Matt Stepp’s 10 thoughts from the Texas high school football regional finals
A 2015 state title rematch in 6A Division I and San Augustine comes face-to-face with 2A powerhouse Refugio in the state semis this week
With the season coming to a close, we are changing the format of “10 Thoughts” slightly. I’ll still have your 10 thoughts weekly but it’ll be in the form of quick recaps of all 10 of the UIL 11-man football brackets. This will lead us right into DCTF’s unmatched coverage of the 2017 UIL State Football championships.
Class 6A Division I
The chances of an Allen-Katy mega-title game are getting greater and greater with each passing week as both teams passed tough tests in the regional final. Allen rolled past Euless Trinity, 41-20, as the Eagles’ offense exploded for 31 first-half points and put it on cruise control in the second half. Katy held up its end of the bargain with another eye-popping defensive effort as the Tigers avenged their playoff loss to Galena Park North Shore a year ago with a convincing 31-3 victory at NRG Stadium. Both teams will face tough challenges in the semi-finals as Allen travels down to Waco to face surging Round Rock Cedar Ridge who hammered Pflugerville Hendrickson 30-2, while Katy will take on defending Division I State Champion Lake Travis who knocked off San Antonio O’Connor 38-17 Saturday at the Alamodome.
Class 6A Division II
For the first time in quite some time, Waco Midway had a serious test as it needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from Southlake Carroll in a 42-28 victory. The undefeated Panthers face off with red-hot Longview who, in front of an estimated 20,000 fans, knocked off arch rival Lufkin 33-32 to advance to the state semi-finals. The key for Longview will be how it responds against a really good team after such an emotional win. Cy Fair advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1985 with its second win of the year over Cy Fair ISD rival Houston Langham Creek. The Bobcats aren’t flashy but are good in all phases and are brutally efficient. They’ll get a team very similar in their image in Austin Westlake visiting NRG Stadium on Saturday. Westlake’s defense dominated the Cibolo Steele offense in a 28-14 win Saturday night at the Alamodome, that was even despite turning the ball over four times. As long as the Chaps hang on to the football, I think they’ll be fine but if they put the ball on the ground, Cy Fair can make them pay.
Class 5A Division I
In what was supposed to be a shootout between two of the state’s top signal callers from undefeated teams turned into a rout as Denton Ryan rolled past Lubbock Coronado, 69-48, to clinch the Region I title and a state semi-final rematch with Highland Park. A year ago, Ryan fell to Highland Park in the semi-finals, but all-state QB Spencer Sanders was injured early in the game and Highland Park’s defense dominated. Both teams look to be very offense heavy this year, so expect a shootout on Friday night at AT&T Stadium. Speaking of revenge, Friday night Manvel got its taste and rolled past Temple, 49-34, to set up an all-Houston state semi-final with Angleton who blew past Richmond Foster for the second time this year, this time 41-10. Manvel looks to be the favorite in an outstanding group of semifinalists that have a combined one loss.
Class 5A Division II
Aledo looked like they could be mortal after a couple of games, but turned on the jets for a state run as the Bearcats rolled past Richland, 43-7. This sets up a rematch with Mansfield Legacy. The Broncos won an absolute war with Frisco Lone Star, 24-20, on Saturday afternoon. Aledo won the regular season meeting with Legacy, 24-3. College Station advanced to the state semi-finals for the second straight year with a shootout win over Fort Bend Marshall, 49-47. the Cougars eliminated the Buffaloes for the second straight year as well. They’ll take on undefeated Austin McCallum who kept its record-setting season alive on Saturday with a dominant 20-7 win over Corpus Christi Calallen at the Alamodome. The Knights will likely be underdogs next week against College Station, but they’ve embraced the underdog role and can’t be taken lightly just because they are from Austin ISD.
Class 4A Division I
Stephenville got all it wanted but emerged victorious in a 31-21 win over Wichita Falls Hirschi on Friday. The ‘Jackets weren’t perfect by any means and turned the ball over four times, but Hirschi was unable to take advantage and that proved to be the big turning point in the game. Stephenville will face the speedy Wing-T offense of Kennedale Friday at 5 p.m. at AT&T Stadium. Kennedale, who is making its second straight trip to the state semifinals, rolled past Kaufman 64-36 last week. Carthage and Waco LaVega both took care of business last week to set up a Friday night showdown of 14-0 teams at the Ford Center. Carthage rolled past district rival Henderson 35-0 while LaVega handled a district rival as well beating Liberty Hill, 28-18. The key matchup here is the stingy LaVega defense going against the pro-style attack of Carthage that lives off putting defenses in matchup problems with its versatility.
