AREA ROUND PREVIEW: Breaking down the biggest games in Texas high school football

Photo by Michael Dorn

Allen (11-0) vs. Rockwall (8-2) 6:00 p.m. Friday at Garland’s Williams Stadium: In reality, the unbeaten Allen Eagles have yet to be tested in 2018. They’ve blown through every opponent with relative ease and even in games where we thought they might be tested, the defending champs have dominated. Is this the week Allen finally gets pushed? Rockwall isn’t going to wow anyone with their defense, but the ‘Jackets have one of the state’s top offensive units led by Minnesota commit QB Jacob Clark and Ohio State commit WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Last week Rockwall blew past Belton 50-14 with Smith-Njigba catching seven passes for 182 yards and a touchdown and rushing for two other scores. The much maligned Rockwall defense had maybe their best game of the year holding a good Belton attack in check. Allen – per usual – completely dominated Rowlett last week 56-21 as Ole Miss commit QB Grant Tisdale threw for 199 yards and two scores and ran for 115 yards and two scores. Allen’s defense will be under the gun this week. The Eagles in the past have dominated some of the state’s top offenses, but this will be their biggest test to date. If Rockwall can push the pace and turn this into a track meet, they’ve got a puncher's chance, but they’ll need everything to go right and they’ll need Allen to help them out with a mistake or two. Stepp’s Pick: Allen by 17

Photo by Jay Stevens

Galena Park North Shore (11-0) vs. Dickinson (10-1) 1:00 p.m. Friday at Galena Park’s Galena Park ISD Stadium: Last week Dickinson went on the road and knocked off 10-0 Pearland in emphatic fashion, 49-21. Their reward this week? They get to go on the road again and take on the No. 2 team in the state, unbeaten Galena Park North Shore. Dickinson junior signal caller Mike Welch was the difference in the Gators big win over Pearland, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for two others, while the defense completely shut down a balanced Oilers attack. On the other hand, North Shore did what North Shore’s done all year and that is totally dominate. The Mustangs rolled past Pasadena Dobie 56-19 in game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Mustangs jumped out to a 42-7 halftime lead and cruised in the second half. Running back Zach Evans ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries and sophomore QB Dematrious Davis added 203 passing yards and two touchdowns. This might be the first game in quite some time that North Shore will have to keep their starters in for the entire game. Dickinson has the defensive speed to hang in with the elite playmakers North Shore brings to the table, but can their offense move the ball consistently against that Mustangs defense? That’s the key, eventually North Shore’s offense is going to get rolling but can Dickinson keep pace? I think they do for three quarters, but in crunch time North Shore pulls away. Stepp’s Pick: Galena Park North Shore by 12

Midland Lee (9-2) vs. Haltom (11-0) 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Abilene’s Wildcat Stadium: There might not be anyone in Region I playing as well as Midland Lee. The Rebels, who closed out the regular season with a big win over Odessa Permian, kept things rolling last week by blowing past El Paso Americas 70-21 on the road. Sophomore QB Mikey Serrano threw for a school record 415 yards and six touchdowns, while RB Josh Traylor added balance with 139 yards on the ground and two scores. The status of Rebels starting QB Felix Hinojosa is still in question for this week’s game, but its apparent Midland Lee head coach Clint Hartmann has plenty of confidence in Serrano, who has started two games this year and seen significant action throughout the year. Unbeaten Haltom started out slow against Arlington Bowie. The Buffaloes dug themselves a 28-10 hole in the second quarter, but they were opportunistic, taking advantage of multiple Arlington Bowie miscues to get back in the game. After a final Bowie fumble in the fourth quarter, star QB Michael Black scored from two yards out to lift Haltom to 47-41 win. Haltom head coach Jason Tucker is hoping the Buffaloes are a little better this week as they can ill afford to dig themselves a three-score deficit against a playoff tested squad in Midland Lee. The road trip won’t impact Haltom much as they’ve had trips to Abilene and San Angelo recently, this one will come down to which defense steps up as both offenses are absolutely loaded. I’ll give the slight edge to Haltom as they’ve been more consistent, but don’t be surprised if Midland Lee is in this thing until the end. Stepp’s Pick: Haltom by 4

