WEEK 9 PREVIEW: Breaking down the biggest games in Texas high school football

DeSoto football (Photo by Gordon DeLoach)

Midland Lee (7-0, 2-0) at Amarillo Tascosa (5-2, 1-1): This much-anticipated Little SWC showdown lost a bit of luster last week after Tascosa went down to Ratliff Stadium and dropped a 35-27 decision to Odessa Permian. Tascosa will look to turn the tables on a state-ranked opponent this week as it welcomes unbeaten Midland Lee to Bivins Stadium. Lee rolled past overmatched Odessa High last week at home beating the Broncos, 62-7. QB Mikey Serrano led the way for Lee with 403 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, with Christian Romero being the key target in the win with 209 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Tascosa got 243 yards on the ground from QB Joseph Plunk, but its defense, which has been good most of the year, struggled to contain Permian’s rushing attack. The challenge this week is a bit different as Lee’s offense is more balanced and it has one of the state’s top receivers in Loic Fouonji. On the flip side, can Midland Lee slow down the Tascosa option offense, which is a nightmare to prep for? Look for a lot of points in this one with the edge going to Midland Lee.

Stepp’s Pick: Midland Lee by 4

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DeSoto (7-0, 4-0) at Mansfield Summit (6-1, 3-1): Unbeaten DeSoto certainly has the feel of a team that’s regained its confidence after two subpar (by its terms) seasons. The Eagles did what you’d expect them to do to an overmatched opponent as they blew past Grand Prairie, 54-7, a week ago. QB Samari Collier tossed five touchdown passes and DB Devyn Bobby returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Claude Mathis’ squad gets their first big test in quite some time as they head west to take on a tough Mansfield Summit squad. Summit took a big step towards the playoffs Friday night knocking off South Grand Prairie, 21-17. Jaelon Travis’ 19-yard touchdown reception halfway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. The Jaguars defense has been outstanding all season, but they have not faced an offense with the firepower DeSoto brings to the table. Look for a statement from DeSoto as it gears up for the stretch run.

Stepp’s Pick: DeSoto by 14

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Galena Park North Shore (6-1, 4-0) at Beaumont West Brook (7-0, 4-0): A year ago, Galena Park North Shore obliterated Beaumont West Brook en route to a state title. What goes under-reported is that game served as a turning point for West Brook, which made a run all the way to the Division II title game. The Bruins will have their shot at redemption this week as they host the Mustangs in a matchup of top 10 teams in Class 6A. North Shore is back to full strength. Last week the Mustangs drilled Baytown Sterling to the tune of 63-0 as QB Dematrius Davis tossed three touchdowns and ran for another score and the defense held Baytown Sterling to 29 yards of total offense. West Brook handled La Porte 35-12 as the Bruins defense was outstanding and Bryce Anderson ran for two scores and threw for another touchdown. North Shore’s offense is firing on all cylinders with the return of WR Shadrach Banks, the Texas A&M commit. His presence has opened up the running game for Zach Evans and Arkansas commit John Gentry. The game won’t be quite as lopsided as last year’s result, but North Shore just has too many weapons and they are too physical for the Bruins in the trenches.

Stepp’s Pick: Galena Park North Shore by 21

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San Antonio Roosevelt (6-1, 3-1) vs. San Antonio Johnson (5-2, 4-0): It’s a massive matchup in North East ISD as the 27-6A title could be decided on Saturday night when Roosevelt takes on Johnson. Roosevelt has bounced back nicely from its loss to Madison a couple of weeks ago with impressive wins over South San Antonio and San Antonio Reagan. Rashod Owens had a big night for the Roughriders as he had 192 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the 28-21 win over Reagan. Johnson, which lost two of three non-district games, has found its stride in district play winning four straight. But now it hits the tough part of the schedule closing with Roosevelt, Churchill and Madison. The Jaguars had no problems with South San Antonio last week rolling to a comfortable 33-7 win. Justin Rodriguez ran for two scores, while QB Ty Reasoner completed 12 of 14 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. The Jaguars defense limited South San to under 200 yards. The key in this game is can Johnson’s defense contain the team speed of Roosevelt? Aside from Judson, the Roughriders might be the fastest team in the Alamo City. In my view, the game hinges on Johnson’s ability to limit the big plays from Roosevelt.

