Greg Tepper recaps another wild round of small-school playoff action.
Catch your breath yet?
It seems like each round of the 3A, 2A, 1A and six-man playoffs gets more and more exciting, and this round was no different.
Let's recap it, shall we?
(And don't worry, private school fans; I'm saving the state title game recaps for a special post tomorrow on TexasFootball.com, so stay tuned then.)
Class 3A Division I
Stephenville 42, Kilgore 32: Well, like we thought it would, this ultimately came down to the Stephenville offense against the Kilgore defense. And for a moment there, Kilgore looked like it had the upper hand, getting three consecutive stops in the third quarter while QB Cooper Coldiron hit Aaron Foy to close the gap to 35-32. But from there, the Yellow Jackets stood the tallest, marching on a 75-yard scoring drive and ending it with a game-sealing 3-yard touchdown run from QB Tyler Jones with just 2:09 left. The Kilgore defense was good, but the Stephenville offense was better when it mattered most.
El Campo 29, Carthage 25: El Campo fans have to believe that this is a team of destiny. The final three minutes of this game were a thing of El Campo lore, as the Ricebirds scored on a Bryce Brandl touchdown run, recovered a fumble, scored on another Brandl run, and then stopped Carthage to take a heart-stopping win and clinch their first state title game berth since 1967.
Next up: Stephenville vs. El Campo for the 3A Division I state title at Cowboys Stadium. The Yellow Jackets will enter as the favorite; does El Campo have any magic left in an already unbelievable season?
Class 3A Division II
Graham 40, Gatesville 35: Here’s a tip to anyone playing Graham: if you have the Steers on the ropes, you’d better land the knockout punch. The Steers were down in this one, but the second half was dominated by the Graham defense, allowing QB Ben Davis to throw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to push them into the state semifinals.
Gilmer 41, Henderson 34: The first meeting between these two district foes finished with a 28-26 Gilmer win. This was much different, as the offenses dominated, especially WR Patrick Brown for Henderson, who helped stake the Lions to a 31-14 lead in the second quarter. But from there, the Gilmer defense stepped up, and the Buckeyes offense stepped on the gas, rattling off 27 straight points thanks to QB Tanner Barr and RB Kris Boyd. That’s the danger of the Gilmer offense: it’s liable to explode at any moment.
Navasota 38, West Orange-Stark 7: Make no mistake about it: this was a statement by Navasota. The Rattlers, led by Austin Collins (who caught two touchdown passes from QB Kadarius Baker, threw for a touchdown and returned an interception for a score) hung 38 points on WO-S. How impressive is that? Coming into the game, the Mustangs had allowed 42 points all season. Combine that with a defense that forced five turnovers, and Navasota may have just staked its claim as the team to beat in the final four.
Bellville 22, Port Isabel 0: What an impressive showing by the Bellville defense, holding the powerful Port Isabel offense to just 220 total yards. From there, it was a matter of RB Bronson Allen, who ran for two touchdowns, and the rest of the Brahmas offense to crack through the Port Isabel front and notch a win, sending Bellville to the state semifinals.
Next up: A pair of nice state semifinals, with Graham taking on Gilmer and Navasota taking on Bellville.
Class 2A Division I
Wall 48, Eastland 24: This was a nice bit of revenge for Wall, who was knocked out by Eastland last year in a 15-14 thriller. Instead, this one was all about the Hawks’ running game, with QB Luke Dacy and RBs Grant Eubank and Clint Masters racking up 495 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. That’s going to win you a lot of games, and at this point, it’ll take a special defensive effort to derail the Hawks’ running attack.
Daingerfield 35, New Boston 28: Oh my, what a game this was. Daingerfield – who, remember, lost to New Boston during the regular season – battled tooth-and-nail with the Lions all night, but the biggest play came with just a minute to go, when superstar WR Edwin Mims returned a punt 70 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in a stunning turn of events. From there, New Boston still had a shot, but Daingerfield’s defense stopped a last-second throw to the end zone to come away with a death-defying victory.
