5A/4A Preview: Week 9
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. Temple (5-3, 4-1) at Copperas Cove (5-3, 3-2)
You can accuse District 8-5A of a lot of things. Defense-less? Sure. Bottom-heavy? Maybe. But boring? Never. With Midway’s stunning loss to Killeen Shoemaker last week, the district title is officially back up for grabs. But first things first: get into the playoffs, and that’s what Cove and Temple aim to do with this game. Reports of Temple’s demise when QB Chase President went down have been grossly overstated – QB Chase Truelove has stepped in nicely, and the WRs Erick Arizmendi and Marquis Cooks are still dynamite. The offense is similarly humming for Cove, who has witnessed the emergence of QB Immanuel Harris and WR Hunter McVeigh to complement RB Vondareaz King. But the question, as always in this district, is simple: who will play defense? Temple and Cove are giving up 33.8 and 32.1 points per game, respectively; that’s not going to fly when they face one another. I expect a shootout, and in a tight game, I lean toward the home team.
Tepper’s pick: Copperas Cove 41, Temple 35
11. Nacogdoches (6-2, 2-1) at John Tyler (6-2, 3-0)
Admittedly, this game lost a little bit of sparkle last week when Whitehouse demolished Nacogdoches, but this is still a critical battle in District 16-4A. John Tyler has shaken off two early losses and come back strong as the offense has roared to life behind QB Geovari McCollister. Nacogdoches, last week nonwithstanding, is still a dangerous offensive unit, especially when QB Hunter McClellan has time to throw. The time should be there this week: for all of John Tyler’s strengths in the secondary with ballhawk Terry Ausborne, they’re not an exceptional team up front. But can Nacogdoches stop JT? Perhaps I’m reading too much into one game against a very good Whitehouse squad, but the defense scares me a bit. DE Greg Roberts and LB Brian Scott can absolutely prove me wrong, but especially at Rose Stadium, I’m thinking it’s going to be Cujo.
Tepper’s pick: John Tyler 35, Nacogdoches 26
10. San Antonio Reagan (8-0, 4-0) at San Antonio Churchill (5-3, 2-2)
Does Reagan have your attention yet? The Rattlers roared to 8-0 last week behind another big night from QB Ty Summers, who has simply dazzled this season alongside WR Kash Knutson. But don’t get too enamored with the offense: the defense can most certainly hold its own with DL Nick Hardy and DB Garrett Strauss. Can Churchill finally put a wrench in the Rattlers’ spokes? They desperately need this win to keep pace for that fourth playoff spot out of District 26-5A, and they’ll need their weapons – QB Nate Pearson, RB Nick Smisek and WR Dimitri Flowers – to lead them there. For Churchill, they need to get the score up in the 30s or even 40s; the defense hasn’t been all that strong, and Reagan will most certainly take advantage. If Churchill scores 35+, they’re in it; otherwise, it’s hard to imagine they keep Reagan from 9-0.
Tepper’s pick: SA Reagan 38, SA Churchill 28
9. San Angelo Central (7-1, 5-1) at Abilene Cooper (6-3, 5-2)
So now do we have District 2-5A figured out? Almost, and we’ll have a much better view of it after this game, which we’ve been waiting for all year. San Angelo Central seems to be fully recovered from its baffling loss to Amarillo Tascosa. QB Mickey Scott has been a freak (I mean that in a positive way), accounting for more than 3,000 total yards and 41 touchdowns already. Abilene Cooper, too, has been scoring points in bunches behind QB Lorenzo Joe and RB Trey Dye. From the outset, the defenses appear to be pretty even, maybe even with a slight edge to Central. So why do I think Cooper’s going to win this one? Two big reasons. For one: I think this will be the best offense Central has faced, and while Scott can match almost any team in the state score-for-score, any sort of resistance from the Cooper defense could give the Cougars an edge. And secondly: it’s in Abilene. Central lost at Tascosa, which is a 4-hour, 40-minute drive away from San Angelo. Abilene’s much closer – just an hour and a half – but there is no denying that Central performs much better at home than on the road. In a close game like this, those little things matter.
