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

Cy-Fair (Photo by Jay Stevens)

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Midland Lee (10-1) vs Arlington Lamar (10-1), 4 p.m. Saturday at Arlington’s Cravens Field: After beating Arlington Lamar out in Midland two years ago, Midland Lee owes the Vikings a return trip to the DFW area, thus the Rebels take the five-hour road trip out east for a fascinating showdown. After dropping their regular season finale to Odessa Permian, Midland Lee bounced back nicely blowing past El Paso Montwood, 65-32, as QB Mikey Serrano threw for 324 yards and five touchdown passes to lead the Rebels’ attack. Midland Lee has several playmakers on offense, but the headliners is definitely Loic Founoji, who owns nearly every school record for receiving and in this game two years ago proved to be the difference for the Rebels. Arlington Lamar is fresh off an upset of Euless Trinity last week, beating the Trojans, 37-34, as Oklahoma commit WR Trevon West was unstoppable hauling in 11 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns to lead Lamar, who rallied from two touchdowns down in the second quarter to get the win. Expect a lot of points in this one as both offenses are high flying. It’ll come down to which defense in key moments can get off the field and that edge goes to Lamar at home. The Vikings showed they can be a shutdown defense last week pitching a second half shutout against Trinity until the final minute of the game. Midland Lee’s defense hasn’t shown that ability since early in the season.

Stepp’s Pick: Arlington Lamar by 7

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Cy-Fair (11-0) vs Katy (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Houston’s Tully Stadium: Two of Houston’s best teams face off Friday night in a showdown that could easily shape the state championship race, as both Cy-Fair and Katy are on the short list of title contenders. By personality, these two teams are very similar in that they get things done with physical play on both sides of the ball, combined with elite athleticism at key spots. Katy’s got more pedigree, but the last two seasons Cy-Fair has shown they can be an elite program as well, winning a state title in 2017 and pushing North Shore in the fourth round in 2018. Cy-Fair had the much easier first round game as the Bobcats tore through Houston Bellaire, 65-20, behind LJ Johnson’s 219 yards rushing and five touchdowns. The Bobcats defense limited Bellaire to just nine first downs and forced three turnovers in the win. Katy got an unexpected push last week from Fort Bend Ridge Point, but the Tigers overcame their three turnovers to escape Ridge Point’s upset bid with a 35-28 win. RB Ron Hoff only had one carry last week as he left with an ankle injury, so his status will be a big question this week. But Jalen Davis filled in nicely rushing for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns. WR Jordan Patrick added much needed balance hauling in a pair of touchdown receptions from QB Bronson McClellan as well. Expect both coaches to play things close to the vest, rely on their defense in this one and the running game. The difference is Katy’s more balanced and dynamic on offense and they’ll find a way to loosen up the Cy-Fair defense for a couple of big plays in the passing game.

Stepp’s Pick: Katy by 9

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Denton Guyer (10-1) vs Cedar Hill (9-2), Noon Saturday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium: It’s a rematch of an absolute classic these two played in Week 2 at the Cotton Bowl as Guyer scored a late touchdown to send Cedar Hill stumbling to 0-2. Since then the Longhorns have been rolling as they are winners of nine straight games. Guyer last week got pushed by a good Hebron squad, but the Wildcats escaped with a 50-30 win as Kaedric Cobbs ran for 245 yards and five touchdowns, including two key third quarter touchdowns, which took a 17-16 game and made it 30-16 heading into the fourth quarter. QB Eli Stowers didn’t need to do much for Guyer, but when he did throw the ball he was effective. In the first meeting between these two, Stowers made several big plays with his feet and Guyer’s offense may need that once again this week. Cedar Hill avenged their shocking first round loss to Richardson Pearce a year ago by pulling away for a 38-20 win last Friday night. The Longhorns led 24-20 with seven minutes left when Quinn Bright’s 72-yard touchdown catch from Kaidon Salter gave the ‘Horns the breathing room they needed in a game that was too close for comfort at times. Salter threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while Kevin Young and Corie Allen combined for 165 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in the win. Expect this week’s matchup to be very similar to the first meeting with lots of big plays and points and a game that will be very close. I’ll give the edge to Cedar Hill, just because it’s really tough to beat a team twice in one year, especially when they are as evenly matched as these two appear to be.

Stepp’s Pick: Cedar Hill by 2

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Schertz Clemens (10-1) vs San Antonio Brandeis (11-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Alamodome: The game of the week in the Alamo City is clearly going to be in the Alamodome Friday night as two district champions square off for bragging rights in town. Clemens has their sights set on a regional title, but they’ll need a cleaner effort this week after a 27-17 win over Austin Bowie. A’Mari Williams broke off a pair of first half touchdown runs for the Buffs to help them out to a 21-10 halftime lead, but the offense didn’t get much done in the second half. It was almost the opposite for San Antonio Brandeis last week as in the first half the Broncos scuffled without QB Jordan Battles, who did not start the game due to an injury suffered late in the season. With the game hanging in the balance, Battles came off the bench to rush for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to help the Broncos to a 42-28 win over San Antonio Johnson. RB Corian Holmes chipped in 118 yards on the ground and four touchdowns as he had a heavy workload early on with Battles sitting out. Battles will need to go all four quarters in this one. Brandeis will need all hands on deck to move the football against this speedy and physical Clemens defensive unit. Expect Clemens to put together a much cleaner effort this week and focus on slowing down Battles and containing the Brandeis attack.

