WEEK 8 PREVIEW: Breaking down the biggest games in Texas high school football

Tyler Lee (red) vs. Mesquite Poteet (Photo by Jim Klenke)

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Tyler Lee (5-1, 2-0) at Mesquite (6-1, 2-1): Playoff positioning comes into focus in 11-6A as the winner takes a huge step towards clinching a spot in the playoffs, while the loser (especially if it’s Mesquite) is staring down needing a win over Longview or Rockwall to qualify for the playoffs. Tyler Lee is coming off their bye week and the Red Raiders have been one of the big surprises this year in East Texas. They most recently took care of North Mesquite, 35-17, as Jamarion Miller and Bryson Donnell combined for 152 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. If you break down Tyler Lee’s individual stats, no one player stands out. This looks to be a team that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Mesquite has bounced back nicely after its district opening loss to Mesquite Horn, winning its last two outings over Rockwall-Heath and North Mesquite. Last week the Skeeters rolled past North, 45-10, as LaDarius Turner ran for 155 yards and three scores. Minnesota QB commit Dylan McGill chipped in 142 passing yards and two TDs. Mesquite seems to have more firepower and the Skeeters are at home, which at times can be a big boost in this district, but that could be offset by the fact that Tyler Lee has had two weeks to prepare. Expect this one to go down to the wire but we’ll give the slightest of edges to Mesquite as McGill could be the difference in this one.

Stepp’s Pick: Mesquite by 3


Smithson Valley (4-2, 2-1) at Converse Judson (6-0, 3-0): Smithson Valley will head to Rutledge Stadium with upset on its mind after it dispatched of San Antonio East Central, 45-13, last week. Jacob Forton ran for three scores and the Rangers defense contained a very speedy and, at times, explosive Hornets offense in the win. The task this week is even bigger as they tangle with maybe the most athletic crew in all of the San Antonio area. Judson had no troubles blasting past New Braunfels, 54-20, last week as quarterback Mike Chandler threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns and De’Anthony Lewis added three touchdowns on the ground. Expect Larry Hill and that Smithson Valley staff to have a few tricks up their sleeve to keep this one close for a half, but Judson’s playmaking ability will be too much in the second half.

Stepp’s Pick: Converse Judson by 13


Frisco Lone Star (6-0, 3-0) at The Colony (6-0, 3-0): To say Frisco Lone Star has waited a year for this game would be an understatement. The Rangers were stunned by The Colony a year ago on a wild hook-&-lateral play on a muddy turf field at Toyota Stadium. The Rangers have been an absolute flame thrower this year and last week they showed no signs of slowing down in an easy 63-14 win over previously unbeaten Frisco Independence. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Rangel led the way for Lone Star throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and added a rushing TD. The key to Lone Star’s dominance has not been the headline generating offense, but their defense, which has a ton of speed and will hit you when they arrive. Utah commit LB Jaylan Ford leads the Rangers defense. The Colony has some headliners too, led by one of the state’s most versatile playmakers in Texas Tech commit Myles Price. WR Keith Miller, a Kansas commit and WR/DB Christian Gonzalez, a Purdue commit, gives the Cougars an embarrassment of riches at the skill spots. Last week in a 65-32 win over Frisco Heritage, it was the Cougars’ defense, which feasted on six turnovers. So the offense didn’t have to do much as they are gifted short field after short field. The Colony, despite all the offensive talent, has been a bit shaky on defense this year. This squad can score with the best of them in the state, but unless the defense turns the corner, The Colony will have trouble beating elite 5A-Division I teams.

Stepp’s Pick: Frisco Lone Star by 12


Alvin Shadow Creek (6-0, 3-0) at Friendswood (6-0, 3-0): Most people thought the 10-5A Division I title would get decided when Shadow Creek and Richmond Foster hooked up, but Friendswood had other ideas as the Mustangs stunned Richmond Foster, 34-32, last week. QB Luke Gorden tossed four touchdowns and the Friendswood defense made just enough plays down the stretch to hang on as Foster missed a potential game-winning field goal. Shadow Creek has been its usual dominant selves. In fact, the Sharks are an impressive 21-1 in the 22 official varsity football games they’ve played. Last week Brad Butler’s squad rolled past Galveston Ball, 49-6. QB Kyron Drones has given Shadow Creek a much more dynamic passing game this year and some of the other running backs have picked up the slack and it gives this offense much needed balance to go along with one of the best defensive units in Texas. That defense and the team speed will be too much for upstart Friendswood.