Tepper’s pick: Abilene Cooper 42, San Angelo Central 36
8. New Braunfels Canyon (6-2, 2-1) at Converse Judson (6-2, 2-1)
Let’s just all agree that Smithson Valley is going to win District 25-5A, right? Their final two games are against New Braunfels (3-5) and San Antonio Wagner (0-8). Can we agree that the Rangers will win the title? Cool. Now, let’s get into the very intriguing second-place battle, where three teams – these two and the aforementioned New Braunfels – are locked at 2-1. This is a game that’ll be decided by the pace at which it’s played. If it’s a fast, up-and-down score-a-thon, that’ll favor Judson and QB RayJohn Austin-Ramsey (especially if RB Brandon Sanders gets going). That’ll also take the onus off of the Judson defense, which has been solid overall but has a tendency to get torched at times. If it’s a slow slog of a game, that’ll favor Canyon, what with its tremendous defense led by LBs Zack Carroll-Ramirez and Trevor Luckemeyer, and allow the steady run game of RB Gibreel Evans to take hold. So, is the game in the low 20s, or is it in the mid-to-high 30s? That’ll decide it.
Tepper’s pick: Converse Judson 37, New Braunfels Canyon 24
7. Houston Bellaire (7-1, 4-0) at Houston Lamar (7-0, 4-0)
Let’s be frank: District 20-5A isn’t the toughest district in the state. There’s Lamar, there’s Bellaire, there’s Westside…but from there, there simply aren’t a ton of teams that scare you. So, having already slayed Westside, this stands to be the Houston Lamar’s toughest district tilt. And make no mistake: Bellaire’s a team to be reckoned with. Their lone loss came in Week 0 to Alief Taylor, and since then, the offense of QB Tre’Von Smith and RB Xavier Campbell has been very impressive, while the defense has largely held up its end of the bargain with DE Brelynd Goods. Is that enough to take down the defending 5A DI runners-up? Tom Nolen has Lamar rolling again this year, and it starts with superstar QB Darrell Colbert and the running game of Ronnie Wesley and Levy Whiteing. The defense has been its normal smothering self, too, with DL Ira Savage-Lewis and DB Holton Hill. Lamar looks like the better side, and I expect them to win, but keep this in mind: it’s been a while since Lamar played a close game – really, since Week 2’s 23-10 win over Beaumont West Brook. Who knows how the Redskins will react if they’re in a tight one in the fourth quarter.
Tepper’s pick: Houston Lamar 35, Houston Bellaire 21
6. Katy (8-0, 5-0) at Katy Cinco Ranch (7-1, 5-0)
OK, look: Katy’s going to be the favorite in every game it plays against every opponent with the exception of maybe a handful of teams. That’s a given. Between the incredible defense – which may be even better than last year’s thanks to LB Jake Blomstrom, DE Tim Wilkerson and NT Cody Gessler – and the depth on offense, from QB Kiley Huddleston to RB Kyle Porter (currently in for the injured Rodney Anderson, out with a foot injury), the Tigers are an elite-level team. But…well, don’t overlook Cinco Ranch. This is a fantastic team, a team that would be gaining headlines from across the state if it weren’t for its district bunkmate. They win with defense, with DB Trent Soechting and DE Tobi Ilsanmi, and the offense of QB Luke Klingler and WR Sam Straughan has been formidable. This is a darn good team. If they’re going to spring the upset, it’s going to take a relentless attack up front defensively and taking care of the ball. Any more than a single turnover could spell doom for Cinco Ranch. This is a closer game than some may think, but elite is elite, and Katy is elite.
Tepper’s pick: Katy 27, Katy Cinco Ranch 17
5. Leander Rouse (6-2, 3-1) at Austin Vandegrift (7-2, 4-1)
Well well well, if it isn’t the site for Fox Football Friday Powered by DCTF! That’s right, we’ll be live from Monroe Stadium on the campus of Vandegrift High School for this one, bringing you four hours of Texas high school football coverage like you’ve never seen! My television life partners Jeff Power and Angela Hamann will do most of the heavy lifting while we give you scores, highlights and analysis from across Texas, with a special emphasis on this game. So: 7-11pm, Fox Sports Southwest (or perhaps Fox Sports Plus, if we get bumped for basketball or hockey; check FoxSportsSouthwest.com) for the show!
As far as the game is concerned, there’s a lot at stake. Both of these two young programs have already clinched a playoff berth, and they’re both pretty well locked into their divisions – DII for Vandegrift, DI for Rouse. But seeding is critical here, which is why this game matters so much. Rouse’s game plan is simple: run, run, run. The Raiders run the ball more than 85% of the time with WR-turned-QB-turned-RB Billy McCrary and RB Andre Alger. Vandegrift’s a touch more diverse: QB Jaime Hudson is a dual-threat stud, and WR Luke Peterman and RB Travis Brannan are strong complements. Essentially, this game comes down to whether or not the Vandegrift defense, which got torched on the ground in its two losses to Hendrickson and Cedar Park, can slow down the Rouse rushing attack. Hate to be simplistic, but that is the biggest key to this game.
