REGIONAL FINALS PREVIEW: Breaking down the biggest games in Texas high school football

Denton Ryan and Lubbock Coronado's star QBs battle it out while Lufkin and Longview rekindle East Texas' biggest rivalry at the right time

Denton Ryan (13-0) vs. Lubbock Coronado (13-0), 2 p.m. Saturday at Abilene’s Anthony Field
Denton Ryan will look to become the de facto Lubbock ISD champions this week as it tries to do the double with a win over unbeaten and surging Lubbock Coronado Saturday at Abilene Christian University. The Raiders rolled past Lubbock Monterey last week, 49-28, as QB Spencer Sanders threw for 265 yards and five touchdowns and Ryan rolled out to a 49-7 lead before calling the dogs off in the fourth quarter. The defense has improved throughout the year and faces their biggest test of the year as they try and find a way to contain a sizzling Lubbock Coronado offense that scored 80 (Yes, 80) points a week ago. The Mustang offense scored 56 points in the second half as they pulled away from Colleyville Heritage 80-62. QB Qua Gray piloted an offense that had 756 yards and he accounted for 525 of that himself including six touchdown passes. WR’s Blair Conwright and Devin Morrison combined for nine receptions for 345 yards and six touchdowns in the win. If you want a showcase of two of the state’s top signal callers this game is for you as both offenses are capable of putting on a show. The big question is which of these underrated defenses can get a couple of stops and put pressure on the opposing offense? I’m setting the over/under on this one at 95 points scored and I won’t be surprised if this game hits the over. I give the slight edge to Denton Ryan (I think Sanders is the difference at QB), but on paper this looks like a toss-up.
Stepp’s Pick: Denton Ryan by 3
Max’s Pick: Denton Ryan
Ishmael’s Pick: Denton Ryan
Brady’s Pick: Denton Ryan
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Trinity (11-2) vs. Allen (13-0), 1 p.m. Saturday at Denton’s Apogee Stadium
Trinity will look to continue its magical run this week against an Allen squad that hasn’t lost before the state semifinals since the regular season of 2013. Euless Trinity knocked off a feisty Midland Lee squad, 34-23, last week out in Abilene as RB Courage Keihn ran wild posting 284 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Key as well was Trinity being able to throw the football with effectiveness as the Trojans topped 160 yards through the air. That will be critical to pulling the upset as Allen has the size and speed up front to slow down the Trojans ground game. Allen, after a less than stellar showing in an area round win over South Grand Prairie, looked like a state title favorite last week in a convincing 48-25 win over Arlington Martin on Friday night. The Eagles outscored Martin 27-9 in the deciding second half as Brock Sturges had two of his three touchdown runs in the third and fourth quarter, finishing with 205 yards on the ground. QB Grant Tisdale only threw for 96 yards but he was efficient with two touchdown tosses to Theo Wease. The key in this game will be the Trinity offense, can it be perfect? To beat Allen, the formula is jump on the Eagles early, control the tempo with the running game and hang on in the second half when the surge comes. Austin Westlake and The Woodlands did it the past two years, can Trinity? My answer is no. I don’t think Trinity is dynamic enough on offense to get it done and the Allen defense will adjust to any early success Trinity may have.
Stepp’s Pick: Allen by 10
Max’s Pick: Allen
Ishmael’s Pick: Allen
Brady’s Pick: Allen
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Round Rock Cedar Ridge (12-1) vs. Pflugerville Hendrickson (10-3),  5 p.m. Saturday at Pflugerville’s The Pfield
If you had one of these two teams playing in the regional final, I could probably buy it (although you might be a fan of one of the two schools). But I can’t imagine anyone had this District 13-6A matchup in the state quarterfinals, but both are here after pulling off upset wins over highly-touted DFW teams this weekend. Round Rock Cedar Ridge won a thriller, 35-34, over Coppell in overtime on Saturday after Coppell missed a field goal at the end of regulation that would have won the game and then missed a PAT in overtime. Cedar Ridge’s win is even more impressive considering it lost its star RB Simi Bakare earlier in the game to an injury. He only finished with two carries for 13 yards and his status for this week’s game is unknown. QB Ezekiel Coss stepped up in Bakare’s absence throwing for 190 yards and three touchdowns and he also caught a touchdown pass in overtime on a trick play. The Raiders will try to repeat their success against Pflugerville Hendrickson from its regular season victory, 43-27. The Hawks are riding quite the hot streak after stunning undefeated Sachse 42-35 last week. Hendrickson dominated the first three and a half quarters jumping out to a 42-14 lead as QB Blaine Barker accounted for four total touchdowns and 237 yards of offense. The matchup should be much closer this time. These two schools know each other well and are looking to take that next step and become more than just a regional contender. I think Cedar Ridge is a bit deeper and a bit more explosive especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Stepp’s Pick: Round Rock Cedar Ridge by 8
Max’s Pick: Round Rock Cedar Ridge
Ishmael’s Pick: Round Rock Cedar Ridge
Brady’s Pick:Round Rock Cedar Ridge
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Katy (11-0) vs. Galena Park North Shore (9-3), 2 p.m. Saturday at Houston’s NRG Stadium
The rematch theme is alive and well across the state this week and we’ve got a rematch of a third-round classic from last year as Houston’s two premier 6A programs face off in front of what should be a great crowd at NRG Stadium Saturday. Last year, North Shore’s vaunted defense made an impressive goal line stand to win the game late and end Katy’s season in the third round. This year, the Mustangs rely much more heavily on a young, but very explosive offense while Katy’s defense is reminding folks of their legendary 2015 defensive unit. Katy the past two weeks has looked incredibly dominant outscoring two excellent teams in Cypress Ranch and Humble Atascocita by a combined 99-7 score. Last week, the Tigers in their 44-0 win over Atascocita allowed just 144 yards of offense and eight first downs and forced five total turnovers. North Shore has seen an offensive renaissance during the playoffs as the Mustangs are averaging 48 points per game. Last week, Galena Park North Shore took out a strong Houston Lamar squad 44-29 as sophomore RB Zach Evans had another big game with 172 yards on the ground and four touchdowns while freshman QB Damatrius Davis was solid as he continues to gain valuable high-leverage reps. North Shore has been a great story all year and man it’s going to be a PROBLEM in the Houston area the next few years, but Katy has revenge on its minds and it’s really hard for me to believe a freshman QB is going to have much (if any) success against this ferocious Katy defense.
