WEEK 11 PREVIEW: Breaking down the biggest games in Texas high school football

Arlington Martin (Photo by Gordon DeLoach)

Arlington Bowie (7-2, 5-1) vs Arlington Martin (8-1, 6-0): Despite the loss to Arlington Lamar last week, Arlington Bowie can secure at least a share of the District 4-6A title with a win Thursday night against Arlington Martin. Last week the Vols had no answers for the high-powered Lamar passing game in a 32-17 loss. BHS led 17-12 going into the fourth but were outscored 20-0 by Lamar in the deciding quarter. Martin has dominated overmatched FWISD opponents the last two weeks, including a 49-7 win over Fort Worth Paschal a week ago. The Warriors have made their name on defense and special teams. Martin has consistently gotten game-changing plays outside of their offense, which is solid, but, at times, can be slowed down. Last week DB Christian Taylor had not one, but two interceptions returned for a touchdown. If Martin wants to make a deep playoff run its offense will need to emerge as a viable threat. However, this week the Warriors will zero in on Bowie’s offense, which can get one dimensional at times.

Stepp’s Pick: Arlington Martin by 11

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Round Rock Stony Point (7-2, 5-2) at Austin Vandegrift (9-0, 7-0): Stony Point dug themselves an early hole last week, but the Tigers roared back for a 45-28 win over Round Rock Westwood. They’ll be looking for the upset this week over unbeaten Vandegrift as they prepare for the playoffs. Kendall Thomas led the attack with 265 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, while Jaden Leonard chipped in 102 yards rushing and a touchdown. Vandegrift showed no ill-effects from the bye week as the Vipers blasted winless Leander, 56-3. The Vipers dominated on both sides of the ball with a punishing rushing attack and a defense that got in on the act with a couple of interceptions for touchdowns. The Vipers defense excels against teams who are one dimensional. Even though Stony Point runs the ball well, they aren’t good enough to just line up and pound VHS.

Stepp’s Pick: Austin Vandegrift by 14

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Cypress Creek (6-3, 6-1) vs. Cy-Fair (9-0, 7-0): The No. 1 rivalry in Cy-Fair ISD is always more fun when a district title is on the line, and that is the case this week as a Cy Creek win can give the Cougars a share of the 17-6A title. Cy-Fair appears to be peaking at the right time as the Bobcats have pitched three straight shutouts, including last week’s 37-0 win over Cy Ridge. RB LJ Johnson continues to put up huge numbers for Cy-Fair. Last week the talented junior ran for 182 yards and four touchdowns, while the defense held Cy Ridge to just four first downs and 81 total yards. Cy Creek earned the top Division II seed out of the district with a dominant defensive effort in a 31-6 win over Houston Memorial last week. LB Josh White is one of the top defensive players in the state and he leads a speedy and hard-hitting unit. The concern for the Cougars is the offense, which was plagued by mental errors last week in the win. They’ll need a clean game to pull the upset. Look for this one to be close to the vest and low scoring. That’s a game Cy-Fair thrives in.

Stepp’s Pick: Cy-Fair by 12

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Converse Judson (9-0, 6-0) at Schertz Clemens (8-1, 6-0): A district title is on the line north of San Antonio as two state-ranked teams will battle for bragging rights as both have their playoff spots secured. Judson had a Thursday game last week and didn’t let the short week impact them as they blasted past San Antonio East Central, 49-9. QB Mike Chandler was outstanding again, accounting for over 250 yards of offense and three total touchdowns. The Rockets offense will be tested against a strong Clemens defense that is led by Texas Tech LB commit Derrick Lewis. The Buffaloes have the speed to matchup with Judson. LB Keion Bennett had a pick-six in the game last week, which spurred a 24-point outburst for the Buffs in a 30-20 win over New Braunfels. Versatile A’Mari Williams had a touchdown run and a touchdown reception for CHS in the win as well. Clemens’ defense will contain Judson, but they don’t have the dynamic offense that’s needed to beat the Rockets, who even when contained, are still likely to score 30.

