5A/4A Preview: Week 8
The 12 biggest games across Texas, plus tons of predictions.
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It's Friday night in Texas, which means tonight belongs to high school Football! DCTF's Greg Tepper previews the 12 biggest games in 5A and 4A this weekend (plus some games that just missed the cut). That way, you know which ones you should really have your eye on.
The Top 12 Games
12. A&M Consolidated (5-2, 3-1) at Conroe Oak Ridge (7-0, 3-0)
District 14-5A is one of those odd-duck districts that crosses regions – it’s got parts of the Piney Woods in it, parts of Houston, parts of the greater Centex area – but it’s never devoid of drama. And if you haven’t been paying close attention to it, it may surprise you that Oak Ridge – in its second year under former John Tyler coach Dereck Rush – is unbeaten. The War Eagles (not exactly a friendly term around College Station, come to think of it) have gotten there on the back of a sturdy running game with QB Braden Letney and RB Kwame Etwi. The defense is good-not-great, with a playmaking secondary of JD Hurd and Tyler Marcel, and that could open things up for the Consolidated attack which continues to be combustible. WR Derrick Dick and RB Brandon Jackson are on another planet right now, and points are a plenty. The problem is…Consol still hasn’t shown much interest in defense. Like, none. The average Consol game – I’m not making these numbers up – finishes 38-30. That’s a lot of points. If Oak Ridge’s defense can just get a couple of spots, the dream season (remember: they were 1-9 last year) will continue.
Tepper’s pick: Conroe Oak Ridge 38, A&M Consolidated 31
11. Longview (6-1, 3-0) at North Mesquite (6-1, 2-1)
Where East DFW meets East Texas is where we find District 12-5A, and hey, what a stunner, Longview’s looking mighty impressive. Ever since that opening week loss to Coppell, the Lobos have been a buzzsaw, with RB JaMycal Hasty and QB Dezmond Chumley doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Of course, getting star DL Zaycoven Henderson back and healthy is mighty helpful, too. They travel to face a North Mesquite squad that remains one of DFW’s biggest surprises. At 6-1, the Stallions have already guaranteed their best season since 2004, when they went 6-4, and it’s good to see coach Mike Robinson – one of the true good guys in Texas high school football – succeed. Of course, it certainly helps when you have RB Ta’Varius Luke (he of 1,180 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Corey Hunt (898 yards, 11 TDs) to spark your offense. The defense has been solid all year, but it’ll face its biggest test yet. A win would give North Mesquite instant legitimacy, but slowing down Longview, especially these days, is easier said than done.
Tepper’s pick: Longview 35, North Mesquite 28
10. CC Ray (6-1, 3-1) at CC Flour Bluff (6-1, 4-0)
Just for a moment, set aside Corpus Christi Calallen, whom I’m comfortable saying is the consensus Best Team in Corpus Christi. Who’s next? This game may very well decide that, as well as be a key jockeying point for playoffs in District 31-4A. Ray started off hot as a pistol but has cooled off a bit. QB Matthew Merino is a machine, but he needs help, both offensively from guys like RB Tristan Barrera and defensively from the likes of DT Tomas Jimenez and DB Eric Estrada. Flour Bluff has shaken off an early loss to Calallen to win four straight, and the defense has really hit its stride behind DB Adrian Hynson and DT Mason Carrell. Will the on-again-off-again offense of QB Cody Brewer and RB Tommy Martin have an “on” game? Now, these two teams are both likely playoff-bound and heading different directions (FB to Division II, Ray to Division I), but every game counts, especially for a district crown.
Tepper’s pick: CC Flour Bluff 36, CC Ray 30
9. Smithson Valley (7-0, 2-0) at New Braunfels Canyon (6-1, 2-0)
Sorry Cibolo Steele, but there’s no debating now who the team to beat in San Antonio is: it’s Smithson Valley. After another impressive win – this one over Converse Judson – the Rangers are bona fide state title contenders. QB Garrett Smith has been remarkable, but the number that stands out to me most is 0, as in 0 interceptions in 119 attempts. That’s incredible. Oh, and having a relentless defense of DE Mason Nasis and a strong running game of RB Cameron Jones is nice, too. Can Canyon knock them off? I love this defense, which is allowing just 11 points per game with LB Zack Carrol-Ramirez and LB Trevor Luckemeyer, and while the offense isn’t quite as explosive as Smithson Valley’s, the balance is pretty great with QB Philip Shelton and RB Gibreel Evans. If Canyon can get some traction running the ball and limit the number of possessions SV gets, this is a ballgame. Otherwise, this is just another notch in the win column for San Antonio’s best.