Stepp’s Pick: Katy by 9
Max’s Pick: Katy
Ishmael’s Pick: Katy
Brady’s Pick: Katy
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Southlake Carroll (10-3) vs. Hewitt Midway (13-0), 6 p.m. Saturdayat Waco’s McLane Stadium
Southlake Carroll comes into this one in a bit of unfamiliar role, as an underdog to undefeated and rolling Hewitt Midway. The Panthers are rolling and to top it off, it’s basically a road game for the Dragons having to play Midway in Waco. Southlake Carroll escaped a tough Arlington squad last week, 28-24, despite losing RB TJ McDaniel to an injury, the Dragons found a way to get it done. McDaniel’s status is up in the air for this week, but my guess is if he can walk, he’ll play this week. Waco Midway’s resume looks better each week. The Panthers own non-district wins over Round Rock Cedar Ridge (still playing), Cedar Park (eliminated Round 3) and Temple (still playing). Then last week, the Panthers made quite the statement blasting Mansfield, 48-17. QB Tanner Mordecai had another huge game as he had a hand in six Panther touchdowns and DB Trevius Hodges 90-yard fumble return in the second quarter totally changed the momentum of the game. Midway’s offensive line is one of the most underrated groups in the state (three FBS commits). They give Mordecai all the time he needs to make plays and open up holes for the running game. That group is going to be tough for SLC to slow down.
Stepp’s Pick: Hewitt Midway by 11
Max’s Pick: Hewitt Midway
Ishmael’s Pick: Hewitt Midway
Brady’s Pick: Hewitt Midway
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Longview (12-1) vs. Lufkin (11-2), 2 p.m. Saturday at Nacogdoches’ Bryce Stadium
There’s no question that East Texas is buzzing after Longview and Lufkin both earned massive wins over Houston area powers to advance to the regional final. Bryce Stadium holds about 15,000 but don’t be surprised if close to 20,000 show up for this long-time rivalry that has some extra meaning this week.  Longview stunned what many believe is a favorite for the state title in Klein Collins, beating the Tigers 30-24 at Baylor on Saturday. Longview fell behind early, 14-0, but the Lobos stayed the course and rattled off a 30-3 run to take charge of the game. Sophomore QB Haynes King was sensational throwing for 160 yards and four touchdowns, three going to Jaylin Brown. A key stretch came late in the first half as Longview scored nine points in two minutes to go from down seven to up two points at the break. Texas State commit Chris Kessler nailed a 42-yard field goal after Longview recovered a fumble to make it 14-10 Klein Collins with 2:12 left in the half. Longview then forced a quick three and out and got the ball near midfield with 1:05 left in the half and King hooked up with Brown for a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Lobos the lead that they never relinquished. Lufkin got a heroic effort from its defense last week stunning undefeated Spring Westfield 14-11 last week at Texan Drive Stadium. RB Isaiah Phillips ran for a tough 159 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown. Leading 14-3 late, Lufkin had to hang on for dear life as the Panthers threw a late interception which Westfield returned to the 19-yard line, and the Mustangs converted that into a touchdown and a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 14-11.  Lufkin had some trouble hanging on to the ball and snapping it but the Panthers defense came through late to hang on. Longview’s defense was the story in the first meeting a 35-16 win at Lobo Stadium. Both units are playing their best football of the year at the moment so points will be at a premium. Longview’s inability to consistently run the football worries me, but King is really playing tremendous at the moment. It’s going to be an absolute war, but I think Longview with the passing attack finds a way to make a few more plays down the stretch.
