Monday High School Preview
The 5A and 4A Texas high school football playoffs continue tonight, and DCTF gets you ready.
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.
5A Division I
DeSoto vs. Euless Trinity, 1 p.m. Monday at Waco ISD Stadium
Let’s start off the top: this is a rematch of a non-district game back in Week 2, and that was all DeSoto, as the Eagles soared to a 61-35 win behind a huge day from QB Desmon White. And really, it wasn’t that close – DeSoto led 54-14 at halftime. So, the question is: has Euless Trinity closed the 36-point gap with DeSoto? Sure, the Trojans have improved – the running game of Isaac Ellsworth and Ja’Ron Wilson is humming, and the defense made the plays it needed to last week against Southlake Carroll– but there are two big advantages that DeSoto will have. First: Trinity has trouble stopping the pass. Carroll QB Ryan Agnew threw for 488 yards against the Trojans, and considering White has already thrown for 346 yards against Trinity, that’s a mismatch. Secondly: DeSoto has a good-enough rush defense to at least slow down Trinity. This game should be closer than the original, but the Eagles look like the favorite.
Tepper’s pick: DeSoto 45, Euless Trinity 35
5A Division II
Cedar Hill vs. Denton Ryan, 3 p.m. Monday at Denton's Apogee Stadium
Talk about different paths to this point. Cedar Hill, last year’s 5A DII runner-up, took a lead over Abilene Cooper last week and held off a late rally. Denton Ryan, on the other hand, mounted an insane rally, down 31-0 to Keller Fossil Ridge, to storm to an improbable win. What impresses me most about Ryan is its QB Mitchell Bridges, a versatile dual-threat who accounted for six touchdowns last week; when he’s on the same page as WR Xavier Gray, it’s something special. But Cedar Hill can beat you in so many different ways – through the air with QB Justin McMillan and WR dynamo Damarkus Lodge; on the ground with RBs Aca’cedric Ware and Larry Hill; with defense with DB Marcus Green and DE Xavier Washington; or on special teams, where Lodge stars as well. One thing is clear: Ryan cannot afford another slow start. Cedar Hill is not the kind of team to let teams back off the mat. It’ll be up to DT JT Williams, DB Randalle Williams and the Ryan defense to keep this game close, then let Bridges strike at the opportune time. Expect a great one.
Tepper’s pick: Cedar Hill 36, Denton Ryan 27
4A Division I
Denton Guyer vs. Birdville, 7:30 p.m. Monday at Denton's Apogee Stadium
You really shouldn’t be surprised that Birdville is here. The Hawks have an elite-caliber offensive weapon (RB Xavier Turner, he of 2,857 yards and 50 [!!!] touchdowns), some solid complementary parts like QB Will Hayward, and a defense that has been solid all year but is peaking right now, thanks to the LB corps of Nick Dusak and Sam Gooch. The question is, are they ready for the defending champs? QB Jerrod Heard is (checks again) yep, still incredible, the running game of DJ Breedlove and Anthony Taylor is strong as well, and the defensive front is menacing behind DE Thomas Ferguson and DT Carl Thompson. There’s your ballgame: Birdville’s offensive line against Guyer’s defensive line. With all due respect to Hayward, Birdville’s not built to throw the ball a bunch, but if Guyer stuffs the run, that’s what they’ll have to do. If Turner gets his usual 250+ yards and 3 TDs, Birdville’s in business. Of course, there’s also the matter of slowing down Heard.
Tepper’s pick: Denton Guyer 41, Birdville 28
Wylie vs. Highland Park, 7 p.m. Monday at Allen's Eagle Stadium
Wylie is the villain in the horror movie: they just won’t die. The Pirates offense has exploded lately, especially behind versatile weapon Kameron Kelly, who can really do it all. Of course, having a guy like QB Carsen Cook and 1,00-yard receiver Alex Wesley doesn’t hurt, either. Highland Park, after having seen them twice in two weeks, is one of those old school teams that isn’t necessarily amazing at the skill positions (though QB Brooks Burgin is pretty salty), but is so dominant in the trenches – with DLs Andrew Clyde and Caz Orr, and OLs Tony Richards and Clayton Woods – that they break your spirit. Sure, Wylie can get out and run, but they’ll need to match HP’s physicality in order to win this one. But you know what? I’m done doubting Wylie. They’ve more than proved themselves, and I think they can hit the big plays to win this one. It’s an upset pick, but sometimes, you just ride the hot hand.
Tepper’s pick: Wylie 38, Highland Park 35
4A Division II
Aledo vs. Wichita Falls, 6 p.m. Monday at Waxahachie
We must begin with the natural caveat that this is Texas high school football, and this is the playoffs, and it’s cold outside, and anything can happen, and you’re generally a fool to pick against the hot hand (that’s Wichita Falls, who has defied almost every expectation in getting to this point). But Aledo – on the verge of breaking the state scoring record with up to three games remaining, and beating opponents by an average of 59.7 points per game – looks like the clear favorite. Can Wichita Falls pull off the stunner? Sure, especially if their defense led by DE Devon Bazile and DB O.J. Clark play as well as they have of late. But there is very little evidence to suggest that’ll happen.
3A Division I
Stephenville vs. Lubbock Cooper, 7:30 p.m. Monday 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
3A Division II
Graham vs. Shallowater, 6 p.m. Monday 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, 6:30 p.m. Monday at Hewitt Midway
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
2A Division I
Wall vs. Eastland, 6 p.m. Monday 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
2A Division II
Canadian vs. Cisco, 4 p.m. Monday 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, 4:30 p.m. Monday 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
1A Division I
New Deal vs. Stamford, 3 p.m. Monday 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
1A Division II
Albany vs. Muenster, 4 p.m. Monday 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
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) vs. Valley (10-3), 4 p.m. Monday at Childress
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) vs. Abbott (8-5), 8 p.m. Monday at Glen Rose
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.
Newcastle (11-2) vs. Milford (11-2), 5 p.m. Monday at Glen Rose
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.