Stepp’s Pick: San Antonio Roosevelt by 6

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Lancaster (6-1, 4-0) at Mansfield Timberview (5-2, 4-0): Since dropping their season opener to Duncanville, the Lancaster Tigers have been on quite the roll with four straight shutout wins. The level of competition hasn’t been great, so the question is can Lancaster show the same kind of dominance against a team in its weight class? We’ll find out this week as they visit Mansfield and a dangerous Timberview squad. Last week, Lancaster ripped past Dallas Adams, 63-0, as Glenn Rice Jr. threw for 263 yards and five touchdowns, including two to recent Boise State verbal commit LaTrell Caples. Timberview had a similar lopsided result as the Wolves rolled past Dallas Sunset, 84-0. The Wolves opened the game by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then picked off a pass for a touchdown on Sunset’s first play from scrimmage. The key in this one will be Timberview’s ability to be balanced and throw the ball. If the Wolves can keep the Lancaster defense honest this one will come down to the wire.

Stepp’s Pick: Lancaster by 8

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Magnolia West (5-2, 4-0) at Lufkin (6-1, 4-0): Magnolia West has torn through the first part of its district schedule, but now things get tough and it starts with a visit to one of the toughest places in the state to play: Martin Stadium in Lufkin. Last week the Mustangs rolled past Waller 49-20 to take another step towards a potential playoff spot. Lufkin didn’t have much trouble in last week’s matchup blasting Tomball, 55-22, as QB Jordan Moore threw 467 yards and four touchdowns, while Texas Tech commit WR Ja’Lynn Polk had seven receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns to lead an explosive Lufkin attack. Lufkin’s got some holes, specifically up front on both sides of the ball, but the Panthers can play with anyone when it comes to skill talent and that gives them a definite leg up in this one.

Stepp’s Pick: Lufkin by 18

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Alvin Shadow Creek (7-0, 4-0) at Richmond Foster (5-2, 3-1): The much-anticipated matchup of these two district rivals has lost a little luster after Foster’s surprising loss to Friendswood two weeks ago. Make no mistake, the Falcons would love nothing more than to hand Shadow Creek its first-ever regular season loss after two defeats a year ago. Foster bounced back nicely from its loss to Friendswood with a 44-21 win over Angleton, but taking on Shadow Creek is totally different animal. The Sharks absolutely annihilated unbeaten Friendswood last week, 51-6, as QB Kyron Drones accounted for 273 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the win. Shadow Creek’s defense led by Xavion Alford has been nothing short of incredible. Foster will keep this close. The Falcons aren’t intimidated and Shaun McDowell’s squad knows they can play with the Sharks. But in order to beat Shadow Creek, the Falcons must play mistake-free football and recent history doesn’t indicate Foster can do that.

Stepp’s Pick: Alvin Shadow Creek by 10

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Huntsville (6-1, 3-1) at Katy Paetow (6-1, 3-1): Huntsville took a big step towards securing a potential second seed in the district with a 35-21 win over Rosenberg Lamar Consolidated a week ago. The Hornets raced out to a 22-0 lead at halftime, but then held off a strong rally from LCHS to get the win. Tyrique Carter led the way as he rushed for a season-high 130 yards and three touchdowns and Jordan Brown’s interception return for a touchdown sealed the win for Huntsville. Katy Paetow suffered its first loss of the year last week losing to A&M Consolidated, 55-17. The Panthers rushing game, which had been averaging 346 yards per game on the ground, was held well below their season averages. If the Panthers want to have any chance at a big upset, they’ve got to run the ball and put pressure on Huntsville QB Matthew Southern and force the Huntsville offense into mistakes.