Stepp’s Pick: Longview by 4
Max’s Pick: Longview
Ishmael’s Pick: Lufkin
Brady’s Pick: Longview
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Austin Westlake (13-0) vs. Cibolo Steele (9-4), 8 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Alamodome
Neither of these Region IV powers had much trouble with their opponents fropm the Rio Grande Valley a week ago, but they’ve certainly taken different paths to the regional finals. Unbeaten Austin Westlake rolled to a 13-0 start behind an underrated defense, the ever-improving play of QB Taylor Anderson and the powerful running of Wisconsin commit RB Nakia Watson. The Chaparrals made quick work last week of Edinburg Vela in a 70-14 win that featured the starters playing just one half. Steele jumped out to a 36-6 halftime lead last week against Weslaco East and cruised in the second half to a 36-21 win. The Knights RB duo of Rice-commit Brendan Brady and sophomore De’Quavion Thomas combined for 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the night. Brady left the game after just four carries with a shoulder injury, but all indications are he’ll be good to go this week. Freshman QB Wyatt Begeal was solid as well completing nine of ten passes and showing poise beyond his years. Steele lost four of its first five games but won eight in a row since Begeal has taken the reins. The difference for me in this one is Westlake’s ability to run the ball. Steele’s defensive line isn’t quite as big or physical as it has been in years past and I think Westlake can exploit that edge this week.
Stepp’s Pick: Austin Westlake by 7
Max’s Pick: Westlake
Ishmael’s Pick: Westlake
Brady’s Pick: Westlake
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Manvel (12-0) vs. Temple (10-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Prairie View’s Panther Stadium
The powerful Manvel Mavericks have been waiting a year for this matchup. A year ago, Manvel came into its fourth-round game with Temple as a prohibited favorite to win a state title with its impressive 13-0 record. But underdog Temple had other ideas stunning Manvel at AT&T Stadium, 24-23. It was the fourth-straight quarterfinal loss for the Mavericks and maybe their most bitter loss to date. Manvel is back and although not quite as loaded with frontline talent as it was a year ago, the team is still a star-studded cast and once again are the favorites to bring a state title home. Last week, Manvel blasted past Cedar Park, 56-17. Manvel had five touchdowns on the ground from five different players and three different backs had at least 73 yards on the ground. MHS had a touchdown on defense and special teams as well in the victory. Temple nearly didn’t get to this point as it needed some late-game heroics to knock off Port Arthur Memorial 33-29 a week ago. Trailing 29-26 with 54 seconds left, Temple got a 30-yard kickoff return and then a 43-yard pass reception by TJ Rumfield to set up Zion Leach’s one-yard scoring plunge with 22 seconds left to stun upset-minded Memorial. This Temple team isn’t quite as talented on the defensive side as the group they had a year ago was. They are still incredibly tough and won’t go down without a fight but I think a talented and focused Manvel team pulls away from the Wildcats down the stretch.
Stepp’s Pick: Manvel by 11
Max’s Pick: Manvel
Ishmael’s Pick: Manvel
Brady’s Pick: Manvel
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Angleton (12-0) vs. Richmond Foster (9-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Houston’s NRG Stadium
It’s one of many district rematches in the fourth round of the playoffs as unbeaten Angleton tries and makes it two in a row over Richmond Foster. The Wildcats had no problems last week rolling past Corpus Christi Flour Bluff 56-14 as Texas-commit BJ Foster and SMU-commit Tamerick Williams combined for five rushing touchdowns on the evening. After a slow start to the season, Richmond Foster caught fire down the stretch winning seven of its last eight games, with just a single loss to Angleton, 34-7, in Week 10. Last week, the Falcons rolled past Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial, 42-14, as RB Alex Harris ran for three touchdowns in the second half to help Foster pull away down the stretch. Foster’s defense will keep the team in it, but Angleton has the look of a real state title contender. The scheme and physical style on defense makes the Wildcats a very tough team come playoff time.
Stepp’s Pick: Angleton by 13
Max’s Pick: Angleton
Ishmael’s Pick: Angleton
Brady’s Pick: Angleton
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Frisco Lone Star (12-1) vs. Mansfield Legacy (11-2), 2 p.m. Saturday at Dallas’ Ford Stadium
The three losses combined between the two teams in this game were to some of the state’s elite as Lone Star’s lone loss came in a heartbreaker against Denton Ryan, while Mansfield Legacy has defeats against Aledo and Mansfield Lake Ridge. Lone Star showed it isn’t just an offensive team as its defense was sensational last week in a 35-0 win over Waxahachie. The Rangers’ defense held a high-powered Waxahachie attack to 237 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers. QB MJ Rivers and RB Kirby Bennett combined for 236 yards on the ground and three touchdowns to lead the Frisco Lone Star offense. Mansfield Legacy moved to the fourth round of the playoffs for the second straight year after a 45-35 shootout win over North Forney a week ago. RB Grant Johnson ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns and QB Jalen Catalon had 208 yards of total offense and three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing) to pace a Broncos attack that had over 500 yards of total offense. Both defenses have shown signs of being elite this year at times and I think we could see a really physical and low scoring contest on Saturday. Lone Star is a bit more balanced on offense and I think to move the ball consistently against the tough Mansfield Legacy defense, balance is the key.
