Six-man guru Leman Saunders breaks down the games.
Crowell (12-1) v Valley (10-3) – Saturday at Childress 6:00pm
Crowell has run the gauntlet that is Region 2 and came out on top. In their wake this season they have beaten Throckmorton, Knox City, Water Valley, Ira…and yes Valley (in week 3; 78-40)…all of which were ranked in the top 10 at the time (some still are). Valley, the champion of Region 1, in contrast has beaten only 2 top ranked teams in Happy (twice) and Abbott. Valley stumbled a little this season after they lost star player Ketch Smith to a season ending injury. They lost 3 tough games in a row (Crowell, Dallas Covenant, Follett) before rebounding and starting a winning streak that sits at 7 games now. Crowell may be beaten up a little and Valley can certainly take advantage of being the underdog. I think Valley will have a strong showing but will ultimately fall victim to Crowell again and the Crowell Wildcats will play for their first football state title.
May (13-0) v Abbott (8-5) – Saturday at Hico 7:30pm
May is the only undefeated public school six-man team left standing and has manhandled playoff teams out east in the playoffs; beating Lingleville 58-8, Blum 66-35, and Savoy 46-0. They face off with Abbott in the semi-finals. Abbott, coming off a season in 2012 that saw the Panthers playing in the State Title game, for the first time in the school’s history but losing to Throckmorton, started the season ranked in the top 10 and then suffered a few losses and dropped out. They have seemed to find their old winning ways in the playoffs and even revenged their loss to Aquilla in week 10 by beating them 56-50 last week in the quarter-finals. Can the perennial deep playoff running school Abbott upset the unbeaten Tigers of May? I think the game will be close early but May will pull away and march on to the State Championship game.
Grandfalls-Royalty (12-1) v Follett (12-1) – Friday at Muleshoe 6:00pm
This is the game I have been looking forward to for over a year! This is a rematch of last season’s Semi-Final game which saw Follett edge out Grandfalls by a score of 44-32. Grandfalls’ road in the playoffs seems to have been tougher by playing higher ranked teams (in Blackwell and Loraine), but it is hard to tell because they have dominated every game offensively and defensively. Follett has also dominated their playoff opponents and did beat tough teams in Groom and Motley County. Follett has averaged 66.6 points per game in the playoffs while their defense has allowed 11.3 points per game. Grandfalls’ offense is averaging 64.3 points in the playoffs and their defense is allowing 14 points in the playoffs. I think Grandfalls’ defense will force crucial turnovers and that will enable them, one of the smallest schools by enrollment playing football in the State, to move on to the UIL Championship Game.
Newcastle (11-2) v Milford (11-2) – Saturday at Glen Rose 7:00pm
Newcastle pulled off an epic victory last week upsetting Strawn 64-62 in an instant classic of a game. Milford avenged their week 10 lose by beating district opponent Calvert easily 60-32. This will be just the 3rd time these two schools have faced each other, all coming in playoff games with the two schools winning a game each. Newcastle has never played for a state title while Milford has played in 4, 1979, 1980, 1994, 1995, winning 2 of them (1979 and 1980). Both schools will be amped up coming off their respect quarter-final wins. Newcastle seems to be running on all cylinders, and in this pick-em game I pick Newcastle.