Stepp’s Pick: Huntsville by 13

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Georgetown East View (5-2, 2-2) at Pflugerville Weiss (6-1, 4-0): Two of the newest programs in the Austin area are making plenty of noise in the always wacky District 13-5A Division II. East View, which has been around for a few years, got off to a fast start under first year head coach Jerod Fikac. But the Patriots have lost two of their last three by a touchdown or less. Last week it was a 35-28 decision to Leander Glenn. The Patriots defense had some allowed Glenn to roll up 479 yards of offense in the loss. The East View running game was solid as Emarion Brooks ran for 75 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns and Isaiah Quinton-Jackson added 60 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Weiss, in just their second season, has been the real surprise in the capital city all year. After four straight wins of 16 or more point, the Wolves got pushed last week by Bastrop Cedar Creek in a 17-16 win. Oscar Jaramillo’s 40-yard field goal with 3:22 left in the game proved to be the difference. WHS jumped out to a 14-0 lead after three quarters, but Cedar Creek roared back to tie the game, setting up Jaramillo’s dramatics. Weiss is going to be facing a near desperate East View squad this week, the Patriots can’t afford a third loss in four games as that will put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. But that Wolves defense at home has been outstanding the last month or so and that will be the edge in this key district matchup on a Thursday night.

Stepp’s Pick: Plfugerville Weiss by 8

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Dumas (7-0) at Canyon (6-1): The headline matchup in the Texas Panhandle this week is the district opener between the area’s two 4A powers in unbeaten and state-ranked Dumas and a Canyon squad who has had a week to think about their first loss of the season. Dumas has been led by a fantastic defense that has pitched a shutout in four of their last five games, but it hasn’t just been defense as Dumas boasts an offense that averages over 40 points per game. The Demons are a balanced team and a real threat to make a lot of noise in Region I come playoff time. Canyon, whose offense had topped fifty points in five of their first six games, was held to just 22 points in a 41-22 loss on the road to Andrews two weeks ago. The big question is the status of QB Jay Defoor and running back Aidan Hildinger, who both left the game two weeks ago with injuries in the second quarter and did not return.  If Canyon is back to full strength this is a close game and within a touchdown. But if Canyon is still missing two of its key playmakers, Dumas could win this one by double digits. My guess is with the bye week, Defors and Hildinger are both back in action this week, so look for a close one.

Stepp’s Pick: Dumas by 4

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Brownwood (7-0, 1-0) at Stephenville (4-3, 1-1): It’s one of the state’s most heated rivalries as Brownwood heads an hour north on Highway 377 to take on longtime rival Stephenville. Brownwood has been a revelation this year under second-year head coach and alum Sammy Burnett, rolling to an impressive 7-0 start behind a balanced offense and a defense that has been a turnover-forcing machine. The Lions defense has posted three straight shutout wins and four shutouts in seven games. Even though they rely heavily on the ground game, the offense has big play potential with Baylor commit WR AJ McCarty. Stephenville had shown signs of coming out of an early season offensive funk with back to back solid wins over Georgetown and China Spring. But it had no answers for a fast and very physical Waco LaVega squad in a 42-10 loss last week. The Jackets offense simply couldn’t get going and they allowed 537 yards of offense in the defeat. Expect Stephenville to throw everything they have at home in this rivalry game, but Brownwood’s defense is the difference. The Lions are playing with an edge and level of execution that is bringing back memories of days gone by in Brownwood.

Stepp’s Pick: Brownwood by 13

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Fort Stockton (6-1, 2-1) at Midland Greenwood (8-0, 4-0): Midland Greenwood can wrap up the 1-4A Division II district title with a win over Fort Stockton, who, other than a shocking loss to Snyder to open district play, has been pretty good. Last week Fort Stockton got behind early 13-0 to Monahans as three first half turnovers put the Panthers in a big hole. But four different FSHS players found the end zone to rally for a 26-13 win. Fort Stockton’s defense will need to play its best game of the year if it wants to keep this one close. Greenwood’s offense is operating at an elite level. Trey Cross ran for 224 yards and a touchdown and the Rangers defense forced three turnovers in a 41-0 win over Snyder last week. Greenwood will get a big test this week, as Fort Stockton is tough enough on defense to contain the Rangers offense. But Fort Stockton lacks the firepower to truly put pressure on Midland Greenwood.