Stepp’s Pick: Frisco Lone Star by 7
Max’s Pick: Frisco Lone Star
Ishmael’s Pick: Frisco Lone Star
Brady’s Pick: Frisco Lone Star
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Fort Bend Marshall (10-2) vs. College Station (11-2), 1 p.m. Saturday at Waller ISD Stadium
It’s another playoff rematch as Fort Bend Marshall looks to avenge a fourth-round playoff defeat to College Station a year ago. The Buffaloes are as dangerous as any team remaining in the 5A Division II bracket and it’s mainly due to their speed at all the skill positions. Last week they showed plenty of grit in rallying from a 21-7 halftime deficit to win, 35-32. QB Jabari James threw for 272 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in the win while Henry Thomas had seven catches for 155 yards to lead Marshall receivers. College Station survived a shootout with Port Neches-Groves taking down the Indians, 66-40, last week. CSHS just ran, ran and ran some more until it got tired last week rolling up 546 yards on the ground led by DaDa Anderson who ran for 225 yards and two scores. QB Marquez Perez tallied 328 yards of total offense and four touchdowns to pace the Cougars’ potent attack. They’ll have to throw the ball some this week to beat Marshall as the Buffaloes defense is too strong to simply be run over. That being said, I expect another absolute thriller, much like a year ago. But I still lean toward College Station by a nose.
Stepp’s Pick: College Station by 2
Max’s Pick: Fort Bend Marshall
Ishmael’s Pick: Fort Bend Marshall
Brady’s Pick: Fort Bend Marshall
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Wichita Falls Hirschi (11-2) vs. Stephenville (11-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Fort Worth’s Ranger Stadium
Something has to give as two of the state’s hottest teams collide on Friday night at Chisholm Trail High School in far Northwest Fort Worth. Wichita Falls Hirschi looks to advance to the state semifinals for just the second time in school history after dispatching Decatur for the second time this year 58-28 last week. RB Daimarqua Foster had a huge night again rushing for 260 yards and four touchdowns and Javen Banks had 121 receiving yards and two scores while also chipping in two interceptions on defense as well. Stephenville took down regional favorite Argyle last week with an impressive 31-28 victory. The ‘Jackets passing game got untracked in a big way led by Blake Aragon who had nine receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns while the Stephenville defense came up with a few timely stops when Argyle was trying to make a push. It’s been a few years since Stephenville has made this kind of deep playoff push, but it is still Stephenville and that pedigree this late in the playoffs means something. Look for the ‘Jackets to corral the Huskies playmakers and their offense will be able to move the ball and do damage in the red zone because of their ability to run the football and due to the size of their receivers.
Stepp’s Pick: Stephenville by 6
Max’s Pick: Stephenville
Ishmael’s Pick: Wichita Falls Hirschi
Brady’s Pick: Wichita Falls Hirschi
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Kennedale (12-1) vs. Kaufman (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Frisco’s Ford Center
Although the teams haven’t played each other in two years, Kennedale and Kaufman are undoubtedly familiar with each other after having a long non-district series prior to 2016. Both teams are very quick and athletic on defense and feature imposing rushing attacks that feature game breakers who can go to the house at a moment’s notice. Kennedale needed some late-game heroics to get past an outstanding Midlothian Heritage squad last week 45-43. After Heritage scored with 33 seconds left to make it 42-41, the team elected to go for two and got the conversion. Kennedale reached into its bag of tricks and came up with a halfback pass from DJ Kirven to Jaden Smith to set up Kevin Tiero’s game winning 40-yard field goal. Kaufman extended its winning streak to a dozen games last week as the Lions knocked off Texarkana Liberty-Eylau, 38-35, as Trey Collier’s third touchdown run of the game with just over two minutes left proved to be the difference. Collier and Jay Gasper combined for 332 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the victory. Although similar in style, I think Kennedale is a bit more explosive, faster and better on the defensive side of the ball than Kaufman. The margin across the board is slim but Kennedale has slight edges in all phases. Look for the Wildcats to make their second straight trip to the state semi-finals this week.
Stepp’s Pick: Kennedale by 8
Max’s Pick: Kennedale
Ishmael’s Pick: Kennedale
Brady’s Pick: Kennedale
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Carthage (13-0) vs. Henderson (11-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Nacogdoches’ Bryce Stadium
Two of East Texas’ oldest and most bitter rivals meet for the second time this year, this time at SFA. Carthage looks like a juggernaut at the moment as the Bulldogs destroyed Silsbee last week, 64-36.  Carthage scored on its first nine possessions and put up an incredible 64 first half points. The offensive efficiency was staggering as QB Gunner Capps tossed seven touchdowns. Texas commit RB Keontay Ingram ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns and he had a 59-yard touchdown catch; both did their damage in the first half and sat out the second half. Henderson needed some late-game heroics last week to knock off district rival Kilgore 20-14 in what can be best described as an absolute slugfest of a football game. Kilgore took a 14-13 lead with 1:12 left but QB Trae Hall marched the Lions 75 yards in the final 1:03 and his 15-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left lifted the Lions to the fourth round.  Carthage won the regular season meeting, 42-17, and although I think Henderson pulls out all the stops and finds a way to keep it closer, Carthage will simply overwhelm the Lions. Too many weapons and too complete of a team for the Bulldogs at the moment.