Tepper’s pick: Smithson Valley 35, New Braunfels Canyon 24
8. McAllen (7-0, 5-0) at Weslaco (6-1, 5-0)
Every week, there’s one region that is just crazy loaded with big games. Last weekend, it was El Paso. This weekend, it’s the Valley, and this is the best of the bunch, a game that will almost assuredly serve as the District 31-5A title game. But if you’re expecting some sort of shootout, it looks like you’re going to be out of luck. Both of these squads are defense-first groups. McAllen’s LB Kevin Hilgenfeld and DB Ruben Gutierrez have been great, while Weslaco relies on DB Peter Noriega and DT Roy Pedraza. So, we think points are going to be at a premium; who’s going to score them? The best offensive player in the game may end up being QB Fred Hover of McAllen, but it’s hard to deny the sturdiness of the Weslaco rushing attack of Eric Gonzalez and Robert Lopez. Especially at home, I think that gives them just the slightest of edges to cap off what will be a mega-weekend in the Valley.
Tepper’s pick: Weslaco 24, McAllen 21
7. Canutillo (5-2, 5-0) at EP Eastlake (6-1, 5-0)
It may not be as huge a weekend in El Paso as it was last week, but boy oh boy, do we have a headliner. Eastlake has been remarkable as a second-year varsity program, going from 3-7 last year to 6-1 and unbeaten in District 2-4A. Why? Experience, yes, but also the emergence of QB David Armendariz and WR Fernie Marquez as a premier pass-catch duo. Couple that with a solid defense featuring DB Billy Cuellar, and you can understand why they’re looking for their first district championship in their short history. But to get there, they’ll need to get past one of the preseason favorites in Canutillo, and the Eagles haven’t given us any reason to doubt them. The Canutillo defense has been literally among the best in the tate, allowing just 8.8 points per game with LBs Fernie Gonzalez and Kevin Ramirez and DT Mike Carrasco. But the question every week: can the offense find enough of the proverbial oomph to get them over the top? It starts with junior dual-threat QB Javier Gomez, but he can’t win it by himself; he’ll need support around him. This is a classic game that should come down to the wire, but the most talented unit on the field will be Canutillo’s defense, and it’s hard to pick against that.
Tepper’s pick: Canutillo 27, EP Eastlake 21
6. Mansfield Timberview (6-1, 3-1) at Cedar Hill (5-2, 3-1)
Can we concede District 7-5A to DeSoto? They’ve already beaten both of these teams, and (with all due respect to Duncanville and Grand Prairie) are a win over Mansfield away from another 10-0 season. But if the district title ship has sailed, this could be the most fascinating second-place matchup in the state. I’m still a big believer in Timberview because of its defense; Ed Paris and Brandon Simmons may make up the most talented secondary in the state. The offense has come and gone at times, but QB Tevin Muse and RB Nicholas James are dangerous pieces. On the flip side, does any two-loss team in the state have two better losses than Cedar Hill? DeSoto and Allen…hard to top that. This is still a lockdown defense with DB Marcus Green and LB Doveon Dillard, but when the Longhorns are especially hard to beat is when the running game with Larry Hill and Peter Lewis gets going. QB Justin McMillan and WR Demarkus Lodge have been great, but when you add in the rushing element, they’re truly lethal. And considering the secondary they’ll be going up against, the run game may be more necessity than luxury. What’s more about this game: if Duncanville sneaks into the playoffs – and with Duncanville facing Mansfield in Week 10, it’s a sincere possibility – that would send both of these teams to Division II, meaning the winner would likely duck Hewitt Midway in the first round. Can’t underestimate the importance of that.
Tepper’s pick: Cedar Hill 32, Mansfield Timberview 21
5. San Antonio Johnson (6-1, 3-0) at San Antonio Reagan (7-0, 3-0)
Is San Antonio Reagan the quietest 7-0 team in 5A? I’d say so. I’m not sure why, though, because they’re bursting with star power. QB Ty Summers, if you haven’t seen him, has been one of San Antonio’s most electrifying players, and his WR Kash Knutson has been nearly uncoverable. The defense isn’t as headline-worthy as the offense, but the Rattlers do boast DL Nick Hardy and DB Garrett Strauss. This game appears to be the biggest hurdle between Reagan and an unbeaten regular season, and it won’t come easily. Johnson’s got a big offense triggered by QB Hunter Rittiman (who has thrown for 1,529 yards and 19 touchdowns) and one of San Antonio’s best tight ends in Devlin Gilligan. Can Johnson put together a solid game defensively, though? It’s been up and down for Jaguars, and a big game from LB Jerod Vick or DB Fernando Cruz would do wonders for their chances in this game.