Stepp’s Pick: Midland Greenwood by 16

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Wimberley (6-1, 2-0) at Geronimo Navarro (7-0, 2-0): A district title is likely on the line this week as two of the favorites in Region IV meet up in a massive game in 13-4A Division II. Since a one point win in Week 1, Navarro has had an average margin of victory of nearly 35 points. Last week the Panthers had no troubles in a 54-0 rout of Austin Eastside Memorial. Their Slot-T offense is always difficult to slow down, but one team who knows them quite well is Wimberley. The Texans ended Bandera’s unbeaten season last week in emphatic fashion with a 56-28 win. QB Cooper McCollum threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns, while adding in two scores on the ground. This game will be controlled by tempo as Wimberley has the wide open spread offense and Navarro’s got the Slot-T. Navarro’s got the big edge in the computer polls of record, but I think this will be close.

Stepp’s Pick: Geronimo Navarro by 9

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Eastland (7-0, 2-0) at Wall (7-0, 2-0): For the second straight week Wall must take on an unbeaten opponent, but such is life in 3-3A Division I. Last week the Hawks went on the road and got all they wanted from Tuscola Jim Ned, before escaping with a hard-fought 14-7 win. The key for the Hawks was the defense as they allowed just 76 yards of offense for the night. A recovery of a muffed punt set them up for the eventual game-winning score. Wall QB Mason Fuchs passed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Chase Rios had 88 yards rushing to lead the Hawks offense, which was held in check most of the night. They’ll need to bring their offense this week as they host an Eastland attack that’s as potent as any in the state. The Mavericks are led by Texas Tech commit QB Behren Morton and a dynamic group of receivers, and 200-pound RB Brandon Fielding. Morton tossed seven touchdown passes and threw for 333 yards in last week’s 76-28 win over Breckenridge. Eastland’s offense will test Wall’s secondary, but the Wall flexbone offense is a different animal and Eastland’s defense may have its own issues. Look for a lot of points in this matchup.

Stepp’s Pick: Wall by 8

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Dallas Madison (6-1, 2-0) at Malakoff (6-1, 2-0): Surprising Dallas Madison gets its chance this week to make some noise on a state-wide level as it heads to Cedar Creek Lake to take on state ranked Malakoff in a matchup that should determine the district title. Last week Madison rolled to an easy 53-7 win over Kemp as QB Jaylin Thibodeaux threw for 292 yards and five touchdowns. Christian Henry hauled in two touchdown receptions. Washington State commit WR Cedric Pellum hasn’t played the past two weeks, but if he returns he gives the Trojans an added weapon that the Malakoff defense will need to contend with. Malakoff has rolled the past two weeks scoring over 70 points in each outing against totally overmatched opponents. The Malakoff defense has been fantastic all season, not allowing more than 14 points in a single game. Malakoff’s offense hasn’t been talked about much, but the Tigers offense could be key in what looks to be a high scoring game.

Stepp’s Pick: Malakoff by 15

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Friona (6-1, 1-1) at Canadian (7-0, 2-0): After a surprising loss to open district play two weeks ago, Friona bounced back a week ago with a solid 35-14 win over Spearman. Sophomore RB Jacob Bautista ran for 144 yards and had 87 receiving yards to lead a balanced Chieftans attack. Friona will have its shot this week to send shockwaves across the state as it tangle with the state’s No. 1 team in 3A-Division II. The Wildcats rolled past Childress, 41-14, last week, the same Childress squad that two weeks ago beat Friona. QB Grant McCook had a monster night throwing for 221 yards and rushing for 139 yards with a combined four touchdowns in the victory. Canadian is a dominant team and there doesn’t look to be much in the way of resistance in this district, despite Friona’s gaudy record.