Stepp’s Pick: Carthage by 15
Max’s Pick: Carthage
Ishmael’s Pick: Carthage
Brady’s Pick: Carthage
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Bushland (11-2) vs. Graham (13-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field
Something has to give in Lubbock on Friday as two long winning streaks collide for the Region I crown. Bushland after dropping its first two games of the season has rattled off 11 straight wins, while Graham is 13 up and 13 down thus far. Bushland made its biggest statement to date last week as the Falcons soared past Seminole 49-36 last week. Bushland forced six turnovers and QB Colton Moore had 489 yards of total offense and had a hand in seven touchdowns as Bushland moved on to the regional final.  Graham took down Sweetwater last week, 48-28, as the Steers had a touchdown on the opening kickoff and RB Chase Gilmore paced the ground game with 170 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Both QB’s Moore and Graham’s signal caller QB Tucker Horn are playing at an elite level. This one comes down to which defense can make plays and get stops at key moments. I like the depth and senior leadership for Graham.
Stepp’s Pick: Graham by 10
Max’s Pick: Graham
Ishmael’s Pick: Graham
Brady’s Pick: Graham
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Melissa (12-1) vs. Texarkana Pleasant Grove (13-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Paris’ Wildcat Stadium
Melissa had quite the statement win last week as the Cardinals stunned perennial East Texas power Gilmer, 35-23, to move on to the fourth round. Now Melissa faces another major test and will take on the team that took down Gilmer in its own house earlier in the year, the undefeated Texarkana Pleasant Grove Hawks. Last week, Melissa got behind early 14-0 but the Cardinals erupted in a dominant second half outscoring the Buckeyes, 35-9, as sophomore RB Ja’Bray Young ran for 158 yards and four touchdowns. QB Brendon Lewis, who recently got a FBS offer from SMU, was solid as well throwing for 243 yards and a touchdown. Young may find running room tougher to locate this week against an outstanding Pleasant Grove defense led by Texas Tech-commit LB Xavier Benson. Last week in a dominating 33-14 win over Celina the Hawks defense authored a masterpiece holding Celina to just 107 yards of offense while RB Chauncey Martin ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns. I think this Pleasant Grove team with that defense on what should be a cold night, is built for these kind of late round playoff games and I look for that ball control offense to frustrate the high-octane Melissa attack. 
Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Pleasant Grove by 8
Max’s Pick: Pleasant Grove
Ishmael’s Pick: Pleasant Grove
Brady’s Pick: Pleasant Grove
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Wimberley (12-1) vs. Cuero (12-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bastrop’s Memorial Stadium
Wimberley put forth maybe its best effort of the year last week as the Texans hammered a strong Sweeny squad to the tune of 42-17. QB JoJo Weeks threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns while RB Thomas Carruthers ran wild totaling 275 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Cuero avenged a playoff loss to Geronimo Navarro last year with a convincing 38-24 win. The Gobblers rolled out to a 31-0 lead in the third quarter and took their foot off the gas down the stretch. Versatile Jordan Whittington hauled in two touchdown passes and the Cuero defense forced three turnovers to help build its big lead. Both offensive units are loaded with playmakers, but the key is which defense will win the day. I’ve said all year that this is Cuero’s year and I think the Gobblers’ talented senior class and playoff experience make the difference in what should be an outstanding game.
Stepp’s Pick: Cuero by 6
Max’s Pick: Cuero
Ishmael’s Pick: Wimberley
Brady’s Pick: Cuero
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Brock (11-2) vs. Comanche (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium
Brock looked like the state title contender we all thought it’d be in the pre-season as the Eagles’ defense put the clamps on the vaunted Wall rushing attack in a 29-10 win on Friday night. Brock held Wall to just 41 yards on the ground and the Eagles rushing attack got cranking with Dawson Littlepage and Tanner Patino leading the charge. Comanche is having its best season in decades. The Indians pulled away down the stretch for a 35-19 win over Merkel to advance to the fourth round. RB Colton Roberts led the way for CHS with 217 rushing yards and four touchdowns. It was close for about three quarters but Comanche down the stretch had the extra gear needed to pull away. If you like old school, smash mouth football, then Shotwell Stadium will be the place to be. The edge goes to Brock in this one. The 2015 state champions are used to deep playoff runs and in these types of big games, I always lean to experience.
Stepp’s Pick: Brock by 11
Max’s Pick: Brock
Ishmael’s Pick: Brock
Brady’s Pick: Brock
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Teague (11-2) vs. Rockdale (10-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD Stadium
Teague made quite the statement on Friday night at Waco ISD Stadium as the Lions rolled past Franklin with an impressive 41-14 win. RB Tayvis Coleman led a 28-0 second half surge for the Lions rushing for 200 yards and four touchdowns to put Teague on the brink of a Region III title. Rockdale advanced to the regional final for the second straight year with a hard fought 31-21 win over a tough West squad. QB Torry Locklin ran for 123 yards and two scores and he also threw a touchdown pass to JaQuaylin Crawford in the fourth quarter to break a 21-21 tie. Both teams are really explosive on the offensive side of the ball, loaded with speed and talent at the skill spots. It’s a matter of which team’s defense can rise up in a big playoff atmosphere. Although Waco ISD Stadium has been a house of horrors for Rockdale in the past, I think the Tigers have the playmakers and the experience to get over the hump and advance to the state semifinals.