Stepp’s Pick: Schertz Clemens by 4

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Azle (10-1) vs Abilene Cooper (10-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Stephenville’s Tarleton Memorial Stadium: Azle extended its winning streak to 10 games and avenged its Week 1 loss to Grapevine with an emphatic 45-21 win last week. RB Jacob Lee ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns to pace the Azle offensive attack, while the Hornets defense locked down in the final quarter and a half pitching a shutout. They’ll have to contend with a powerful Abilene Cooper squad that rolled past El Paso Del Valle, 42-21. The Cougars defense was the story picking off six passes in the win and returning three (yes three) for touchdowns. DB Dylon Davis, who now leads the state with 14 INTs, had two interceptions in the win and returned one for a touchdown (his fourth Pick Six in 2019). Cooper’s offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders last week as they finished with just 239 yards of offense and they’ll need more this week as Azle has certainly showed a knack for putting up big offensive numbers. RB Noah Garcia is the key in this one. If Abilene Cooper can get their 2,000-yard rusher on track they should be able to control the clock and keep that potent Azle attack on the sidelines.

Stepp’s Pick: Abilene Cooper by 7

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Alvin Shadow Creek (11-0) vs Hutto (9-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waller’s Waller ISD Stadium: No one in the Houston area has been able to slow down the Shadow Creek attack all season and that continued this past week as the Sharks rolled past Port Arthur Memorial, 49-7. QB Kyron Drones threw for four touchdowns to lead the SCHS offense and that Shadow Creek defense forced four turnovers and held Memorial to under 200 yards of offense. Now a team from the Austin area will get their shot at Shadow Creek as one-loss Hutto looks to pull off what would be considered a sizeable upset. Sophomore QB Grayson Doggett threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and looked like a QB who was a three-year starter last week in the Hippos 35-27 win over Seguin. Hutto’s going to have to establish the running game if they want to pull the upset. Shadow Creek’s defense feasts on teams who get one dimensional on the offensive side of the ball. Hutto is pretty banged up at the moment and even at 100 percent it would be a tall order to beat Shadow Creek.

Stepp’s Pick: Alvin Shadow Creek by 16

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Ennis (10-1) vs Burleson Centennial (10-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ennis’ Lion Memorial Stadium: Ennis opened up the playoffs at home with a dominant defensive effort as the Lions rolled past Frisco Reedy, 34-0. Ennis held Reedy to just 134 yards of offense while QB Collin Drake accounted for 195 yards of offense and a pair of touchdowns and Dyllan Santos ran for 100 yards and a touchdown for Ennis. Burleson Centennial drilled Seagoville, 53-6, a week ago as the Spartans defense held Seagoville to just 129 yards of offense and they got three touchdowns and 134 yards of offense from dynamic RB Jaylon Jackson. The key matchup in this game is the Ennis defense, which has been sensational all year, taking on that brutally efficient Burleson Centennial flexbone offense. Ennis must win first down and try to put the Spartans in obvious passing situations. Easier said than done, as really only Aledo has consistently shown the ability to contain Centennial’s offense. However, Ennis’ offense has the ability to be dynamic and with a big home crowd on their side. Look for the Lions and some late heroics to propel them to the regional semi-finals.

Stepp’s Pick: Ennis by 3

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College Station A&M Consolidated (11-0) vs Fort Bend Marshall (10-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Cypress’ Pridgeon Stadium: It’s a fantastic top 10 matchup in the Houston area as unbeaten A&M Consolidated will look to take down defending regional champion Fort Bend Marshall in a game that features some incredible skill talent. A&M Consolidated was a bit sloppy early on last week, but they pulled away late for a 42-14 win over Longview Pine Tree. The Tigers were tied at 14 late in the third quarter but scored 28 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to pull away. QB Gage Pahl threw for three touchdowns and ran for two other scores in the win. Consol also got back Oklahoma commit Brian Darby, who missed time late in the year with an ankle injury. Texas A&M commit Devin Price and Texas Tech commit Nate Floyd are two-way standouts for the Tigers and will draw plenty of attention from the opposing defense. Fort Bend Marshall opened the playoffs with an easy 48-14 win over Port Neches-Groves as Devon Achane ran for 252 yards and four touchdowns, while QB Malik Hornsby had 167 yards and three touchdowns for the Buffalos. A&M Consolidated’s defensive line is the key for the Tigers. If they can harass Hornsby and mess up the timing of the Marshall offense the Tigers have the offensive weapons to give the Marshall defense absolute fits. A state title contender is going home in the area playoffs and that’s a shame, but this one is must-see television in the Houston area.