Cypress Ranch (11-0) vs. Spring Westfield (10-1) 2:00 p.m. Saturday at Aldine’s Thorne Stadium: Unbeaten Cypress Ranch had a very difficult first round matchup, but the Mustangs played their kind of game last week and knocked off Pflugerville Hendrickson 24-10 behind a tough running attack and a lights out defense that pitched a second half shutout. RB Willie Eldridge led the way for the Mustangs with 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just ten carries. In a lot of ways Cypress Ranch will be looking in the mirror this week as they take on a Spring Westfield squad that boasts one of Houston’s top defensive units. Westfield’s defense was elite last week in a hard fought 10-6 win over Klein. Westfield’s defense got a huge turnover in the third quarter trailing 6-0 and they converted that into a touchdown, which proved to be the game winning score. Expect both defenses to dominate in this one, neither offense is going to blow you away with eye popping numbers but the key for me is Cypress Ranch is a little more dynamic in the passing game and head coach Gene Johnson always has a wrinkle or two to throw in. Stepp’s Pick: Cypress Ranch by 6

Photo by Paul Roberts

Azle (10-1) vs. Lubbock Coronado (9-2) 11:00 a.m. Friday at Abilene’s Wildcat Stadium: The first game of what should be an outstanding tripleheader at Abilene Christian University features one of the state’s hottest teams in Azle, who has won ten straight games after dropping their season opener. The Hornets rolled past Colleyville Heritage 52-20 as Billy Copeland ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns, while the Hornets forced four Colleyville Heritage turnovers. Azle’s defense will have their hands full this week trying to slow down Lubbock Coronado’s high flying offense led by TCU commit WR Blair Conwright and talented sophomore QB Sawyer Robertson. Last week the Mustangs rolled past El Paso Chapin 35-17 as RB Kaleb Manuel returned from an injury to run for 142 yards and a touchdown and Robertson threw four touchdown passes to lead the offense, which utilized other weapons as Chapin was intent on taking Conwright out of the game. The most encouraging sign for Lubbock Coronado was the fact that their defense played one of their best games of the year. If that group continues to play well, another long playoff run could be in the cards for the Mustangs.  Stepp’s Pick: Lubbock Coronado by 7

Hutto (10-0) vs. Angleton (10-1) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waller’s Waller ISD Stadium: Hutto did what Hutto has done all year last week in their 58-7 rout of Austin McCallum. The Hippos scored 52 first half points en route to the win. UCLA commit QB Chase Griffin threw for 348 yards and accounted for five touchdowns, while versatile Texas Tech pledge Chux Nwabuko accounted for four touchdowns in three different ways, rushing for two scores, catching a touchdown pass and returning a punt for a touchdown. This week Hutto will face a tough test in athletic Angleton, who will utilize a ball control offense and rely on a speedy defense to try and keep Hutto’s explosive attack in check. Angleton’s offense was perfect last week scoring on all nine possessions in a 55-32 win over Humble Kingwood Park, QB Seth Cosme is a true operator of the Wildcats Wing-T attack and with Angleton rotating as many as six running backs they are able to keep guys fresh. Angleton won’t want to get into a shootout with Hutto, their path to an upset is ball control offense, limiting Hutto’s touches and when Hutto does get the ball, Angleton will need to get at least a turnover or two. That’s a lot of things that need to go right for Angleton and Hutto, with Griffin at QB, hasn’t been a team that puts the ball on the ground all year. Stepp’s Pick: Hutto by 16