Class 4A Division II
It’ll be a major Thursday night showdown at the Ford Center as unbeaten Graham takes on unbeaten Texarkana Pleasant Grove. Graham’s offensive juggernaut continues its run as the Steers rolled past red hot Bushland, 69-41. Texarkana Pleasant Grove may have made the biggest statement in the entire state as the Hawks destroyed a Melissa team that had impressed the week before in a 35-23 win over Gilmer. Melissa, however was no match for the Hawks who scored on its first six drives en route to a 55-14 blowout win. The Hawk defense really made quite the impression harassing Melissa’s talented young quarterback and dominating up front. The big question for next week is can PGHS do the same thing this week against a highly-efficient and senior-laden Graham attack? West Orange-Stark isn’t putting up eye-popping numbers, but the Mustangs are getting the job done as and won their fourth straight Region III title with a slugfest 14-0 win over Salado on Friday evening. The Mustangs will take on red-hot Wimberley who upset previously undefeated Cuero 44-36 last week. The Texans have the kind of high-powered offense that could test the WOS Chain Gang defense that has been the backbone of its back—to-back state championship teams.
Class 3A Division I
Brock didn’t have a letdown on Friday night after its big upset of top-ranked Wall last week as the Eagles had its way with Comanche in a 34-7 win. Since the playoffs started, the Eagle defense, most notably against the run, has been fantastic. After losing to Grandview by 27 in the regular season, Kemp had a heroic effort from its defense and stunned the heavily-favored Zebras, 13-10. Kemp jumped out to an early 13-3 lead and held on in the second half as the Yellowjacket defense only managed eight yards of offense in the second half. Rockdale ended its Waco ISD Stadium curse with a 42-20 win over Teague on Friday night to advance to the state semifinals. The Tigers take on last year’s state runner-up Yoakum who blitzed past a young but talented Goliad squad at DKR Stadium, 40-7.
Class 3A Division II
It’s a rematch theme in the top half of the bracket as unbeaten Canadian and Gunter both took care of business Friday night to set up a rematch of 14-0 teams in the state semi-finals. A year ago in the state semifinals, upstart Gunter ended Canadian’s 15-game playoff winning streak with a 44-34 win. Now it’s Gunter who has the winning streak as the Tigers have won 30-straight games after blasting past Cinderella New Diana 62-13. Canadian knocked off a tough Childress squad for the second time this year beating the Bobcats 35-20. Boling continues to amaze as the Bulldogs, who lost three times during the regular season, have won Region IV. A week after stunning favored East Bernard in the third round for the second straight year, Boling turned around and knocked off previously unbeaten Lexington in the regional finals for the second straight year. Alabama-commit Vernon Jackson Jr. has been an unstoppable force during the playoffs as Boling just hitched its wagon to the big senior and let him get it done. But can he do it again next week against juggernaut Newton? The Eagles are absolutely loaded and look to be a good bet to make it to AT&T Stadium. They outclassed everyone in Region III including Friday night as they rolled past Waskom, 45-6.
Class 2A Division I
The real headliner after this weekend’s games might be out in Region I where the Stratford Elks sent a message to the rest of the state that they are not going be cannon fodder for speedy Mart in the semi-finals. Stratford on Friday night showed it was ready for the big stage and blasted Panhandle, 61-7, up in Dumas. The Elks, who needed overtime to dispatch of its district rivals during the regular season jumped all over Panhandle early on and never looked back. That sets up a classic size vs. speed matchup as a big and physical Stratford squad will try to corral the speed and athleticism of Mart. On Thursday night, Mart enacted revenge on a Crawford squad that upset the Panthers a year ago. The Panthers dominated from start to finish in a 47-6 win. The game will be played Thursday night in Snyder and if that wind and cold from West Texas comes blowing in, that could potentially play in Stratford’s favor. The other headline game in this bracket was at the Alamodome as Refugio continued its run as the state’s sentimental favorite as the Bobcats fought back from an early 14-7 deficit with a dominant second half rolling past previously undefeated Mason, 38-14. Refugio now gets a big test and takes on a very athletic San Augustine squad (Picked as a preseason sleeper by yours truly) on Thursday night. The Wolves blasted Centerville 50-14 on Friday night.
Class 2A Division II
The headliner game in this quartet of games was clearly the unbeaten showdown between Muenster and Albany on Friday night. Muenster’s defense proved to be the difference as the Hornets, who trailed for the first time this year early in the third quarter, showed up and contained a very potent Albany attack in a 28-12 win. Parker McGrew’s 69-yard touchdown run proved to be the key moment in the game as Muenster advances to take on a very tough and physically imposing Wellington squad next week. For the second time this year, Wellington rolled past district rival Clarendon to advance. The Skyrockets’ defense was the story in a 33-0 rout. On Thursday night, in another district rematch it was Tenaha who showed why it is the likely favorite in this bracket as the Tigers destroyed Timpson 59-0 to advance to the state semi-finals. The last three years, the Tigers had been eliminated in the playoffs by Bremond, but the path at this stage looks a bit clearer if they can get past high-powered Burton who out gunned Falls City 69-45 to win the Region IV crown.