Stepp’s Pick: College Station A&M Consolidated by 2

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Andrews (10-1) vs Pampa (9-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Portales, NM’s at Greyhound Stadium: Powerful Andrews opened the playoffs in style last week as the Mustangs drilled San Elizario, 63-14, to get their 10th win of the season. Expect a much tougher test this week against Pampa, who opened the playoffs with an emphatic 56-28 win over Gainesville. QB Parker Bridwell threw for 420 yards and five touchdowns, while adding in a touchdown on the ground for the Harvesters. Pampa raced out to a 35-6 halftime lead and never looked back as Cornelius Landers and the running game got going in the second half. Expect a lot of points in this one as Andrews with QB Brett Leach and WR Markeese Lawrence is fully capable of putting up 50+ points as well. Andrews gets the edge in this one because of playoff experience and their ability to rush the passer.

Stepp’s Pick: Andrews by 8

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Beeville Jones (11-0) vs El Campo (9-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Port Lavaca’s Sandcrab Stadium: Unbeaten Beeville Jones faces a big area round playoff test against El Campo, who has speed to burn on offense and could test the Trojans defense in a big way. Seth Gomez threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a touchdown to lead Beeville to a 44-7 win over Zapata last week. El Campo earned a tough win over Fredericksburg, 20-14, a week ago as sophomore RB Jontre Davis and freshman RB Reuben Owens, II ran for a combined 219 yards and three touchdowns in the win. However, Owens reportedly left the game last week with an injury and his status is uncertain this week. Can Beeville’s defense, which has been very good this year, contain the speed of the Ricebird backs and get stops on third down? Beeville’s offense will put points up when they have the ball, but El Campo’s ball control attack is a tough matchup for anyone in Region IV. Look for El Campo to pull the upset and knock out the unbeaten Trojans.

Stepp’s Pick: El Campo by 6

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Lubbock Estacado (11-0) vs Graham (7-4), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene’s Anthony Field: Unbeaten Estacado for about a half had a devil of a time with feisty underdog Sweetwater. But the Matadors talent and dominance took over in the second half as Estacado pulled away for a 53-20 win. RB Jeremiah Dobbins again was the catalyst as he ran for 271 yards and five touchdowns, along with chipping in a 31-yard reception. The Matadors defense, specifically the secondary, will need to be on their game this week as they’ll go against a surgical Graham passing attack that can carve up a defense if they are on their game. The Steers rolled to an easy 59-0 win over Hillsboro last week as RB Daniel Gilbertson led the effort with 92 yards and two touchdowns rushing, 96 yards and two touchdowns receiving and also threw an 18-yard touchdown pass. Graham is a solid team, but their best win is probably in Week 1 against Wichita Falls Hirschi. They’ve struggled against good teams since that point. Can they turn it around against an Estacado squad that eliminated them in this round a year ago? Expect a big effort from the Steers, but Estacado’s speed and ability to pressure the QB with their defensive line will be a big asset this week in slowing the Graham offense down.

Stepp’s Pick: Lubbock Estacado by 4

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Jasper (8-1) vs. Bellville (8-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Shenandoah’s Woodforest Bank Stadium: Jasper should be fresh heading into the playoffs having played just eight regular season games. But the question for the Bulldogs is how will they react to being truly tested? Last week’s 51-27 win over Hardin-Jefferson was Jasper’s closest game since their loss on September 20 to Diboll. There’s little doubt the physical offense of Bellville will be a major chore for the Bulldogs. The duo of Montavien Hunt and Carl Limbrick were the stars for Jasper in the win last week as Limbrick led the rushing attack with 216 total rushing yards and four touchdowns, and Hunt added another 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground as well. Bellville was impressive last week in their 42-20 win over Wharton. The Brahmas scored on their first five drives of the game last year with sophomore RB Richard Reese tallying three touchdowns. A year ago, Bellville’s defense held Jasper in check, but the offense couldn’t get going in a 13-0 loss. Expect a similar low scoring game with Jasper winning but maybe just by a single score.

Stepp’s Pick: Jasper by 7

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Malakoff (10-1) vs Jefferson (9-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Gladewater’s Murphy Stadium: The marquee game in the state on Thursday features a playoff rematch as a year ago when the Tigers stunned favored Jefferson, 31-21, en route to a regional title. The roles are reversed this season as it’s Malakoff who is the favorite and Jefferson who comes in as the underdog. Malakoff had no trouble in their playoff opener as they rolled past Commerce, 49-3. QB Darion Pearce hooked up with Andreas Garrett for two touchdown passes and the Tigers used multiple backs, with De’Dric Davis and Keevie Rose getting most of the action. Jefferson handled a good West Rusk squad, 36-13, as QB Kylan Thomas was the difference as he ran for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and added 95 yards through the air and another score. The key for Jefferson will be their defense; can they contain Peace and that versatile Malakoff offense enough to give their offense a fighting chance?

Stepp’s Pick: Malakoff by 13

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