Stepp’s Pick: Converse Judson by 10

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Edinburg Vela (7-2, 4-1) at Weslaco East (6-3, 5-0): The 31-6A title will be up for grabs at Bobby Lackey Stadium in Weslaco as Edinburg Vela will look to earn a share of the district title against Weslaco East, the district’s leader who is fresh off a thrilling Tinaco Bowl win over Weslaco High. Vela is also fresh off a rivalry win, but it wasn’t quite as stressful as East’s as the Sabercats blasted Edinburg High, 56-0. QB AJ Sotelo and that Vela offense is humming along quite nicely as the season winds down. Weslaco East pulled a slight upset beating Weslaco, 17-14, in front of a full house at Lackey Stadium as Gio Guerra scored two rushing touchdowns in a physical slugfest that typifies Weslaco East football. The Wildcats like to grind teams down with the running game and play tough defense, but can their defense be up to the task against a high-powered Edinburg Vela attack? Fresh off a physical and emotional victory, the edge in this one may go to the away team in Vela.

Stepp’s Pick: Edinburg Vela by 2

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Abilene Cooper (9-0, 5-0) at Amarillo (7-2, 5-0): The 2-5A Division I title is on the line as unbeaten Abilene Cooper makes the nearly six-hour trip up to the Panhandle to take on a surging Amarillo High squad. Cooper had last week off after a 49-14 win over Lubbock High two week ago. The Cougars’ offense has a dynamic back in Noah Garcia and their young QB Aidan Thompson has continued to improve in the passing game. The defense has been a turnover-forcing machine led by DB Dylon Davis, who leads the state with 12 interceptions. Amarillo knocked off Lubbock High last week as the Sandies blew the game open in the second quarter with two interception returns for touchdowns and three touchdowns from QB Will Maynard, who sat out the second half in the win. If Amarillo can avoid the turnover bug and get that Maynard-to-Davin Lemmons connection going, they could pull the upset at home. But defense and running games travel well so the edge goes to Abilene Cooper.

Stepp’s Pick: Abilene Cooper by 8

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Denton Ryan (9-0, 6-0) at Birdville (7-2, 6-0): Denton Ryan and Birdville will renew acquaintances and once again a district title is on the line. These two met twice in the span of five weeks a year ago when Denton Ryan handed Birdville its only two losses of 2018. The Raiders absolutely dominated Grapevine last Thursday night with a 61-13 win. Billy Bowman (Texas commit) and Drew Sanders (Alabama commit) made life miserable for Grapevine in the first half as Bowman had two receiving touchdowns and returned a punt for a touchdown, while Sanders ran for a score and threw for another. The Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense for the night and allowed just over 200 yards of offense, most of which came in the second half after Ryan had rested their starters. Birdville rallied back from a 25-13 halftime deficit as QB Stone Earle threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hawks to a come-from-behind 32-31 win over Colleyville Heritage, which all but locked up a home playoff game for the Hawks. Birdville’s a strong team, but Denton Ryan is simply on another level and this could be the year the Raiders break through that state semi-final roadblock.

Stepp’s Pick: Denton Ryan by 21

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New Caney (9-0, 6-0) vs New Caney Porter (8-1, 6-0): The “Battle Line on 59” has plenty of meaning this year as both New Caney ISD programs are having record-setting seasons and look to be party crashers in 5A Division I Region III. Unbeaten New Caney has one of the state’s most dynamic players in QB Zion Childress. The UTSA commit can be described in one word: electric. The Eagles rolled past Goose Creek Memorial, 44-7, last week as Childress threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles defense, led by Texas commit LB Derrick Harris, Jr., is a fast and physical unit that’s playing with an edge. Porter doesn’t have New Caney’s star power, but the Spartans have been dominant the past two weeks by outscoring opponents 105-2. This is still a young team and they could be a year away, while New Caney is senior heavy. That big game experience will serve the Eagles well in this matchup.