Tepper’s pick: TO BE REVEALED ON FOX FOOTBALL FRIDAY, 7-11PM ON FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST
4. Austin Westlake (5-3, 3-1) at Lake Travis (7-1, 5-0)
This rivalry is so fierce and so high-profile that you’d think that these two teams have been playing forever. But nope: this will be just the eighth time that these two programs, the flagship programs of Austin over the past decade, have locked horns. And at this point, with LT winning the last five, one must wonder if the Cavs simply have the Chaps’ number. Now, Westlake won’t go quietly this year: the offense hums with QB Jordan Severt, WR Sean Rollings and RBs Ben Slaughter and Alex Chavez. But can the defense make stops? That’s been the key all year, and the Chaps have been lit up by the likes of Cedar Park, Temple, A&M Consolidated and Cibolo Steele. Now, those are really strong offenses…but so is Lake Travis. QB Dominic De Lira has really settled in as the new signal-caller, and they’ve found new and creative ways to get star RB Shaun Nixon involved. The defense was never a worry – not with DB Luke Hutton and DL Zach Davies around – and it hasn’t become one. Westlake’s offense against LT’s defense will be fun to watch, but LT’s offense against Westlake’s defense will be more telling, and that’s where the Cavs have their biggest advantage.
Tepper’s pick: Lake Travis 35, Austin Westlake 25
3. Denton Ryan (6-1, 2-1) at Coppell (6-1, 3-0)
Three weeks ago, this game looked like as big of a can’t-miss, must-be-there game in the state. Then, Denton Ryan stumbled against Hebron, and the statewide spotlight has moved elsewhere. But that doesn’t change the fact that this will be a tremendous 5-5A game with mega-sized playoff implications. As far as the on-field game is concerned, expect two outstanding defenses to go at it, with Ryan’s big DT J.T. Williams and DE Sekou Clark looking to shut down the Coppell rushing attack triggered by Charles West. Coppell, too, has its strength in the front seven, with star DE Solomon Thomas and LB John Herubin leading the way for the Cowboys’ D against Denton Ryan’s RB Terrence Williams and QB Mitchell Bridges. So, what’s at stake? With a win, Coppell will lock up the top DI seed in District 5-5A, likely meaning they’d duck Euless Trinity in the first round. A Ryan loss would lock the Raiders into the No. 2 seed in Division II, which would probably mean a first-round date with Colleyville Heritage instead of the much-preferable Hurst L.D. Bell.
Tepper’s pick: Coppell 28, Denton Ryan 20
2. Harlingen (7-1, 6-0) at Harlingen South (8-0, 6-0)
It’s Bird Bowl XXI, baby! Down in the Valley tonight, we’ve got not only one of the state’s most heated rivalries, and not just one of the most exciting games in the state…we’ve got a District 32-5A championship game! Harlingen has been the face of Valley football for the better part of the last decade, and this year, the Cardinals look similarly tough as in years past: LB Gilbert Bermea and DB Elijah DeLeon handle a bruising defense, while the offense has really gained from the emergence of QB Brandon Garza as “The Man.” But Harlingen South may be the new Valley power for all of the same reasons: defense (DL Kristian Rodriguez and LB Brandon Rodriguez take care of that) and a terrific offense led by QB Sean Montemayor and WR Nick Garcia. In many ways, these two teams are mirror images of one another, which is what makes this game so appealing. Now, I hate intangibles. I’m a numbers guy; I want clear-cut, real things that I can measure. But there’s something to be said for the lingering memory of last year, when Harlingen beat Harlingen South to prevent the Hawks from winning the district title outright. Don’t think the South players, many of whom played in that game last year, have forgotten that. Is that the extra fuel on the fire that drives the Hawks past their rival?
Tepper’s pick: Harlingen South 27, Harlingen 24
1. Pearland (8-0, 5-0) at Manvel (7-1, 5-0)
I feel as if I need to clarify my position on both Pearland and Baylor, so here goes. It is absolutely true that neither Pearland nor Baylor have won a game against what we could consider a formidable foe – Pearland’s best win is against a 5-3 Houston Memorial team, while Baylor’s best win is probably at Kansas State, who is 3-4. And yes, they have largely played a parade of spares – Pearland’s opponents are a combined 17-47, and Baylor’s FBS opponents from AQ conferences (basically, its Big 12 foes) are a combined 9-20. All of these things are true. But there also comes a point where the sample size is large enough that the domination that they’ve done is worth respecting, regardless of the competition. That’s the case for both Pearland and Baylor. Of course, now, for both teams, easily their toughest test of the year lies ahead. For Baylor, it’s hosting Oklahoma. For Pearland, it’s tonight’s trip to Manvel. Everything about Pearland has been impressive this year – it quite literally has the state’s best defense at 3.2 points per game behind LB Justin Phillips and DT Ronald Frasier, and its big-play offense has been hitting big plays every week with QB Kalen Johnson and RB Jacolbie Butler. But Manvel will be the Oilers’ toughest test by a considerable margin, because while the numbers aren’t as gaudy, the tougher schedule (like the 4-point loss to Galena Park North Shore and the win over Pasadena Dobie) shows us that the Mavericks are for real. QB Deriq King has been a dual-threat superstar, accoinging for more than 1,800 total yards and 26 touchdowns, and the defense has been solid all year with DE Koda Martin up front and DB Gary Haynes patrolling the back end. It’s a tantalizing matchup on about 500 different fronts, and really, we have no idea what to expect. Maybe Pearland’s a paper lion. Maybe they’re a state title contender. Regardless of what the answer is, we’ll know it after 48 minutes tonight.