Stepp’s Pick: Rockdale by 6
Max’s Pick: Rockdale
Ishmael’s Pick: Rockdale
Brady’s Pick: Teague
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Canadian (13-0) vs. Childress (12-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Amarillo’s Bivins Stadium
The district rematch theme in the panhandle is alive and well as three regional finals in this part of the state are being contested and all are district rematches. The biggest is going to be contested in what may well be a full house at beautiful Bivins Stadium as unbeaten Canadian will look to knock off Childress once again. Canadian continued its playoff domination rolling past Colorado City 45-8 last week. In three playoff wins, Canadian has won by 57, 42 and 37 points each. It’ll face the one team who, in the regular season, really pushed the team. The Wildcats played Canadian close in a 27-15 loss in the regular season. Childress has already shown a penchant for knocking out undefeated teams as the Bobcats’ defense made quite the statement last week in a 19-16 win over Sonora. Childress has the formula to beat Canadian, a tough and fast defense, versatile offense and playoff pedigree. The Bobcats have been close the past two years but haven’t gotten over the hump. This may be their best chance yet, but Canadian has the look of a team ready to once again compete for a state title. 
Stepp’s Pick: Canadian by 6
Max’s Pick: Canadian
Ishmael’s Pick: Canadian
Brady’s Pick: Canadian
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Yoakum (12-1) vs. Goliad (11-1) Saturday 6:00pm at Austin’s DKR Memorial Stadium
If anything, the location of this game surprises me as both Yoakum and Goliad going to Austin looks out of the way. But Yoakum’s got a few high-end recruits (Moore twins) that would I’m sure be interested in a first-hand look at the facilities at Texas. Yoakum on Saturday night had no problem dispatching of feisty Van Vleck beating the Leopards 43-19. Versatile Jordan Moore ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns, while Josh Moore hauled in a touchdown pass as well to lead the Bulldogs attack. Yoakum will face off against a surging Goliad squad that’s junior heavy and peaking at the right time. The Tigers rolled past Edna last week, 57-31, led by Logan Bland who ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns and also had a kick return for a touchdown to put Goliad ahead for good at 36-31 in the third quarter. This is one of those classic “whose time is it” games. Yoakum got all the way to the state title game last year with a junior-loaded team and they are seniors with experience and now is their time. Goliad’s a year ahead of schedule and next year it may well be in Yoakum’s shoes but it’s Yoakum’s time right now.
Stepp’s Pick: Yoakum by 12
Max’s Pick: Yoakum
Ishmael’s Pick: Yoakum
Brady’s Pick: Yoakum
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Newton (12-0) vs. Waskom (9-4), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lufkin’s Martin Stadium
For the first time in quite a while, Newton has a test as the Eagles earned a hard fought 21-7 win over a tough West Rusk squad last week. The Eagle defense was the difference in the slugfest allowing just 74 yards of offense and two first downs. The offense, led by the duo of Darwin Barlow (158 rushing yards and a touchdown) and Tamauzia Brown (107 receiving yards and a touchdown), did just enough to get the job done. Now the Eagles have a chance for a little revenge as they take on Waskom who upset Newton in the 2014 state championship game. Waskom routed Garrison, 57-28, last week as the Wildcats multiple backs rolled up over 400 yards on the ground while the defense forced three turnovers en route to building a big 30-7 halftime edge. The issue facing Waskom this week is can the Wildcats who rely so heavily on the run find a way to control the clock and pick up first downs against a tremendous Newton defense? The Eagles specialize in stopping the run and that’s a bad recipe for Waskom.
Stepp’s Pick: Newton by 21
Max’s Pick: Newton
Ishmael’s Pick: Newton
Brady’s Pick: Newton
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Crawford (11-2) vs. Mart (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco ISD Stadium
It’s a Thursday night special in Waco as the area’s top two 2A programs meet up once again for Region II bragging rights. The two teams go about their business in different ways but are equally effective as Mart gets it done with a ton of team speed in its wide-open offense, while Crawford prefers to play it close to the vest, run the ball and play physical. The contrast often makes for great games, like in the third-round last year when the Pirates upset Mart, 27-20. The Pirates finished second in their district this year but look to be peaking at the right time with an average margin of victory of 28 points in the playoffs. Last week they rolled past Mart’s district rival Bosqueville, 62-25. The Pirates were led by Garrett Dutschmann who ran wild in the win tallying 258 yards on the ground and two scores, while Koby Smith chipped in three rushing touchdowns. Mart will present a unique challenge because the Panthers speed can be hard for 2A teams to replicate in practice. The Panthers destroyed undefeated DeLeon last week 47-7, the same DeLeon team that beat Crawford earlier in the year. Aside from big nights on offense from Tyrek Horn and Shatydrick Bailey, Mart’s defense made DeLeon one dimensional in holding the Bearcats to just 19 rushing yards. I don’t see Mart’s defense holding the Crawford ground game to those kind of low numbers, but I expect a fast start from the Panthers that could take CHS out of its comfort zone. Mart will need it because if it lets Crawford hang around, it could be a real tough team to dispatch in a four-quarter war.