Tepper’s pick: San Antonio Reagan 42, San Antonio Johnson 31
4. Whitehouse (7-0, 2-0) at Nacogdoches (6-1, 2-0)
So, games 5-12 are obviously great games…but now we’re talking about another level this weekend. These are, to me, clearly the four best games in the state, and it starts out in the Piney Woods, where the Whitehouse’s Comically Big Offense Tour makes a stop in Nacogdoches. Much like Baylor, it’s to the point where you can’t help but stop and gaze at the ludicrous numbers Whitehouse is putting up with QB Pat Mahomes and WRs Jake Parker and Coleman Patterson. Like 59.4 points per game. FIFTY-NINE! Nacogdoches, on the other side – and I mean this politely – is more boring. They don’t put up gaudy numbers or blow out teams; they just have an outstanding offensive line of Jacob Bragg and Malik Grider that gives QB Hunter McClellan all the room he needs to operate. If you’re looking for an early tell in this game, it’s the Whitehouse offensive line against DE Greg Roberts for Nacogdoches. If Roberts is able to get into the backfield and disrupt Mahomes’ rhythm, the Dragons will be in business. But if Mahomes is able to sit back there and launch dart after dart to his receivers, it won’t matter how well the Nac offense plays. This is a big, big test for a resurgent Nacogdoches program; can they pass it?
Tepper’s pick: Whitehouse 45, Nacogdoches 31
3. FB Elkins (6-1, 4-0) at FB Bush (7-0, 4-0)
Fort Bend is Fort Bananas. District 23-5A is always a mess around this time, and this year is no different. That said…it’s fair to say that these are the two best teams in the district, and the winner here will have a huge, huge boost heading into the playoffs (especially if they both go DII). These two teams are led by their quarterbacks – Elkins has Jonathan Giles, who has put up more than 1,500 total yards and 27 touchdowns, while Bush has Ronald Monroe, who has more than 2,000 total yards and 36 scores. Those are the headliners, but it’s the supporting cast that will have much more to say about how this one shakes out. Bush’s defense has been very solid, but has it been tested? LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (say that five times fast) and DB Jyren McCain spearhead a unit that’s allowing a palatable 15.5 points per game. Elkins’ defense got roughed up once – a 38-6 drubbing at the hands of Houston Lamar back in Week 1 – but it’s solidified up since then, using rush end Tobenna Okeke to get in the backfield. Who wins out? It’s hard to say. Elkins is probably more tested, but Bush has taken on and largely dominated all comers. Could go either way.
Tepper’s pick: Fort Bend Bush 29, Fort Bend Elkins 27
2. WF Rider (6-1, 4-0) at Denton Guyer (5-2, 4-0)
Hey, hey, hey! It’s the site of Fox Football Friday Powered by DCTF, our television show! From 7-11pm on Fox Sports Southwest tonight, join Jeff Power, Angela Hamann and myself for four hours of live Texas high school coverage like literally nobody else does it. We’ll have scores, we’ll have highlights, we’ll have analysis from all across the state, from El Paso to Texarkana, Canadian to Brownsville. And we’ll have, of course, a special focus on this game, with highlights as soon as they happen. It’s all available on your television screen tonight, 7-11pm, Fox Sports Southwest! Set your DVR.
As far as the game is concerned…well, I mean, this is pretty much super-duper double-plus awesome, isn’t it? You’ve got two Top 10 teams in the DCTF 4A rankings – Rider is No. 10, Guyer is No. 3 – and two teams with legitimate state title aspirations. You’ve got two big-time offenses – Guyer with the sensational Jerrod Heard, Rider with the fantastic pass-catch duo of Chase London and Davon Allison. And you’ve got the District 5-4A title at stake. So, what’s going to determine this one? Three things: defense, special teams and turnovers. Expect points, and whoever makes the big play at the critical moment is going to walk away with what should be a close one. Can’t wait to get out to Wichita Falls; come and see us!
Tepper’s pick: TO BE REVEALED ON FOX FOOTBALL FRIDAY POWERED BY DCTF, 7-11PM ON FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST
1. Austin Vandegrift (7-1, 4-0) at Cedar Park (6-1, 3-0)
There are about four games that could’ve been in this No. 1 spot, but in the end, I went with this game for one reason: 25-4A may be the most fascinating district in all of Texas. I think there are no less than three legitimate state title contenders in the district, and we’re looking at two of them here. We thought Cedar Park would be here, contending for a district crown, but we how we thought. We thought this would be a defense-first team, but it’s never really come around to be the elite unit we thought it would be. Instead, it’s been the masterwork of QB Nate Grimm, whom we really need to start discussing as a Player of the Year candidate. He has taken this team on his back all year and performed nearly flawlessly (though having a guy like WR Bill Estevanott by your side is pretty helpful). Vandgrift fell in that “we think you’ll be good but maybe not great” category before the season, but wow, have the Vipers impressed us. QB Jamie Hudson has been the breakout star of the year in the Austin area, and WR Luke Peterman provides a steady target on the outside. The defense has been pretty good, but can it hold up against Nate Grimm and company? Your big matchup: Vandegrift CB Max Regan defending Estevanott. If Regan can lock him down and force Grimm to go to other options, that will do big things in helping to slow the Cedar Park attack. It’s a remarkable game in a remarkable district, and I can’t wait to see how it finishes.