Stepp’s Pick: New Caney by 13

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Corpus Christi Calallen (9-0, 6-0) at Port Lavaca Calhoun (7-2, 5-1): It’s a Top 10 matchup with the chance for a little history to be made at the same time as Calallen heads north to Port Lavaca to take on a very tough Sandcrab squad. Legendary Calallen head coach Phil Danaher can get win number 400 at Calallen. He’d be the first coach in state history to win 400 games at one school. Calallen took down Alice, 38-25, last week as the Wildcats balanced ground attack of Jeremiah Earls, Charley Hill and QB Jarrett Garza held off a game effort from Alice to get the win. The Calallen defense will have their biggest challenge of the year this week as they try and slow down the vaunted Slot-T offense of Port Lavaca Calhoun. The Sandcrabs rolled past San Antonio Southside, 57-27. QB Connor Kestler rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 93 yards and a touchdown to lead the Calhoun offense. Steve Johnson chipped in a 40-yard touchdown run as the Sandcrabs rolled up 563 yards of offense. Calallen’s defense seems to have the formula to keep Calhoun’s offense contained to some extent, while the Wildcats can control the clock on their own. It’s a toss-up, but I think Danaher hits the magic number of 400 in a close one.

Stepp’s Pick: Corpus Christi Calallen by 3

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Seminole (7-2, 2-0) at Andrews (8-1, 2-0): A district title is on the line out west as Seminole visits the Mustang Bowl in Andrews to crown a champion in 2-4A Division I. Both teams have dominated their district opponents and are peaking at the right time. Seminole rolled past Big Spring, 52-7, as 10 different ball carriers contributed to the Indians rushing attack, which rolled up nearly 400 total yards. Andrews blasted San Angelo Lake View, 61-18, as the Mustangs put up 633 yards of offense led by QB Brett Leach, who tossed five touchdowns. Seminole will look to control the clock and play keep away from Andrews and that high-octane attack. The problem for Seminole is Andrews’ defense is pretty good against the run and if AHS gets a couple of early stops it takes Seminole right out of their game plan.

Stepp’s Pick: Andrews by 14

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Celina (6-3, 4-1) at Argyle (9-0, 5-0): It’s the old power against the new power in the DFW area as Celina, once the most feared small school program north of DFW, has in recent years taken a back seat to powerful Argyle. The two teams played twice a year ago. Although Argyle won both meetings, they were completely different games. AHS blew Celina out in Week 11 while escaping a game Celina team in the third round of the playoffs. Celina had the week off last week and the Bobcats are hopeful that their strong running game, led by Logan Point, can control the game and keep the ball away from a lethal Argyle offense triggered by Bo Hogeboom and a bevy of talented receivers. With star RB Tito Byce out, Knox Scoggins and Trevor Duck carried the ground game in a 35-6 win over Anna. The duo combined for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win. Argyle’s offense is going to put a lot of pressure on that aggressive Celina defensive unit and big plays in the passing game could be numerous in this one. Celina keeps it close for a half, but the Eagles close out a perfect regular season in style.

Stepp’s Pick: Argyle by 17

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West Columbia (8-1, 4-1) at El Campo (8-1, 4-1): In what looks like a likely battle for second place in the brutally tough 13-4A Division I, a veteran West Columbia squad must deal with a young, but extremely talented El Campo bunch in battle of 8-1 teams. Last week the Roughnecks took on a desperate Sealy squad and trailed at the half, before rattling off 28-straight points to get a 35-21 win and lock up a playoff spot. El Campo rolled past Bay City, 40-14, but the Ricebirds trailed 14-13 at the half. Sophomore RB Johntre Davis took over from there in the second half with four rushing touchdowns to finish the night with 249 yards on the ground. The Ricebirds rushing attack is as lethal as any in the state with Davis, junior RB Charles Shorter and dynamic freshman Ruben Owens. The Ricebirds will rotate backs and often go with the hot hand down the stretch, but that Columbia defense is outstanding and filled with senior leadership. This one will be a low scoring slugfest with the edge going to El Campo at home.