Fort Bend Marshall (11-0) vs. College Station A&M Consolidated (10-1) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Tomball’s Tomball ISD Stadium: Region III favorite Fort Bend Marshall didn’t do anything to make the folks who picked them rethink their decision last week as the Buffaloes ripped past Santa Fe 53-15. QB Malik Hornsby completed all six of the passes he threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns and he also ran for 80 yards and two scores to lead the Marshall rout. The test will be much tougher this week against a very strong A&M Consolidated squad that blew by Whitehouse 40-12 to open the playoffs. The Tigers defense totally shut Whitehouse down in the second half and behind a monster game from versatile Brian Darby, who had four touchdown runs, the Tigers turned a close game at halftime into a lopsided win. The A&M Consolidated defense – especially up front – is good enough to challenge Marshall and their incredible array of skill talent. The question for Consolidated is can their offense put enough pressure on Fort Bend Marshall’s vastly underrated defensive unit? Look for AMC to keep this one interesting, but there’s just too much firepower on that Fort Bend Marshall sideline. Stepp’s Pick: Fort Bend Marshall by 13

Photo by Tim Hutchton

Kerrville Tivy (10-1) vs. San Antonio Southside (9-2) 6:00 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium: Surprising San Antonio Southside won their first playoff game in school history on Friday with a dominant 56-7 win over Mercedes. QB Alejandro Escamilla led the Cardinals attack throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns along with chipping in a touchdown on the ground. The real key to Southside’s late season surge has been their defense, which has been outstanding at forcing turnovers and they’ll need that this week against one of the most efficient offenses in Region IV. Tivy needed every bit of that efficiency last week escaping with a 63-62 win over Bastrop. Tivy got a massive comeback in the fourth quarter, rallying from a 49-28 deficit to take the game into overtime and then the Antlers defense  stopped a Bastrop two-point conversion to preserve the win. There’s no question offense is what makes Tivy go, but they can’t afford to dig themselves an early hole this week against an underrated Southside squad. Look for a much cleaner effort from Tivy, who wins a shootout this week. Stepp’s Pick: Kerrville Tivy by 8

Seminole (7-3) vs. Canyon (10-1) 4:00 p.m. Friday at Woodrow’s Pirate Stadium: Seminole opened the playoffs with a lopsided 42-7 win over Fabens last week, but this week’s test will be much tougher as they will be an underdog against once beaten Canyon. The Eagles offense was clicking on all cylinders last week in a 62-14 win over Gainesville. The Eagles were led by QB Lawton Rikel, who threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns and he added another touchdown on the ground, as well. Canyon’s defense kept a very explosive Gainesville attack in check last week. If they can put together another big defensive effort, the Eagles may creep into the regional title discussion as there’s no doubt the offense is one of the best in Region I. Stepp’s Pick: Canyon by 11

Kennedale (9-2) vs. Paris (8-2) 7:00 p.m. Friday at McKinney’s Poe Stadium: If you like old school, ground oriented football, McKinney is the place for you as two Wing-T teams with a ton of speed will duke it out. Kennedale, after battling some injuries early in the season, has gotten their footing down the stretch and looks like a team that will again be in the mix in Region II. Last week the Wildcats rolled past Brownwood 58-20 as RB DJ Kirven led the way with four rushing touchdowns and 128 yards. Kennedale’s defense was stellar as well as they shut Brownwood’s passing game down, allowing the ‘Cats to jump out to a 37-0 halftime lead and cruise down the stretch. Paris has quietly put together a great season and the Wildcats have folks around Lamar County thinking this is a team that can play for a long time. Paris rolled past Dallas Carter 59-12 last week, tallying up 523 yards on the ground and having three running backs go for over 100 yards. The real difference for Paris in 2018 and what will be the difference in this matchup is the Wildcats defense. Their front seven has been sensational all year and they’ll keep Kennedale’s usually explosive attack in check long enough for their explosive running game to get rolling. Stepp’s Pick: Paris by 7