Stepp’s Pick: Alvin Shadow Creek by 21


Springtown (6-0, 1-0) at Decatur (6-0, 1-0): What could be a preview of the 4A-Division I Region I final takes place in Decatur as unbeaten district rivals Springtown and Decatur meet up in a matchup pitting two top 10 teams. Last week the Porcupines had no trouble in their tune-up as they drilled Mineral Wells, 66-7, behind a 35-point first quarter. Decatur got a much tougher test to open district play as the Eagles had to visit Wichita Falls and contend with a tough Hirschi squad. DHS rallied back from a halftime deficit and earned a 40-28 win as the Eagles balanced offense wore Hirschi down. RB Gunner Ragsdale led the way with 196 yards and two TDs on 30 carries, while QB Roman Fuller had 237 yards passing and three touchdowns. Expect both teams to push past 30 points in this one. Give the edge to Decatur at home.

Stepp’s Pick: Decatur by 5


Gilmer (5-2, 1-0) at Texarkana Pleasant Grove (6-1, 1-0): For years and years, Gilmer completely dominated Texarkana Pleasant Grove. But the worm has turned recently as the Hawks currently own a two-game winning streak over the Buckeyes. The Hawks will look to make it three in a row when they host Gilmer in a key district showdown. Gilmer knocked off much improved Longview Spring Hill, 42-34, last week as the offense was outstanding on the ground. The Buckeyes ran for 386 yards with Darrell Bush leading the way with 24 carries, 170 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Pleasant Grove bounced back from a disappointing loss to Carthage with a lopsided 49-19 rout of Pittsburg a week ago. Quarterback Ben Harmon threw for 177 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. BYU commit Bruce Garrett along with KJ Hicks and Sergio Rodriguez had two touchdowns apiece for the Hawks. Pleasant Grove’s defensive line is the best in the state at the 4A-Division II level and trying to run the ball against this team is really tough to do on a consistent basis. Unless Gilmer can throw the ball, I’m not sure they have enough offense to go on the road and win.

Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Pleasant Grove by 14


Wall (6-0, 1-0) at Tuscola Jim Ned (6-0, 1-0): The gauntlet that is 3-3A Division I started up last week and kicks into high gear this week as district favorite and state-ranked Wall visits powerful Jim Ned, who also comes into this matchup with an unblemished record. Wall made quick work of a very good Clyde squad last week, beating the Bulldogs 35-7 and allowing just 47 yards of offense in the win. Cinch Dickey returned to the lineup for the first time since the Mason game after being fully recovered from an injury and immediately made an impact with a pair of rushing touchdowns. He’ll team with speedy Chase Rios and QB Mason Fuchs to give the Hawks a dynamic offensive attack out of the flexbone. Jim Ned pitched its fourth shutout in six games last week as the Indians rolled past Breckenridge 32-0. Reese Hayes rushed for 131 yards and three scores and Riley Perry rushed for 111 yards and another touchdown, while the JNHS defense held Breckenridge to just 189 yards. Jim Ned is a very good team, but they haven’t seen anyone with the firepower Wall brings to the table. Wall makes a statement this week with an impressive road win.

Stepp’s Pick: Wall by 11


Coahoma (5-1, 1-0) at Abernathy (5-1, 1-0): Coahoma proved to the rest of the district it will be a team to contend with as the Bulldogs opened up district play knocking off Idalou, 29-21. RB Zack Schneider rushed for 170 yards and four scores on 28 carries as Coahoma never trailed in the win. This week it’ll get a chance to measure up against a true regional title contender in powerful Abernathy. AHS rolled past Stanton, 63-0, as the Antelopes defense allowed just 91 yards of offense and Army commit Bryson Daily ran for 176 yards and four touchdowns on only nine carries. The key for Coahoma will be can if it hold up in the trenches. Abernathy is big and physical up front and 3A-Division II teams have a hard time matching up. Abernathy could wear the Bulldogs down in the second half.