Tepper’s pick: Pearland 31, Manvel 23
Just Missed The Cut...
EP Montwood (6-2, 4-1) at EP Coronado (6-2, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: EP Coronado 38, EP Montwood 31
Manor (7-1, 4-1) at Hutto (4-4, 3-2)
Tepper’s pick: Manor 37, Hutto 21
Cedar Park (7-1, 4-0) at Cedar Park Vista Ridge (4-4, 1-3)
Tepper’s pick: Cedar Park 45, Cedar Park Vista Ridge 24
Beaumont West Brook (5-3, 2-2) at Port Arthur Memorial (5-3, 3-1)
Tepper’s pick: Port Arthur Memorial 31, Beaumont West Brook 27
La Porte (5-3, 3-1) at Galena Park North Shore (8-0, 4-0)
Tepper’s pick: Galena Park North Shore 33, La Porte 18
San Antonio O'Connor (5-3, 4-2) at San Antonio Stevens (5-4, 4-3)
Tepper’s pick: San Antonio O’Connor 30, San Antonio Stevens 29
Granbury (8-0, 5-0) at Aledo (8-0, 5-0)
Tepper’s pick: Aledo 56, Granbury 28
Lancaster (4-4, 3-2) at Ennis (8-0, 5-0)
Tepper’s pick: Ennis 45, Lancaster 28
Denton Guyer (6-2, 5-0) at Wichita Falls (5-3, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: Denton Guyer 44, Wichita Falls 21
Schertz Clemens (7-1, 4-1) at San Antonio Alamo Heights (6-2, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: Schertz Clemens 30, SA Alamo Heights28
Buda Hays (6-2, 4-1) at Boerne Champion (6-2, 3-2)
Tepper’s pick: Boerne Champion 31, Buda Hays 27
Weslaco (6-2, 5-1) at PSJA (5-3, 3-3)
Tepper’s pick: Weslaco 23, PSJA 17
McAllen Memorial (4-4, 3-3) at McAllen (8-0, 6-0)
Tepper’s pick: McAllen 34, McAllen Memorial 27
Edinburg Economedes (6-2, 4-2) at Donna (5-3, 4-2)
Tepper’s pick: Donna 23, Edinburg Economedes 16
Kingwood (6-2, 4-2) at Spring Westfield (8-0, 6-0)
Tepper’s pick: Spring Westfield 38, Kingwood 23
Beaumont Central (5-3, 4-1) at Little Cypress-Mauriceville (4-3, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: Little Cypress-Mauriceville 22, Beaumont Central 21
Conroe Oak Ridge (7-1, 3-1) at Lufkin (3-5, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Conroe Oak Ridge 31, Lufkin 28
Angleton (5-3, 3-1) at Richmond Foster (5-2, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Angleton 33, Richmond Foster 24
CC Tuloso-Midway (4-4, 1-3) at Victoria West (5-3, 2-2)
Tepper’s pick: Victoria West 34, CC Tuloso-Midway 26
Conroe (4-4, 1-3) at A&M Consolidated (6-2, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: A&M Consolidated 48, Conroe 24
EP Americas (4-4, 2-3) at EP El Dorado (5-3, 4-1)
Tepper’s pick: EP El Dorado 35, EP Americas 27
EP Chapin (6-3, 6-0) at EP Irvin (6-2, 3-2)
Tepper’s pick: El Paso Chapin 34, El Paso Irvin 21
Amarillo Caprock (6-2, 1-2) at Amarillo Palo Duro (4-4, 1-2)
Tepper’s pick: Amarillo Caprock 38, Amarillo Palo Duro 26
Odessa Permian (3-5, 3-3) at Midland Lee (7-1, 6-0)
Tepper’s pick: Midland Lee 38, Odessa Permian 26
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.