Stepp’s Pick: Mart by 16
Max’s Pick: Mart
Ishmael’s Pick: Mart
Brady’s Pick: Mart
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Mason (13-0) vs. Refugio (11-1), 7 p.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Alamodome
Something has to give on Friday in San Antonio as the two pre-eminent powers in Region IV once again meet up with the regional crown on the line. The two teams have met in the playoffs the last three years, with Mason stunning heavily favored Refugio in 2014, but the last two years it’s been all RHS winning 42-7 and 28-7 respectively. This year a lot of the focus has been off the field in Refugio as the Bobcats have had to deal with their town bearing a big brunt of Hurricane Harvey and one of their key players suffered a severe injury. Yet head coach Jason Herring’s squad has shown tremendous fight in winning 11 of 12 games. Last week the Bobcats’ offense exploded in a 70-20 rout of Holland. QB Jared Kelly threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, while Ysidro Mascorro had two rushing touchdowns and an interception return for RHS to lead what may have been its most complete effort of the year. Mason’s defense has been the story all year long. The Punchers are allowing under four (yes FOUR) points per game, and haven’t allowed more than a touchdown in any single matchup. That group alone will keep them in any game they play, but dealing with Refugio’s balance offensively and its speed is the biggest test to date. I think they’ll keep Refugio contained, but do the Punchers have enough offense to pull the upset? I don’t believe they do. Refugio’s speed and ability to throw the ball down field makes a big difference.
Stepp’s Pick: Refugio by 6
Max’s Pick: Refugio
Ishmael’s Pick: Refugio
Brady’s Pick: Refugio
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Albany (13-0) vs. Muenster (13-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Iowa Park’s Hawk Stadium
It’s the matchup we’ve all been waiting for in Class 2A Division II as dominant unbeaten teams, Albany and Muenster, square off. The pure level of dominance from both has been impressive as in the 26 combined wins between the two teams, the closest game was a 39-13 win for Albany over 3A area round playoff team Cisco. For Muenster, the Hornets haven’t been challenged all year and their closest win was a 46-12 win over 3A Howe. That’s impressive dominance either way. Albany rolled past Lindsay, 55-7, a week ago as QB Brian Hamilton continued his sensational season with four touchdown passes, while RB Cutter Edgar ran for three scores as well. Muenster avenged a controversial playoff loss to Munday in 2016 with a dominating 41-7 win on Friday. QB Parker McGrew tossed five touchdown passes and the Hornets defense did the job in containing the speedy Munday offense. There’s not much that hasn’t already said about these two. Both have dominating defenses, explosive offensive units led by outstanding signal callers. This game, in my view, comes down to the supporting cast. Which team will have an unsung hero that makes a difference making play? I’m flipping a coin here, but I’m going with Muenster, I think it’s their time.
Stepp’s Pick: Muenster by 1
Max’s Pick: Albany
Ishmael’s Pick: Albany
Brady’s Pick: Muenster
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Each week, six-man insider Leman Saunders provides his insight and analysis on the best games in Class 1A. Contact Leman on Twitter @LemanSaunders.

Happy (13-0) vs. Borden County (13-0), 4 p.m. Saturday at Levelland
It’s the consensus No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Division I — the order depends on who you ask. Needless to say, this is a huge game with a lot of hype. This is a rematch of a state semifinal a year ago in which the Borden County offense dazzled en route to a 92-58 win and, eventually, a state title. This year’s game should be much closer. Happy’s Colton McCarly has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and has an amazing 150 points in the Cowboys’ three playoff games. Borden County may have the best defense in Class 1A, allowing just 5 points per game. Trace Richey is the statistical leader for the Coyotes, and their front line on both sides of the ball has size and quickness. RBs Nick Proulx and Payton Merket are two of the most underrated backs in Class 1A — Proulx ran for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns in last week’s win over Garden City, while Merket added 136 yards and a score of his own. The Coyotes’ outside ends and defensive ends may be too much for Happy to deal with, which may be the difference.
Leman’s Pick: Borden County
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Jonesboro (12-1) vs. Tioga (11-1), 5 p.m. Saturday at Springtown
Both teams survived thrillers in the regional finals last week to get here — Jonesboro topped May in remarkable comeback fashion, 57-50, while Tioga upset Union Hill on a last-second field goal, 44-40. Jonesboro is looking for a return trip to AT&T Stadium after a runner-up finish a year ago; Tioga has never made it this far in the playoffs, and will be making the leap to Class 2A next season. Both teams will keep the ball on the ground — Jonesboro features Wyatt Young (2,333 yards, 38 touchdowns rushing) and Ethan Liiljedahl; Tioga will lean on Cade Kimbrell (1,489 yards, 31 touchdowns rushing) and Kaleb Scott (379 yards, 6 touchdowns rushing in the playoffs). Tioga has the statistical advantage on defense, allowing just 16 points to Jonesboro’s 31, and the Bulldogs’ lone loss came via forfeit to Fort Worth THESA in a game stopped due to concern for player safety. Jonesboro, though, has faced a tougher schedule — Iredell, Zephyr, May, Dallas Lutheran and Milford, the last of which accounts for their only defeat. Keep an eye on Jonesboro’s Young; he’s also the Eagles’ leading tackler. This should be a slugfest.