Texarkana Pleasant Grove (9-2) vs. Waco Connally (8-3) 1:00 p.m. Friday at Royse City’s Royse City ISD Stadium: After an unusual Week 11 bye, defending Division II state champion Texarkana Pleasant Grove showed no signs of rust as the Hawks rolled past overmatched Dallas Roosevelt 56-12. Despite losing their star DE Landon Jackson for the season with an injury, the PGHS defense was stout, totally shutting Roosevelt down in the first half, which allowed QB Ben Harmon and the offense to build a 35-0 third quarter lead. The Hawks will take on a very athletic, battle tested and dangerous Waco Connally squad that rolled past Bullard 58-31 a week ago. RB Jay’Veon Sunday, who leads Central Texas in rushing, ripped off a pair of long touchdown runs in the first quarter and the Cadets cruised jumping out to a 34-12 halftime lead. Both teams are battled tested against tough schedules, this one will be close, but Pleasant Grove’s playoff experience will be vital in this excellent 4A Division II matchup. Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Pleasant Grove by 9

Photo by Joe Perez

Cuero (10-1) vs. Rio Hondo (9-1) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Corpus Christi’s Wildcat Stadium: Cuero continued their incredibly hot run last week as the Gobblers drilled overmatched Pearsall 66-12 in San Antonio. CHS scored the game’s first 66 points in the opening three quarters and then emptied the bench in the fourth. Several Gobblers got into the scoring act but it was Texas commit Jordan Whittington who led the charge with two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run. Cuero may get a bit tougher test this week against a solid Rio Hondo squad that’s had a penchant for putting up points. The Bobcats got past feisty Ingleside last week 37-20 as a big fourth quarter propelled Rocky James’ squad to the area playoffs. Cuero rolls in this one after RHHS keeps things interesting for about a quarter or so. Stepp’s Pick: Cuero by 28

Shallowater (11-0) vs. Tuscola Jim Ned (9-2) 6:30 p.m. Friday at Big Spring’s Memorial Stadium: Unbeaten Shallowater had the unique task of trying to get ready for a playoff game against an 0-10 team, but senior QB Cutter Sparks and company had no troubles in their 63-0 rout of Tornillo on Thursday night. The test will be much tougher this week against a Jim Ned squad that up until this year was known more for a high flying offense than the stout defense they’ve been playing under first year head coach Matt Fanning. Last week the Indians defense and special teams were key in a 30-21 win over Whitesboro as JNHS got a kickoff return for a touchdown and key blocked field goal in the second half that proved to be the difference. Shallowater’s offense gets most of the publicity but this is a balanced team built for the playoffs — that balance is key in this showdown. Stepp’s Pick: Shallowater by 6

Cameron Yoe (10-1) vs. Diboll (10-1) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Madisonville’s Mustang Stadium: If there were any remaining doubters about Cameron Yoe being back after a rough 2017 season, the Yoeman seem to be intent on silencing them after blasting Whitney 49-28 last week. WR/DB Kadrian Hamilton led the way in the win for Yoe hauling in a pair of touchdown passes and notching a pair of interceptions on the defensive side of the ball. Yoe gets a big test this week against a Diboll squad whose only loss of the year came at the hands of regional favorite Franklin. Diboll got their first playoff win since 2003 last week knocking off feisty Buna 31-26 behind three rushing touchdowns from D’Aris McMillan. Diboll has ten wins, but they lack that real signature win against a good team. Yoe comes from a difficult district and appears to simply be more battle tested at this stage. Stepp’s Pick: Cameron Yoe by 12