Stepp’s Pick: El Campo by 2

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Gainesville (8-1, 3-1) at Decatur (9-0, 4-0): The Leopards are having a breakout season in James Polk’s third season at the helm. If they can knock off-state ranked Decatur for the second straight year they can earn a share of the district title. That’ll be easier said than done as the Eagles are on quite the run winning 13 of their last 14 games since that Week 11 loss to Gainesville in 2018. Gainesville bounced back nicely from their loss to Springtown with a dominant 41-2 win over Mineral Wells last week. GHS forced five Mineral Wells turnovers and Isiah Gibson ran for two scores, while QB Traylen Shinault tossed a pair of touchdown passes for the Leopards. Decatur’s offense continued its assault on opposing defenses last week with an easy 68-21 victory of Burkburnett. The Eagles got big games from a number of players with AJ Martinez needing just six carries to roll up 113 yards. Gunnar Ragsdale scored five touchdowns and ran for 153 yards. QB Roman Fuller completed 17 of 20 passes and two touchdowns. Gainesville’s speed will be a test for DHS but this Eagles team has the look of a squad ready for a repeat run in Region I. Balance is the key for Decatur in this matchup.

Stepp’s Pick: Decatur by 17

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Eastland (8-1, 3-1) at Tuscola Jim Ned (7-2, 2-2): Eastland faces a big test for the third straight week, as the Mavericks look to wrap up a second-place finish in district play on the road against a tough Jim Ned squad. Last week, the Mavs offense got back on track against a tough Clyde defense in a 42-27 win. QB Behren Morton was 22 of 36 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. The last two weeks Eastland hasn’t had as much success running the football. In order to win these tough games when the weather gets cold, they’ll need to get Brandon Fielding going. Jim Ned responded from back to back losses with a 45-22 win over Early in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Indians racked up 451 yards of offense with QB Josh Kelso getting 253 yards of offense and three total touchdowns. Eastland wraps up second place as Morton has another big night and the Mavericks get the running game going against a good Jim Ned defense.

Stepp’s Pick: Eastland by 10

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Anahuac (5-4, 4-1) at Orangefield (8-1, 4-1): Anahuac saw their five-game winning streak come to an end last week at the hands of an outstanding East Chambers squad, losing 45-14. The Panthers were unable to slow down the ECHS running attack and two first half fumbles put them in a hole early. QB Foster Kreuzer did throw a touchdown pass and ran for 73-yard touchdown in the defeat. Orangefield rolled past Warren, 37-6, last week as Chase Broussard and Heston Puckett combined for 215 rushing yards with Broussard finding the end zone three times in the win. Expect the Orangefield Slot-T offense to go to work this week against a vulnerable Anahuac rush defense.

Stepp’s Pick: Orangefield by 13

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Alpine (7-2, 2-0) at Crane (8-1, 2-0): The game of the week out in the Permian Basin features long-time rivals Alpine and Crane fighting it out for a district title in 1-3A Division II. The Fightin’ Bucks rolled past Reagan County, 65-0, last week. They have outscored opponents 221-13 the past four weeks. Crane has been equally dominant as the Golden Cranes went out to Anthony last week and dominated, 85-6. It’s the second time this year CHS has topped the 80-point mark. Brandon Cerna was one of many Golden Cranes who had a huge night. He ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns, had 110 receiving yards and a touchdown and also put up nearly 100 return yards in the win. Expect this one to be an absolute shootout, but the edge goes to Crane because they are a little more dynamic in the passing game.

Stepp’s Pick: Crane by 9

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Vanderbilt Industrial (8-1, 4-0) at Edna (7-2, 3-1): Surprising Industrial will look to wrap up an outright district title this week against a tough Edna squad that’s been up and down, but can spoil the Cobras plans for a title. Industrial knocked off much improved Hallettsville, 40-34, last week. Karston Wimberley ran for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Matthew Davis chipped in a short touchdown run along with 83 receiving yards and a touchdown in the win. Edna had no trouble with Goliad a week ago, blasting the Tigers, 45-7, as Kacen Sanchez and Dawson Kallus both ran for two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys’ attack. Both teams pride themselves on physical offense that relies on running right at you and daring you to slow them down. Industrial has the look of “that dang team,” but can they bounce back after a tough game last week? Jamie Dixon’s squad has shown great mettle this season and look for the Cobras to bring home a district title, their first since 2009.