Leman’s Pick: Jonesboro
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Balmorhea (12-0) vs. Valley (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sterling City
It’s another rematch of last year’s semifinals, this one for a spot in the Division II title game. Both teams have balance to their offense, though Balmorhea may be more inclined to keep it on the ground with speedy Kyle Garcia (1,572 yards, 35 touchdowns rushing) and powerful Marcos Mendoza, who has great hands out of the backfield. They’re also the team’s leading tacklers. Valley’s multiple-threat offense centers around QB Parker Carson and his favorite target Jayton Smith (904 yards, 20 touchdowns receiving), while RB Dax Allen provides balance in the running game — he ran for 311 yards and 6 scores in the regional final win over Follett. The difference is on defense, where Balmorhea is one of the stingiest in the state, allowing just 10 points per game. Balmorhea’s defensive front is fierce, funneling plays to their linebackers while Kyle Garcia and Josiah Garcia (8 interceptions)  lurk in the secondary. Valley has an edge in special teams with Jayton Smith as a dangerous returner, but will it be enough to overcome Balmorhea?
Leman’s Pick: Balmorhea
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Strawn (13-0) vs. Milford (13-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Springtown
It’s strength-on-strength as Strawn’s stellar defense takes on Milford’s high-octane offense. Strawn is allowing just 6 points per game this season (including seven shutouts), having beaten every one of their opponent by the 45-point mercy rule. J.W. Montgomery is the Greyhounds’ big player in their secondary, while Tanner Hodgkins is a bruising hitter who seems to be in on every tackle. Offensively, the Greyhounds’ strength is up front with an outstanding offensive line that opens up holes for backs like Julian Fraga and Carlos Villanueva. Milford is averaging 60 points per game with super spreadback Taron Smith, who burns teams with his passing ability as well as his legs. He’s already over 2,000 yards passing and 1,600 yards rushing on the year, accounting for 71 total touchdowns. The Bulldogs’ defense has muscled through a brutal schedule, with little DE Corbin Schrotke (180 tackles) acting as the heartbeat of their defense. Other key Milford players include Rickey Pendleton (122 tackles; 556 yards 10 touchdowns receiving), Markavion Thompson (120 tackles, 7 INTs) and James McIntyre (4 INTs; 415 yards, 12 TDs receiving). The question is: can Strawn’s defense hold up against such a potent offense?
Leman’s Pick: Strawn
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

Quick Picks

Lake Travis (11-2) vs. San Antonio O’Connor (13-0), 4 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Alamodome
Stepp’s Pick: Lake Travis by 14
Max’s Pick: Lake Travis
Ishmael’s Pick: Lake Travis
Brady’s Pick: Lake Travis
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Cy Fair (12-0) vs. Houston Langham Creek (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at Cypress’ Cy Fair FCU Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Cy Fair by 7
Max’s Pick: Cy Fair
Ishmael’s Pick: Cy Fair
Brady’s Pick: Cy Fair
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Highland Park (12-1) vs. Mansfield Lake Ridge (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Mansfield Lake Ridge by 5
Max’s Pick: Mansfield Lake Ridge
Ishmael’s Pick: Highland Park
Brady’s Pick: Mansfield Lake Ridge
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Richland (11-2) vs. Aledo (13-0), 2 p.m. Saturday at Frisco’s Ford Center
Stepp’s Pick: Aledo by 10
Max’s Pick: Aledo
Ishmael’s Pick: Aledo
Brady’s Pick: Aledo
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Austin McCallum (13-0) vs. Corpus Christi Calallen (13-0), 12 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Alamodome
Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen by 6
Max’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen
Ishmael’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen
Brady’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen
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Waco La Vega (13-0) vs. Liberty Hill (10-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Killeen’s Buckley Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Waco La Vega by 7
Max’s Pick: La Vega
Ishmael’s Pick: La Vega
Brady’s Pick: La Vega
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Salado (12-1) vs. West Orange Stark (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Katy’s Legacy Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: West Orange-Stark by 17
Max’s Pick: West Orange-Stark
Ishmael’s Pick: West Orange-Stark
Brady’s Pick: West Orange-Stark
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Grandview (12-1) vs. Kemp (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Midlothian ISD Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Grandview by 15
Max’s Pick: Grandview
Ishmael’s Pick: Grandview
Brady’s Pick: Grandview
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Gunter (13-0) vs. New Diana (10-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Royse City ISD Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Gunter by 21
Max’s Pick: Gunter
Ishmael’s Pick: Gunter
Brady’s Pick: Gunter
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Lexington (13-0) vs. Boling (8-5), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Brenham’s Cub Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Lexington by 9
Max’s Pick: Lexington
Ishmael’s Pick: Lexington
Brady’s Pick: Lexington
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Stratford (12-1) vs. Panhandle (9-4) Friday 7:00pm at Dumas’ Demon Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Panhandle by 1
Max’s Pick: Stratford
Ishmael’s Pick: Stratford
Brady’s Pick: Stratford
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Wellington (12-1) vs. Clarendon (12-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Childress’ Fair Park Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Wellington by 27
Max’s Pick: Wellington
Ishmael’s Pick: Wellington
Brady’s Pick: Wellington
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Timpson (11-2) vs. Tenaha (13-0), 7 p.m. Thursday at Carthage’s Bulldog Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Tenaha by 20
Max’s Pick: Tenaha
Ishmael’s Pick: Tenaha
Brady’s Pick: Tenaha
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Burton (12-1) vs. Falls City (11-2), 7 p.m. Friday at San Marcos’ Bobcat Stadium
Stepp’s Pick: Burton by 10
Max’s Pick: Burton
Ishmael’s Pick: Burton
Brady’s Pick: Falls City
See Tepper’s pick for this game — and the other 43 games this weekend

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