Stepp’s Pick: Abernathy by 17


Price Carlisle (4-2, 1-0) at Alto (6-0, 1-0): Alto is looking like some of the vintage Alto teams of the late 90s and early 2000s under second-year head coach Ricky Joe Meeks. Last week was no different as the Jackets blasted past Big Sandy, 41-14, behind a big play offense and a defense that allowed 47 yards of offense. Price Carlisle rolled to an easy 34-0 win over Cushing last week. The Indians defense was the key as Carlisle finally is back to 100 percent after battling injuries all year. Alto’s explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball may be too much for the Indians, who look to be a solid second place team in this district.

Stepp’s Pick: Alto by 17


Shiner (7-0, 1-0) at Weimar (7-0, 1-0): The big showdown at the 2A-Division I level this week pits No. 2 Shiner against upstart Weimar, who is looking to break into the rankings this week. Shiner opened up district play with a 71-7 rout of Yorktown last week. The defense forced four turnovers and the Comanches rotated in multiple backs as they ran for nearly 400 yards. Donyai Taylor and Doug Brooks are the two primary backs to keep an eye on and will get most of the carries in a close game. Weimar rolled past much improved Kenedy last week, 40-6. The key for Ryan McIvor’s squad is the status of RB Ravon’dre Wicks. If he’s healthy and can give Weimar that explosive big play element, Weimar has a chance at the upset. But if he’s not at 100 percent, or if Weimar’s offensive line is unable to handle an underrated and very strong Shiner defensive line, it could be a long night.

Stepp’s Pick: Shiner by 16


Quick Picks

Round Rock (5-1, 3-1) vs Round Rock Stony Point (6-0, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Round Rock Stony Point by 6

Fort Bend Ridge Point (5-1, 3-0) vs Fort Bend Travis (6-0, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: Fort Bend Ridge Ridge Point by 4

Humble Atascocita (5-1, 4-0) at Pasadena Dobie (6-0, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Humble Atascocita by 15

Eagle Pass (5-2, 2-1) at Laredo United South (3-3, 2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Eagle Pass by 11

Hutto (5-0, 2-0) at Cedar Park (6-1, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: Cedar Park by 1

Corpus Christi Flour Bluff (5-1, 4-0) at Corpus Christi Miller (6-0, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Flour Bluff by 2

Canutillo (5-1, 1-0) at El Paso Riverside (4-2, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Canutillo by 18

Lubbock Cooper (5-1, 1-0) at Wichita Falls Rider (3-3, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Lubbock Cooper by 15

Denison (4-2, 3-1) at Frisco (7-0, 5-0) Stepp’s Pick: Frisco by 6

Katy Paetow (6-0, 3-0) at College Station A&M Consolidated (6-0, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: College Station A&M Consolidated by 24

Mission Sharyland (4-3, 2-1) vs Mission Pioneer (5-1, 2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Mission Pioneer by 13

Sealy (4-1, 1-1) at El Campo (6-1, 2-1) Stepp’s Pick: Sealy by 3

Lubbock Estacado (7-0, 1-0) at Dalhart (4-3, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Lubbock Estacado by 35

Waco Connally (7-0, 3-0) at Mexia (3-2, 2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Waco Connally by 15

Bandera (6-0, 1-0) at Wimberley (5-1, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Wimberley by 19

Pilot Point (6-1, 3-0) at Boyd (5-1, 2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Pilot Point by 16

Atlanta (4-3, 2-1) at Mount Vernon (5-1, 1-1) Stepp’s Pick: Atlanta by 9

Rockdale (6-0, 2-0) at Troy (6-1, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: Rockdale by 4

Mathis (4-2, 3-0) at George West (6-0, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: George West by 21

San Augustine (5-0, 1-0) at Groveton (5-1, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: San Augustine by 27

Stratford (6-1, 1-0) at Vega (6-1, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Stratford by 19

Eldorado (5-1, 0-0) at Miles (6-1, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Eldorado by 12

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