Stepp’s Pick: Vanderbilt Industrial by 7

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Three Rivers (7-2, 4-0) at Refugio (9-0, 4-0): The one team in Refugio’s district who has at least at times shown the ability to be competitive with the Bobcats in the past has been Three Rivers. The Bulldogs will get another crack at RHS with a district title on the line. They rolled past Freer, 49-14, last week as they scored 22 first quarter points and never looked back. Refugio hasn’t been tested since they closed out the non-district slate with a win over Mart. The Bobcats rolled past Ben Bolt, 64-8, as Austin Ochoa threw for 289 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Look for Three Rivers to try and shorten the game with their Slot-T offense. That’ll keep the game competitive for a half, before Refugio overwhelms the Bulldogs in the second half.

Stepp’s Pick: Refugio by 34

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Wellington (8-1, 4-0) at Wheeler (8-1, 4-0): The District 5-2A Division II title will be decided this week as Wellington and Wheeler have been head and shoulders over their competition in 2019. Wellington has outscored opponents 206-12 in four district games. The Skyrockets drilled Memphis, 58-0, last week. Wheeler allowed just 39 yards of offense and forced three turnovers last week in their 48-6 rout of Quanah. RB Heston Marshall ran for 100 yards and a score, while QB Guastavo Andrade tossed a pair of touchdown passes in an efficient effort. Wellington may be a slight favorite, but at home and with a strong group of seniors, Wheeler brings home a district title.

Stepp’s Pick: Wheeler by 2

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Albany (7-2, 3-0) at Hamlin (6-2, 3-0): The matchup everyone in the Big Country has been waiting for since DCTF’s pre-season rankings came out. Albany took down Hamlin in Week 11 a year ago as an underdog, and then repeated the feat in the playoffs. Albany comes in as the favorite as the Lions own a slightly better resume. Last week they rolled past Haskell, 47-14, as QB Ben West passed for 211 yards and four touchdowns, throwing two scores each to receivers Dillon Hindman and Blaine Kayga. RB Jaheim Newton added balance, rushing for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Hamlin was plenty balanced last week in its 41-0 rout of Cross Plains, getting 182 yards and three touchdowns passing from Braydin Warner, 83 yards and two rushing touchdowns from Jackson Sepeda and 85 yards and two scores receiving from Jevon Williams. Hamlin is talented enough to beat Albany, but can the Pipers get over that mental hurdle and get it done at home?

Stepp’s Pick: Albany by 6

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Quick Picks

El Paso Americas (8-1, 4-0) vs El Paso Montwood (7-2, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: El Paso Americas by 10

Brenham (7-2, 5-1) at Pflugerville Weiss (8-1, 6-0) Stepp’s Pick: Brenham by 2

Laredo Martin (6-3, 4-1) at San Antonio Harlan (9-0, 5-0) Stepp’s Pick: San Antonio Harlan by 25

Lampasas (8-1, 4-0) at Fredericksburg (6-3, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Lampasas by 8

Center (6-3, 3-0) at Jasper (6-1, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: Jasper by 31

Atlanta (5-4, 3-2) at Hooks (7-2, 4-1) Stepp’s Pick: Hooks by 3

Stockdale (4-5, 3-1) at Poth (8-1, 4-0) Stepp’s Pick: Poth by 23

Joaquin (8-1, 5-0) at Harleton (7-2, 4-1) Stepp’s Pick: Joaquin by 7

San Augustine (8-0, 4-0) at Shelbyville (7-2, 3-1) Stepp’s Pick: San Augustine by 27

Gruver (6-3, 2-1) at Stratford (8-1, 3-0) Stepp’s Pick: Stratford by 17

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