Tepper’s pick: Cedar Park 35, Austin Vandegrift 31
Just Missed The Cut...
Aledo (7-0, 4-0) at FW Southwest (5-2, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Aledo 55, FW Southwest 28
Edinburg North (7-0, 5-0) at Edinburg Vela (5-3, 4-2)
Tepper’s pick: Edinburg North 31, Edinburg Vela 20
Edcouch-Elsa (6-1, 4-0) at Mercedes (5-2, 4-0)
Tepper’s pick: Edcouch-Elsa 32, Mercedes 24
GP North Shore (7-0, 3-0) at Beaumont West Brook (5-2, 2-1)
Tepper’s pick: Galena Park North Shore 44, Beaumont West Brook 28
Georgetown East View (5-2, 2-2) at Elgin (7-0, 4-0)
Tepper’s pick: Elgin 48, Georgetown East View 26
Odessa (3-4, 2-3) at Abilene (2-6, 2-4)
Tepper’s pick: Abilene 39, Odessa 36
Arlington Lamar (5-2, 3-1) at Arlington Martin (6-1, 4-0)
Tepper’s pick: Arlington Martin 37, Arlington Lamar 24
Plano East (5-2, 1-1) at Plano (5-2, 1-1)
Tepper’s pick: Plano 27, Plano East 24
Texas High (6-1, 2-0) at Mount Pleasant (3-4, 0-2)
Tepper’s pick: Texas High 45, Mount Pleasant 28
Boerne Champion (6-1, 3-1) at Schertz Clemens (6-1, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Schertz Clemens 31, Boerne Champion 27
SA Stevens (5-3, 4-2) at SA Warren (5-2, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: San Antonio Warren 35, San Antonio Stevens 28
Harlingen South (7-0, 5-0) at Brownsville Lopez (4-3, 2-3)
Tepper’s pick: Harlingen South 44, Brownsville Lopez 17
Laredo Alexander (5-2, 3-0) at Laredo United South (5-3, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Laredo Alexander 34, Laredo United South 27
Texas City (7-0, 4-0) at Galena Park (5-2, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Texas City 38, Galena Park 25
Pearland Dawson (6-1, 3-1) at Friendswood (5-2, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Pearland Dawson 40, Friendswood 28
Katy Cinco Ranch (6-1, 4-0) at Katy Seven Lakes (6-1, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Katy Seven Lakes 26, Katy Cinco Ranch 23
Humble Kingwood Park (5-3, 5-1) at Crosby (6-1, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: Crosby 47, Humble Kingwood Park 31
Humble Atascocita (6-1, 4-1) at Humble Kingwood (6-1, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: Humble Kingwood 33, Humble Atascocita 31
Vidor (3-4, 1-3) at Port Neches-Groves (4-3, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Port Neches-Groves 32, Vidor 26
CC Calallen (6-0, 3-0) at Victoria West (5-2, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: CC Calallen 42, Victoria West 20
Laredo Nixon (6-1, 3-1) at Alice (6-1, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Alice 37, Laredo Nixon 24
Hutto (4-3, 3-1) at Georgetown (5-2, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Georgetown 36, Hutto 20
Round Rock Westwood (3-5, 2-2) at Round Rock Stony Point (4-3, 1-2)
Tepper’s pick: Round Rock Westwood 56, Round Rock Stony Point 48
EP Franklin (4-3, 3-1) at EP Montwood (5-2, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: EP Franklin 35, EP Montwood 24
EP Eastwood (5-2, 2-2) at EP Americas (4-3, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: EP Americas 38, EP Eastwood 22
Amarillo (4-3, 2-0) at Canyon Randall (5-2, 1-1)
Tepper’s pick: Amarillo 39, Canyon Randall 31
Midland Lee (6-1, 5-0) at Amarillo Tascosa (2-5, 1-4)
Tepper’s pick: Midland Lee 42, Amarillo Tascosa 33
Abilene Cooper (6-2, 5-1) at Odessa Permian (2-5, 2-3)
Tepper’s pick: Abilene Cooper 41, Odessa Permian 27
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.