Stepp's Ten Thoughts from the area round of the playoffs

Photo by Paul Roberts

Katy-Galena Park/North Shore showdown
The much-anticipated rematch between the two top teams in the Houston area will take place at the premier football venue in the area as unbeaten Galena Park North Shore takes on Katy. The two teams met in Week 1 with North Shore making quite the opening statement with a 35-21 win over Katy at Legacy Stadium. Since that game, North Shore hasn’t played a game closer than 32 points and Katy has rattled off 11-straight wins and is playing its best football of the year. These two powers have met in the playoffs the last two seasons, with the two teams splitting, North Shore won in 2016 and Katy won last year’s game. Expect a big crowd at NRG Stadium Friday night for this matchup.

Amarillo Tascosa stuns Arlington
There may not be a hotter team in the state at the 6A level than Ken Plunk’s Rebels who made a massive statement Friday night with an impressive 35-24 win over previously unbeaten Arlington High. Tascosa jumped out to a 35-3 lead in the second quarter and behind their punishing flexbone offense, as Joseph Plunk ran for three touchdowns and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Purdue commit RB King Doerue halfway through the second quarter that all but put the game away. The Rebels were able to put it on cruise control and milk away the final two quarters of the game and earn some respect for the large schools in West Texas in the process.

San Antonio Brandeis knocks off Cibolo Steele
San Antonio Brandeis has been a very good program since opening up about 10 years ago. The Broncos have even made a couple of runs to the regional finals, but they accomplished something that had never been done in school history on Friday. They handed powerful Cibolo Steele a defeat and the Broncos, behind their Orange Crush defense. held the Knights in check for a 31-16 win last night at the Alamodome. Brandeis got a huge game from QB Jordan Battles who accounted for 232 yards of offense and three touchdowns, while the Broncos defense forced six Steele turnovers in the win. Brandeis now advances to the regional semi-finals where it will get to stay close to home next week and take on Brownsville Hanna at the Alamodome next Saturday afternoon.

El Paso bows out
It was a tough weekend for the city of El Paso as teams went a combined 0-6 in the area round of the playoffs. The Sun City’s best hope for a deep playoff run was with El Paso Parkland, who was unbeaten on the year and fresh off a trip to the third round of the playoffs. The Matadors were upset by a 5-6 Canyon Randall squad losing 38-28. The other five games were all by margins of 16 points or more as there was a definite gap between the opposition and the teams from El Paso. In 6A El Paso, Franklin lost 44-28 to Euless Trinity, while in 5A Division I El Paso Del Valle closed out the dismal weekend with a 42-14 loss to Denton Ryan on Saturday. In Division II, El Paso Andress kept it close for a while with Wichita Falls Rider but eventually fell in a 41-10 loss, while El Paso Austin and El Paso Burges both suffered losses by over 30 points in games that were never in doubt.

3-5A Division II showing strength
In a wide open Region I at the 5A Division II level, one district has risen above the pack and that’s the far flung District 3-5A Division II that stretches from Canyon over to Wichita Falls and down to Abilene. Three of the district’s four playoff representatives are still alive, headlined by district champion and unbeaten Lubbock Cooper. Cooper will take on District 4-5A Division II champion Justin Northwest next Friday in Abilene while the district’s second and third place teams, Canyon Randall and Wichita Falls Rider, meet Friday night in Childress in a rare third round playoff battle featuring two 6-6 teams.

Huntsville delivers knockout punch to Manvel
Before the season started we were all curious to see how Manvel, who lost the 5A Division I state title game in about as heartbreaking fashion as you could imagine, would rebound in 2018 under a new head coach and in 5A Division II. The Mavericks at times looked like a title contender, but at other moments looked like a team on decline, after all its depth has taken quite the hit with the opening of Shadow Creek High School, who is currently 12-0. The Mavericks were considered by some a favorite against a good Huntsville team, but the DCTF crew felt like Manvel was ripe for the upset and Huntsville used a dominant defensive performance Friday afternoon at NRG Stadium to get an impressive 34-10 win. The win for Huntsville marks the first time the Hornets have advanced to the third round of the playoffs since 1991 and sets up an intriguing third round game against Marshall. Huntsville HC Rodney Southern was the head coach at Marshall from 2002-2006 and led the Mavericks to two state title games.

Malakoff takes down Jefferson
The Tigers were considered nothing more than cannon fodder for unbeaten Jefferson on Friday, but Jamie Driskell’s squad proved that playoff experience is invaluable as the Tigers knocked off regional favorite Jefferson, 31-21. Malakoff went to a ball-control ground-based scheme on Friday designed to limit Jefferson’s touches on offense and the game plan worked to perfection as in the second half Malakoff’s defense held Jefferson scoreless until the game’s waning moments. QB Darion Davis was the key cog for the Malakoff offense running for a touchdown and throwing a 76-yard touchdown pass in the second half.

Rocky Morris returns for Goliad
Goliad got a big boost this week as quarterback Rocky Morris who had missed the Tigers final seven games with a broken collarbone returned to the lineup and his impact was felt right away as Goliad drilled a good Marion squad 56-7 Friday in the area playoffs. Morris had three long touchdown passes in the first half as the Tigers jumped out to a 35-7 lead and cruised to the win. Morris’ return gives a boost to the Goliad offense which had at times struggled in his absence. Goliad has a big showdown Saturday night in Cuero as it has a rematch with district rival Yoakum.

Shiner/Refugio showdown
A much anticipated game in the Crossroads region of Texas will finally take place (in San Antonio), but it’ll definitely generate plenty of interest as bitter rivals Shiner and Refugio hook up in a regional semi-final matchup. Shiner has been brutally efficient all year, aside from its loss to 3A Lexington, the Comanches have gotten it done with their typical rushing attack led by Donyai Taylor who ran for 252 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 55-20 win over Hearne. It’s been an up-and-down ride for Refugio this year who started the season running a version of the flexbone offense, but after an ineffective four games to open the year, the Bobcats went back to the spread offense and have taken off. Refugio in its last seven games has outscored opponents 461-21, so the offensive change has paid off. But the key is, can Refugio be as dominant against what many consider an elite Shiner squad?

A couple of near misses for the RGV
It was nearly a banner weekend for the Rio Grande Valley as it has four of its 6A schools still alive in the playoffs. The big key for the Valley was its teams going 3-0 on Friday against District 29-6A which at times has been a real thorn in the side for the better teams. The biggest win came via 12-0 Edinburg Vela who demolished Laredo Alexander, 65-0, to earn a rematch with Austin Westlake in the regional semi-finals. At the 5A level, Mission Veterans Memorial was very impressive in a 48-23 win over San Antonio Veterans Memorial, while LaFeria in 4A Division I upset Needville to advance to the third round. The Valley nearly had a record nine teams in the third round as Mission Sharyland, Raymondville and LaVilla all fell in close games. The most crushing loss was Sharyland’s OT loss to Brenham in a game it led for most of regulation. The place to be next week for Valley football fans will be the Alamodome as Brownsville Hanna, Weslaco and Mission Veterans Memorial will all be in action on Saturday in San Antonio.

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