Stepp’s Pick: Canadian by 24

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Sundown (5-2, 2-0) at Post (7-0, 2-0): Surprising Post can’t afford to look ahead to a potential showdown with New Deal in a week as it hosts a tough Sundown squad that still has its sights set on a district title. Last week, the Roughnecks rolled to an easy 50-7 win over Hale Center. The Roughnecks had over 450 yards of total offense, 332 of which came on the ground. Cade Conway led the way with 146 yards on just seven rushing attempts and two touchdowns. EJ Hernandez added two touchdowns on the ground as well. The Antelopes, who usually rely on the ground game, were unusually balanced last week in a 48-21 win over Olton. PHS had 262 yards on the ground led by Ashton Jefferson’s 112 yards, but it was QB Slayden Pittman who surprised with 163 yards through the air and three touchdowns. If Post is that balanced there may not be a team in Region I that can slow the Antelopes down. Sundown will be their biggest test since Abernathy, but Post will pull away in the second half.

Stepp’s Pick: Post by 11

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San Saba (7-0, 2-0) at Valley Mills (4-3, 1-1): Few teams have had the type of dominance that San Saba has had thus far in 2019. The Armadillos are averaging nearly 60 points per game and have allowed just nine (yes, nine) points. The overall tally is San Saba 411-9. Tulsa commit QB Sean O’Keefe and tough running Eli Salinas anchor an explosive offense, but the one big question for SSHS is their strength of schedule. They have yet to earn a win over a team with a winning record, but that could change this week against a solid Valley Mills squad. Valley Mills bounced back nicely from its loss to Crawford with a big-time defensive effort last week in a 21-0 win over DeLeon. The Eagles will make San Saba work a bit harder than they have in any of their other games this year, but the Armadillos just have too much firepower.

Stepp’s Pick: San Saba by 28

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Hearne (4-3, 2-1) at Thorndale (6-2, 3-1): Hearne showed some promise in its district opener, pushing state-ranked Holland in a 34-19 loss. The Eagles have kept that momentum up with back to back lopsided wins. Now they will look to try and secure the second spot in the district against a tough Thorndale squad. Thorndale rolled past Milano, 48-16, last week as the Bulldogs Slot-T offense got rolling. Hearne’s spread offense and team speed will give Thorndale some trouble, but the Bulldogs are at home and their edge up front gives them a close victory.

Stepp’s Pick: Thorndale by 3

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Tahoka (5-2, 2-0) at Ralls (7-0, 2-0): It’s quite likely the District 4-2A Division II title gets decided this week in Ralls as the district’s two unbeaten teams meet up. Both teams boast potent rushing attacks, so if you like old school, smash mouth football, this game is for you. Tahoka rolled past Crosbyton, 63-6, a week ago as speedy Malik Hamilton and that Bulldogs ground game and defense made quick work of Crosbyton. Ralls, behind Jerry Flores and Abraham Van Gundy, rolled past a game, but overmatched Smyer squad in a 40-6 win. Ralls dominated the district a year ago, Tahoka has closed the gap, but the Jackrabbits pull away late.

Stepp’s Pick: Ralls by 11

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Quick Picks

El Paso Americas (6-1, 2-0) vs El Paso Pebble Hills (4-3, 1-1) Stepp’s Pick: El Paso Americas by 16

McAllen Rowe (6-1, 3-1) at Mission (6-1, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Mission by 13

San Antonio Southside (5-2, 2-2) at Alice (7-0, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: San Antonio Southside by 3

Gainesville (7-0, 2-0) at Springtown (6-1, 1-1) Stepp’s Pick: Springtown by 12

Fredericksburg (4-3, 2-0) at Canyon Lake (6-1, 2-0) Stepp’s Pick: Canyon Lake by 7

Jefferson (6-1, 2-1) at Atlanta (4-4, 2-2) Stepp’s Pick: Jefferson by 10

Dublin (6-1, 2-0) at Jacksboro (4-3, 2-2) Stepp’s Pick: Dublin by 14

Omaha Paul Pewitt (7-0, 4-0) at Elysian Fields (4-3, 2-2) Stepp’s Pick: Omaha Paul Pewitt by 16

Vega (6-2, 1-1) at Gruver (5-2, 1-0) Stepp’s Pick: Gruver by 12

Mart (4-3, 2-0) at Hubbard (4-3, 0-2) Stepp’s Pick: Mart by 41

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