Abernathy (10-1) vs. Childress (10-1) 2:00 p.m. Friday at Amarillo’s Bivins Stadium: The game of the week in the panhandle features red hot Abernathy taking on a Childress squad that the past few weeks has been winning, but not quite in the dominant fashion we had become used to seeing. Abernathy had no trouble with an outmanned Anthony squad rolling to a 68-21 win. QB Bryson Dailey and that physical AHS attack jumped out on their opponents from the El Paso area quickly and never looked back. Childress struggled for a half with a solid Ballinger squad. The Bobcats trailed 9-7 at the half but behind a 20-point fourth quarter outburst, the Bobcats pulled away for a 42-16 win. QB Luke Lattimer was again the driving force for Childress accounting for 307 yards of offense and five total touchdowns. Both teams in this matchup have game breaking signal callers, so this one comes down to which supporting cast can do more. Although I lean to Childress, especially with the playmaking defense, I’m still wary after a couple of less than stellar efforts recently. We could be seeing a Childress cross-roads this week. Either the Bobcats get it turned around, get a complete effort and win in impressive fashion, or we see their season end. My gut says we see the Childress of old this week. Stepp’s Pick: Childress by 13

Gunter (11-0) vs. Lexington (8-2) 6:00 p.m. Friday at Mexia’s Blackcat Field: Gunter has won 42 of their last 43 games and looks to be on track for another deep playoff push, but the Tigers will certainly have their hands full this week with an early playoff test against Lexington. The unbeaten Tigers drilled Millsap 69-21 last week to open the playoffs. Peyton Lowe caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a score, while Dylan Jantz had an interception return and a punt return for a score as Gunter dominated in every facet of the game. The Tigers defense this week will be intent on slowing down Lexington RB Ja’Kobe Cooper, who ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries. QB Jordan Kerr continues to play well as he accounted for 311 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Both of these teams are loaded with playoff experience, both have playmakers, but this veteran Gunter defense and tremendous special teams could make all the difference in this showdown. Stepp’s Pick: Gunter by 9

Collinsville (9-1) vs. Riesel (9-2) 6:00 p.m. Friday at Kennedale’s Wildcat Stadium: Collinsville may be the quietest one loss team in the entire state. The Pirates, despite the relative anonymity, have chugged along and just notched win after win. Last week was no different as on Thursday night CHS rolled past Como-Pickton 42-8. The Pirates dominated from the outset and didn’t allow a point until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Riesel put together their best effort of the year last week as they drilled perennial power Crawford 59-13. QB Steven Searcy accounted for 258 yards of offense, throwing three touchdowns and also returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Collinsville’s defense has been key all year long. The Pirates are allowing just over twelve points per game and if they can account for Riesel’s dynamic signal caller they could be headed to the third round. Stepp’s Pick: Collinsville by 6

Photo by Ronnie Sartors

Price Carlisle (11-0) vs. Joaquin (9-2) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Carthage’s Bulldog Stadium: It’ll be a contrast of styles as wide open Price Carlisle will look to push the tempo in this game, while Joaquin will look to slow things down and try to grind the clock and keep the Indians attack off the field. Last week Carlisle rolled to another win as they drilled Caygua 56-6. Gerald Turner again stole the show for Carlisle, returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns and running for four other scores in the easy victory. Joaquin had no troubles either as they rolled past West Sabine 42-0. If the Rams can execute their ball control strategy, they’ve got a shot to pull the upset, but they’ve got to play a near perfect game. CHS has been absolutely dominating this year, and only once have they played a game closer than 34 points and that was a seven-point win over Troup, who is still alive in the 3A playoffs. Stepp’s Pick: Price Carlisle by 17

Windthorst (7-4) vs. Hamlin (10-1) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Graham’s Newton Field: Although their record may not be all that impressive, Windthorst is a battle tested team that powerful Hamlin can not overlook. The Trojans opened up the postseason in impressive fashion last week blasting Memphis 41-0. Things didn’t start great for WHS, who led just 13-0 at the half as four first-half turnovers plagued their powerful offense. However, Hunter Wolf and the offense got going in the second half as the Windthorst signal caller finished with 358 passing yards and four touchdowns. Hamlin bounced back from their Week 11 loss to Albany with an easy 52-0 rout of overmatched Miles. The Pipers offense is as dynamic as you’ll find in Region II, but what’s made this team really elite has been the play of their defense. That unit will need to be big this week to contain Wolf and that high flying Windthorst passing game. Look for this one to be a shootout, but Hamlin’s defense rises to the occasion down the stretch. Stepp’s Pick: Hamlin by 7