Newton 49, Franklin 13: Newton is straight-up not messing around. The offense continues to annihilate anything in their path, as this time RB Kevin Shorter did most of the damage, running for 273 yards and four touchdowns. And that was plenty for the Newton defense, which held down the Franklin attack all night. The Eagles offense has now scored 199 points in three playoff games, for a cool 66.3 points per game average.
Cameron Yoe 38, Hallettsville 19: Hallettsville jumped out to an early lead, getting a 2-yard touchdown run from Carson Schindler to put the Brahmas up 7-0. That, however, would be as good as it got, because in the second quarter, QB Jason Kopriva and the Yoe offense hit the jets, piling up more than 450 total yards en route to an impressive win. Perhaps most impressive, though, was the Yoe defense, which forced a pair of turnovers and held the normally sturdy Hallettsville running games to just 86 yards.
Next up: State semifinals with Wall vs. Daingerfield and Newton vs. Cameron Yoe. Suffice to say, both will be must-see football.
Class 2A Division II
Sonora 42, Colorado City 21: There’s just a lot to like about this Sonora team, and it was on full display against a very talented Colorado City squad. The star was Darien Lopez, who caught two touchdown passes and threw for another score, but the defense was outstanding as well, holding the Wolves to just 256 total yards and picking off a pair of passes, including Ricky Martinez’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown that more-or-less sealed the game.
Corsicana Mildred 45, Nocona 35: Nocona hung around and hung around and hung around, but when it came to winning time – late in the third quarter and the fourth quarter – it was all about the Mildred offense, specifically QB Nic Shimonek and RBs Draylon Sterling and Jeremy Ballard, as the Eagles scored three of the final four touchdowns to seal the deal.
Elysian Fields 21, Hughes Springs 14: What a gutty effort from Elysian Fields, which was staring a 14-0 deficit in the face heading into halftime. But that’s when QB Trevor Spear hit Nathan Hall for a 62-yard touchdown pass (off the hands of the intended receiver and into Hall’s hands, as a matter of fact) with 31 seconds left in the first half, and that turned the tide. From there, the EF defense stood firm while the Yellowjackets’ offense continued to work, tying the game and eventually getting the game-winning touchdown pass from Spear to Hall with 2:36 to play to hand Hughes Springs its first loss of the year.
East Bernard 54, Refugio 23: The stunner. It’s not just that East Bernard beat Refugio – one of the state’s most dominant teams – but they did it, absolutely drubbing the Bobcats by forcing a number of turnovers and getting a huge game from QB Ty Slanina, who ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns and also added a 55-yard touchdown reception. East Bernard scored 41 straight points after halftime. They scored six of their eight touchdowns on plays of 28-or-more yards. Plain and simple, East Bernard beat Refugio at its own game, and did it in stunningly easy fashion.
Up next: Sonora will battle Corsicana Mildred in what could be a high-scoring affair, and Elysian Fields will take on a suddenly white-hot East Bernard squad.
Class 1A Division I
Stamford 27, Stratford 7: Stratford played the game they needed to in order to win. They ran the ball with RB Alex Chavoya, controlled the clock, and kept the ball out of Stamford’s hands. But in the end, even that wasn’t enough, as the Stamford defense put the clamps down and QB Hagen Hutchinson ran for 126 yards and threw for another 88. And with all four touchdowns coming on the ground courtesy of Hutchinson, there’s just not a lot you can do about that.
Italy 14, Goldthwaite 3: The tremendous story of Italy continues, as the Gladiators defense turned in perhaps their best defensive effort to date. The Gladiators stymied the Eagles, holding them to a mere 155 total yards and giving up just a third-quarter field goal, which cut their lead to 6-3. But early in the fourth quarter, Italy dropped the hammer offensively, getting a 7-yard touchdown run from QB Ryheem Walker to go up 14-3. And the way their defense was playing, that was more than enough.
Mart 62, Alto 42: Holy offense! The shootout of the weekend came from these two squads, and the star of the show was Mart QB De’Nerian Thomas, who ran for 285 yards and seven touchdowns on just 18 carries. That was part of a 521-yard rushing barrage by the Panthers, and while the defense certainly wasn’t very good – allowing 406 total yards – it did enough on a night where the offense was hitting on all cylinders.