Muenster (10-1) vs. Lovelady (9-2) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Emory’s Wildcat Stadium: Defending 2A Division II state champion Muenster’s tough playoff path really starts this week as they’ll take on a very dangerous Lovelady squad. Muenster had no trouble last week with Mount Enterprise, getting a 53-6 win to open the playoffs. This week a very fast and athletic Lovelady squad that is a drop down to 2A Division II will present the Hornets their biggest test since their non-district loss to Childress. The Lions also dominated in their first playoff game, pounding Dawson 69-19 behind their always potent rushing attack. The key in this game will be Muenster’s defense limiting Lovelady’s big plays. If the Hornets tough defense contains the Lions speedy backs, that should spell another playoff win for the defending state champions. Stepp’s Pick: Muenster by 8

 

Quick Picks

Lewisville (9-2) vs. Duncanville (10-0) 2:00 p.m. Saturday at North Richland Hills’ Birdville Fine Arts/Athletic Complex Stepp’s Pick: Duncanville by 14

Lake Travis (9-1) vs. San Antonio Madison (9-2) 2:00 p.m. Friday at New Braunfels’ Cougar Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Lake Travis by 11

Beaumont West Brook (9-2) vs. Houston Strake Jesuit (10-1) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Deer Park’s Abshire Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Beaumont West Brook by 2

Eagle Pass (9-2) vs. Brownsville Hanna (9-1) 5:00 p.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Benson Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Brownsville Hanna by 5

Highland Park (11-0) vs. College Station (9-2) 2:00 p.m. Saturday at Waco’s Waco ISD Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Highland Park by 10

Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial (11-0) vs. San Antonio Harlan (8-3) 1:00 p.m. Friday at Corpus Christi’s Buccaneer Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial by 12

Lubbock Cooper (11-0) vs. El Paso Austin (9-2) 2:00 p.m. Friday at Fort Stockton’s Panther Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Lubbock Cooper by 20

Photo by Gary Sanderson

Frisco Reedy (11-0) vs. Midlothian (9-2) 3:00 p.m. Friday at Frisco’s Ford Center Stepp’s Pick: Frisco Reedy by 8

Splendora (10-1) vs. Van (9-2) 7:00 p.m. Saturday at Nacogdoches’ Bryce Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Van by 6

Sealy (11-0) vs. Boerne (9-2) 2:00 p.m. Friday at Pflugerville’s The Pfield Stepp’s Pick: Sealy by 7

Graham (8-3) vs. Lubbock Estacado (8-3) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene’s Wildcat Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Graham by 14

West Orange-Stark (7-4) vs. Sweeny (10-1) 1:00 p.m. Friday at Porter’s Texan Drive Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Sweeny by 1

Jefferson (11-0) vs. Malakoff (8-2) 2:00 p.m. Friday at Mineola’s Meredith Memorial Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Jefferson by 17

George West (10-1) vs. Yoakum (9-2) 7:00 p.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Gustafson Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Yoakum by 15

Waskom (10-1) vs. Troup (9-2) 5:00 p.m. Friday at Tatum’s Eagle Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Waskom by 13

Poth (10-1) vs. Van Vleck (10-1) 7:00 p.m. Friday at Hallettsville’s Brahma Memorial Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Van Vleck by 21

Hawley (10-1) vs. Sundown (9-2) 8:00 p.m. Friday at Post’s Redman Memorial Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Sundown by 3

Refugio (9-2) vs. Thorndale (8-1) 6:00 p.m. Friday at Converse’s Rutledge Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Refugio by 18

Clarendon (7-3) vs. Iraan (10-1) 4:00 p.m. Friday at Post’s Redman Memorial Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Iraan by 7

Falls City (11-0) vs. Snook (9-2) 1:00 p.m. Friday at Bastrop’s Memorial Stadium Stepp’s Pick: Falls City by 24

Leman Saunders' Six-Man Preview

Each week, six-man insider Leman Saunders will highlight the must-see action in Class 1A. Get in touch with him on Twitter @lemansaunders.

Garden City (11-0) vs. Borden County (9-2), 3 p.m. Saturday at Colorado City
This matchup happens seemingly every year and it never disappoints. Since Garden City’s return to six-man football in 2004, these two schools have faced off eight times, with the series split at four wins apiece. However, Borden County has won the last two meetings — both playoff wins in the last two season. Garden City’s last playoff victory over Borden County was in 2010 en route to its second straight state title. Borden County has had its struggles this year, dropping two games early to Strawn and White Deer, but the Coyotes are healthier now and working well as a team. Garden City struggled a bit in their last two games, but rebounded late to defeat solid Sterling City and Ranking squads. If the Bearkats’ early-game struggles continue, Borden County will make them pay. Keep an eye on RB Payton Merket, B/K Cam Edwards and DL J.W. Nix for Borden County, while Garden City B Hunter McMillan, LB Cesar Chavez, and B Amando Alegria. Both teams have strong defenses, but the slight edge goes to Garden City with the tandem of Chavez and McMillan.
Leman’s Pick: Garden City 40, Borden County 32

Ira (10-0) vs. White Deer (9-2), 2 p.m. Saturday at Lockney
This is a matchup of two fantastic teams with great running games and hard-nosed defenses. Both teams will keep it on the ground — Ira behind back Anthony Coy and White Deer with Kason Virgil. Both can and will throw the ball as well, though, with Ira featuring the QB/WR tandem of Nathan Goodwin and Matthew Brazil, and White Deer with Graysen Freeman and Gage Freeman. White Deer has played a tougher schedule — its losses have come to McLean and Union Hill — and the Bucks’ defense is just a little stronger. Expect a low-scoring game.
Leman’s pick: White Deer 42, Ira 36

Follett (9-2) vs. Whitharral (10-0-1), 2 p.m. Friday at Happy
This is a game that has major upset potential. It’s hard to call an undefeated and state-ranked team the underdog, but Whitharral is considered that against a higher-ranked Follett squad. Whitharral has a ton of X-factors in RBs Kody Gonzales and Chris Albus — the later of whom is a big, bruising back with a great arm. But Follett’s Christian Barber is just as good as downhill runner and can throw as well. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Whitharral wins, but Follett’s overall team size and power running game out of the tight formation give them the edge.
Leman’s pick: Follett 48, Whitharral 36

Richland Springs (10-1) vs Calvert (8-2), 6:30 p.m. Friday at Gatesville
A classic playoff rivalry — if you’re anywhere near Gatesville, this is the game to be at. Richland Springs is the most decorated six-man team in state history with eight state championships, while Calvert has amassed a solid record since their move to six-man in 1998. Typically, these two teams meet in the quarterfinals, but this will be the third time they’ve met in the second round, splitting their previous two meetings. Richland Springs is fueled by QB Matthew Rigdon and RB Griffin Rigdon, while Calvert is led by RB James Green, who can beat you in a variety of ways. This could be a rebuilding year for both squads — heavy graduation and new head coaches — and Calvert’s team speed may be the difference.
Leman’s pick: Calvert 52, Richland Springs 48

Photo by Carter Pirtle

Quick Picks

McLean over Aspermont

Balmorhea over Ropes

Milford over Aquilla

Union Hill over Blum

Nueces Canyon over Gorman

Leakey over May

Motley Co over Anton

Grandfalls over Lueders

Blackwell over Jayton

Iredell over Fannindel

Strawn over Walnut Springs

Oakwood over Blanket

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