Shiner 21, Mason 3: And down goes another reigning state champ. We knew Shiner’s defense was good, but this was their coup de grace. The Mason running game, while it still managed 117 yards, was held out of the end zone, keeping all-everything RB Rio Schmidt to just 71 yards on 23 carries. From there, RB Evel Jones did the rest, running for a 74-yard touchdown and hauling in a game-sealing 46-yard touchdown pass from Trevion Flowers with 3:43 left to put this one on ice.
Up next: Some outstanding semifinals, as Italy tries to keep its roll going against mighty Stamford, and Shiner’s defense goes toe-to-toe with the explosive Mart offense.
Class 1A Division II
Wellington 56, Sudan 20: Sudan led this game, 7-0. Fourteen game-minutes later, Wellington was up 36-7. And it wasn’t even QB Klark Ashmore doing most of the damage! That honor belonged to RB Terry Gilbreath, who ran for 264 yards and four touchdowns on the night as the Skyrockets continued to soar with a soul-crushing offense.
Munday 55, Albany 7: What’s left to say about Munday QB Dee Paul? Against a stout Albany defense, he ran for 315 yards and four touchdowns (on just 15 carries) and threw for 70 yards and a score. This game was 36-0 at halftime, and 49-0 late into the third quarter. Munday is a buzzsaw.
Tenaha 34, Frost 30: These two teams exploded in the second quarter, combining for 36 points in a wild affair. But when things settled down, Tenaha RB Chavis Gregory took over, running for 135 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for another score. And Gregory’s touchdown run with 5:18 to play put the game away for the Tigers, who return to the state semifinals for a second straight year. And here’s a fun fact: they’re the only defending champion left.
Falls City 29, Burton 7: Has any team flown under the radar more than Falls City? Lest we forget that the Beavers won a state title just two years ago, and now they’re back in the mix in the same way, playing outstanding defense and getting big plays from QB Cameron Soto. After giving up a touchdown on the first Burton possession, the Beavers defense tightened up and didn’t allow anything else. A remarkable effort.
Up next: Wellington vs. Munday. Ooooooh man, Wellington vs. Munday. Falls City vs. Tenaha is going to be great, but Wellington vs. Munday is going to be the greatest.
Six-Man Division I
Throckmorton 60, Valley 48: Don’t be fooled by the score: this game was dictated by the Throckmorton defense, which held Valley’s superstar RB Kameron Buchanan to just 66 yards and no touchdowns in the game. From there, it was a matter of QB Bryson Oliver throwing for 320 yards and four scores to push Throckmorton into the state title game for a third consecutive season and the fifth time in school history.
Abbott 74, Gordon 60: The Abbott defense wasn’t great, but it was good enough. Why was it good enough? Because Tyler Russell, that’s why. The spreadback ran for a whopping nine touchdowns on the night, giving the defense a little breathing room against a tough Gordon offense.
Up next: An outstanding battle of offensive firepower in the state title game, as Throckmorton takes on Abbott.
Six-Man Division II
Follett 44, Grandfalls-Royalty 32: Give six-man guru Leman Saunders all the credit in the world. On Friday, he e-mailed me to tell me that Follett was going to win this game, and sure enough, he was right. The defense was masterful, forcing a pair of turnovers and making Grandfalls play one-dimensional, shutting down the run game to the tune of 59 yards. And then, it was the Dakota Woods show, running for 131 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 209 yards and four scores. That’ll teach me to go against what Leman says.
Richland Springs 82, Strawn 44: So, Richland Springs came into this game on a 43-game winning streak. The last team to beat them: Strawn, back in 2009. I think that was on Richland Springs’ minds, as the Coyotes put it on the Greyhounds, getting 336 total yards and six touchdowns from SB Chance Bush to cruise into their sixth state title game in the last 11 years.
Up next: A dandy of a state title game, pitting the hard-nosed defense of Follett against the high-flying offense of Richland Springs.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.